Missionary nuns celebrate 25 challenging years in Guyana
The Missionaries of Charity nuns, the sisters of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, have just celebrated 25 years since their arrival on these shores.
Anyone would notice the Catholic nuns dressed in their blue and white saris walking the length and breadth of the country and not many Guyanese are aware of the work that they do quietly behind the scenes, away from media fanfare and public attention.
Just over a handful of nuns arrived at Georgetown in late August 1986. These nuns did not have it easy. Their arrival to this country was, in a nutshell, stymied by many of the political figures back then.
Even the Catholic Church in Guyana was also going through a period of persecution.
Canadian Roman Catholic Missionary priest, Fr Graham Clarke, was the man who was instrumental in bringing the nuns to Guyana.
Fr Clarke, facing opposition from several forces, was persistent to Roman Catholic Bishop (now Ret’d) Benedict Singh to get the nuns in Guyana.
When they first came they, too, faced some skepticism from the general Guyanese population since it was a first to have Indian nuns in the country. Guyanese were accustomed to seeing Ursuline and Carmelite nuns and so, the Missionaries of Charity had to integrate themselves within the population.
Then, the nuns had more problems just after spending two years in Guyana when the authorities gave them more difficulties to renew their work- permits to continue their work. It was another long process and Fr Clarke assisted in this regard.
Several prayers and Novena were arranged to pray for a smooth process so that the nuns could get their work permits from the government.
Some persons felt that it was a Hindu group in the country and this certainly stirred up a lot of talk in New Amsterdam. The nuns established the first convent in Guyana at New Amsterdam, just next to the Roman Catholic parish church on Main Street.
During the course of time, other convents would be opened like the ones that currently exist in Vryheid’s Lust, Georgetown and Hosororo, North West District.
There are now fewer than two dozen Missionaries of Charity nuns in Guyana today.
Since 1986, they have been here on these shores caring for the poorest of the poor. Their convents have been turned into hospitals and shelters for the homeless and refuge for the outcasts and neglected of our society.
In New Amsterdam, they care for some old men, referred to as the ‘grandfathers’; men who have been abandoned by their families. The nuns also give a hot meal daily to dozens of persons who flock their gates early in the morning. They also run a free daycare service for children.
In Georgetown, the nuns there take care of several women, who too have been forgotten by society. All of their work is carried out with the generous help of donations from their benefactors across the country and in the world.
Today, the nuns still get a hassle in getting their permits to continue working here. Sometimes they spend the entire day at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown just to renew their work permits. They are few today in Guyana. They hail from India and Africa and only return home to their families on home visits once every ten years.
If they happen to die in the country in which they are serving, they are buried right there. The order was established in 1950 by Mother Teresa and consists today of over 4,500 nuns working in over 133 countries, Guyana included.