In the Spirit of St. Catherine

The 29th of April marks the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena.

The 29th of April marks the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century Dominican nun whose short life — she died when she was just 33 — was marked by determination, mysticism and unwavering faith. She was also known for her tireless works of charity:

The mystical communion that was at the heart of St. Catherine’s spirituality inspired her to reach out to the poor and suffering of Siena. When the Black Death swept through her city, she had no hesitation in caring for the victims. She worked as a nurse. She dug graves for those who died of the plague and then buried them properly herself. She accompanied prisoners who were condemned to death to the place of execution waiting with them and praying for them to the end.

In our own day, the courageous and sacrificial spirit of St. Catherine lives on in the order that bears her name, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq. Today, they are caring for the displaced, the frightened, the sick, the orphaned — their brothers and sisters who have fled ISIS.

As we have reported, these generous sisters are the face of Christ to so many who are suffering — and the sisters themselves, despite fleeing their convent in Qaraqosh last summer, are now reaching out to help others in Iraq.

They are also serving refugees who have sought sanctuary in Jordan, at the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, where many of the patients are young mothers and newborns:

Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.

“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality.

“We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”

And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims… People come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.

“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.

“Our mission here is for everyone,” she adds. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”

St. Catherine must surely be proud.

To assist the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and other courageous sisters in their mission, visit this giving page. And — this day in particular — join them in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to St. Catherine, whose life and work has inspired so many good works in CNEWA’s world.

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