Father Gus Puleo

Father Gus Puleo

At St. Patrick Church in Norristown we are fortunate to have the Missionaries of Charity in our convent serving our parish and the “poorest of the poor.” The sisters have been at the parish since 1984 when Mother Teresa came to Norristown to found the house. The convent was founded as a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.

The sisters work tirelessly establishing a community of faith with benefactors and volunteers that accepts all regardless of religion to feed the poor, to shelter homeless women, to teach catechism to our students, to establish a summer camp for our children, to teach groups of children on the weekends along with other wonderful activities. They visit the sick at home, in nursing homes and at hospitals. They also go into prisons to speak with people. The sisters, as Mother Teresa taught, pray and work with great joy even as they face difficult situations.

On Friday, March 4 in southern Yemen in a town named Aden, gunmen stormed a retirement home run by the Missionaries of Charity killing 16 people, including four MC sisters. Two of the nuns killed were from Rwanda and the other two were from India and Kenya. Gunmen surrounded the village as four men entered the building under the pretext of visiting their mothers at the nursing home.

The gunmen went from room to room handcuffing the victims before shooting them in the head. One sister survived by hiding inside a refrigerator in a storeroom.  When found by government troops, she was crying and shaking about the terrible incident.

I am completely stunned and appalled at this horror. The sisters are never involved in taking sides in any political situation. They always remain neutral and try to help others of all religions even in war-torn areas. They face violence and even death.

The sisters in Aden had definitely known that in 1998 in Yemen three Missionary of Charity sisters were killed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. In addition, they were aware that the small Christian population had left that area long ago. However, the Missionaries of Charity with great bravery and trust in God continued to stay to help the elderly in Aden.

The Islamic State and Yemen’s al Qaida affiliate have been responsible for a wave of deadly attacks in Aden, including suicide bombings. Aden’s churches have come under attack as last summer a Catholic church in the district of Crater was torched and destroyed by Islamic extremists.

Pope Francis calls all of us to be missionaries. He has reiterated that the church is not a relief organization or an enterprise, but a community of people animated by the Holy Spirit who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ. The sisters want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us, with others.

The Holy Father has characterized Christians in various parts of the world today as “courageous witnesses, even more numerous than the martyrs of the early centuries, who endure with apostolic perseverance many contemporary forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ.” These words describe the four Missionary of Charity sisters who had joyfully worked and prayed in a world full of sins and disorders of the most terrible kinds.

In all places, even in Norristown, the sisters find joy in establishing a community of faithful who worship God in the manner that God himself, in the Incarnation and Crucifixion, taught us — loving God and loving and caring for our neighbors.