Witnessing to the compassion
“It isn’t over ‘til it’s over”. That is the latest message from the Ministry of Health as
we begin this New Year. The struggle to overcome the Ebola virus here in Liberia has
entered what is hoped to be the last phase, called “Getting to ZERO”. The tail of this
dragon may be a long one: working to find every affected person, to get them isolated
and treated, and to stop the transmission to others. Everyone has been working for two
big goals – to stop the spread of Ebola and to restore basic health services around the
country. The country has been so deeply affected: people dying leaving bereaved
families and orphans, schools closed for more than six months, and everyone afraid
to go to the hospitals and clinics.
The FMM community and the volunteer: Malgozata, Mrs. Joanne (lay), Thavaleela,
Mary Anne, Janet, Evelina, Barbara, Fatima
Our community here in Monrovia has been a part of the great efforts against Ebola
of the people of this country together with the World Health Organization and many
INGOs. The courage and resilience of the Liberians is admirable. They are determined
to carry on, even though they had just started the road to recovery afte
r civil wars that devastated the country for fifteen years.
Schools were closed by presidential order last July. Sr. Barbara Brillant cut short her
home leave to return to spearhead the Ebola response of the Catholic Church. Barbara
brought back with her to Liberia Dr.Tim Flanigan, an infectious disease specialist from
the United States, who was ready to volunteer for two months to set up training teams
from among the staff of the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences directed by the
FMMs. These teams had the goal of protecting the vulnerable health workers of the 18
Catholic health facilities, teaching them how to “keep safe, keep serving”, and the motto
of the Liberian Ministry of Health in this time of Ebola. Our Catholic Church health facilities
lost 12 health workers, among the almost 200 health workers in Liberia who have
died related to Ebola.
The other FMMs in the community have also been a big part of the Ebola effort.
Sisters Evelina and Fatima have been going with their team of eight, training the staff
in the 28 Catholic schools in Greater Monrovia how to keep the children safe when
schools reopen, hopefully in February. Sr. Thavaleela has been mobilizing the network
of HIV counselors to go out into the communities to create Ebola prevention awareness.
Sr. Janet, our Young Religious nursing student at the Mother Patern College, has
contributed greatly, while waiting for classes to resume, to the community’s
“ministry of the interior” during these challenging months and has helped to
set up the Ebola screening in our large campus.
Sr. Malgorzata in advanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Sr. Malgorzata helping
a midwife with advanced PPE
Sr. Thavaleela at an Ebola training session
There are three volunteers with the FMM Ebola response. Sr. Malgorzata, a midwife with long
experience in DRC and recently as General Councillor, is assisting in St. Joseph Catholic Hospital
which reopened in November. Gosia works to help the midwives in the maternity to use all the
prevention measures correctly. Sr. Mary Anne, a medical doctor missioned in our East Africa
Province, has come to continue the health team animation begun by Dr. Flanigan. Joanne Boeyink,
a lay counselor from the United States, is collaborating with the psychosocial aspect of the
Ebola response. Much is needed in that area to combat stigma around Ebola, to support the
survivors, to care for affected and grieving families, especially orphaned children.
What is the road ahead? As one T-shirt expressed it: “completing the last mile”. It has been
a long and terrible journey for these affected countries, but now is no time to give up or to relax.
Our community continues to draw strength from the Eucharistic presence of the Lord Jesus in
our small chapel, where we gather each evening for adoration, evening prayer and the rosary
together. We are confident that the Lord who came to heal and lead everyone to full life will
fulfill the faith-filled prayers of the people of Liberia – Ebola must go!
FMM Community in Monrovia