Bronx nuns who attend to the sick celebrating centennial

Bronx nuns who attend to the sick celebrating centennial
(l-r) Mother Germana Contreras and Sisters Cristina Bocamegra, Fatima Zapata, Maria Rita Miguel, Hermina Lugo, Mercedes Escamilla, Purificacion Ferraro, and Maria Lopez outside their convent on Country Club Road.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

The Sisters, Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick are celebrating their 100th anniversary in the United States.

The group of Roman Catholic religious sisters ministers and cares for the chronically and terminally ill in 20 countries around the world, but they call their Country Club convent their home in New York.

The sisters visit local people with terminal illnesses, usually spending about eight hours a night caring for them during every visit. They have medical training, they do this for free, and do not receive any financial help from the government or the church.

Meeting costs

To survive and pay costs for everything from food and clothing to maintenance on their Country Club Road convent, they rely on private donations and an annual fundraising luncheon that will be held this year at Marina del Rey on Sunday, Nov. 16, said Sister Rita Miguel, treasurer of the Sister Servants of Mary.

“For us to be able to continue our mission, we need donations,” said Miguel, adding that “His Eminence Cardinal Dolan has confirmed that he will be in attendance.”

“We hope that many people will join us for this joyful and significant celebration not only for the sisters, but also for the people that had and will benefit from our services,” she added.

She said that by the summer, tickets for the luncheon will be available, and that volunteers will help spread the word and organize the event.

“Most of the people who attend do so every year,” she said. “They will often purchase a table of 10 or 12 tickets.”

This year the sisters will also kick off a $250,000 fundraising campaign.

Helping caregivers

Key parts of the sisters’ mission are offering relief to exhausted and needy caregivers who are looking after sick family members; helping with household chores; buying food and clothing for these families; and offering prayer and advice for those who question the meaning of suffering.

They see patients without regard to religion, social stature, race, and creed, said Miguel

“All we need to know is if they are sick,” she said. Their patients are recommended to them by Calvary Hospital, doctor’s offices, and hospice services. Sister Miguel said that currently there are about four times as many requests as the convent can handle.

The Sister Servants of Mary first landed in the United States in 1914, at the invitation of U.S. soldiers, she explained.

The soldiers had been sent to Vera Cruz, Mexico to intervene in a revolution. While there, the soldiers noticed how helpful the sisters were in locating clean drinking water, teaching Spanish to the U.S. officers, and working with the Red Cross in helping to care for townspeople afflicted with tuberculosis and other contagious diseases.

They came to the United States and have been here ever since.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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