By Leon Suseran
Father’s Day compels us to seriously and prayerfully give thanks to the fathers in our midst for their labours and dedication, which I daresay usually go unrecognized in the society today.
There is much fanfare and big celebrations for Mother’s Day but somehow Father’s Day does not attract the same limelight.
Fathers are said to be the backbone and strength of any family. He is the one that cements that family together. Fathers take care of their children, financially, morally, socially, affectionately and otherwise.
In New Amsterdam, the Missionaries of Charities Sisters take care of six dads. They are all quite old. Most of them were rescued from their own pathetic lives having been abandoned by their families abandoned them.
A few were taken off the streets. The four nuns, at their St John Street convent, have been caring for these fathers for 25 years now.
A recent visit to the convent revealed how these nuns take the commandment of God, “Honor your father and your mother…” seriously. They bathe, clean, cook, groom and care for these men. There had been over 20 of them originally, but many of them died of old age and such.
One of them now in the care of the Missionaries is Milton Joseph. He is 83. He has been at the convent for just under two years. He was born at Skeldon, Corentyne. He does not remember his family or his children—if he had any.
He was picked up by the sisters at Betsy Ground, East Canje, where he lived alone for 20 years.
Joseph had his desire fulfilled the other day when he became a Christian at the Catholic Church located just next door to the convent. He was baptized, something he had longed for and kept asking the sisters for ever since he arrived at the convent. He attends church every Sunday with them.
The sisters practically do everything for these fathers. They clean up after them; wash for them; cook for them; and even nurse their wounds. They also have a private doctor visit them regularly for check- ups.
They have a cabinet where all their medicines and tablets are stored.
Many of the fathers have diabetes and skin ailments. One of them had to be taken to the National Psychiatric Hospital recently because he was becoming a bit sick.
Another father, Stephen Drake, 83, was born at New Forest, East Canje. He said that he used to be a labourer at Port Mourant and spent six years in the army. He said that he was never married but “had lots of children”.
He does not have good eyesight today. The sisters have to feed him and hold his hand when he walks.
They each have their beds and fresh clothes and sheets each day. This is ensured by the sisters. Some ablebodied ones who can assist, fetch water and do other light chores. But a few others are not as agile and have to be seated or remain in bed most of the day.
Surely, they must wonder from time to time where their children are, or what happened to their families, or what life would have been had they been around their children; every father does.
The sisters celebrate each of their birthdays as the time arrives. The fathers have wine, food, ice- cream, balloons, and yes, cake of course. The sisters sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for them and the fathers blow out their birthday candles. It is a treat for each father whose birthday is celebrated.
These fathers are truly lucky to have all their needs attended to by these ladies. They have been given a second chance at life again and God Himself has provided that avenue for a second chance through the blessings and love of four Catholic nuns (the number changes from time to time, since the nuns come and go [from India]).
So even though, Milton Joseph, Stephen Drakes and the other fathers at the convent in New Amsterdam are not around their biological children on this Father’s Day 2011, they are indeed lucky and blessed to be surrounded by their daughters of humanity who rescued them from despair so that they can enjoy a better life in their old age. May God bless them today.
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