In Kenya, Mexico, nuns discover the need to coordinate resources for care of the elderly

WASHINGTON, DC — Congregations of women religious around the world can feel overwhelmed with the care needed by older sisters, but often the resources taken for granted in developed countries don’t even exist in other countries.

For example, while congregations around the world provide their elder sisters with access to spiritual care, only 11% of nuns in Kenya have facilities with ramps and no free medical equipment is available.


In some countries, nuns don’t even talk about the problems of their aging members.

Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Apostolate Research is engaged in a global research partnership to identify the needs of communities of Catholic sisters in caring for their elderly and infirm sisters in Kenya, Uganda, in Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mexico and the United States. states. The researchers found that, in many cases, the nuns did not realize that other congregations were facing the same problems as them.

Some of the researchers spoke to a small group in Washington in June.

Each religious community has “suffered the impact of the aging process – alone,” said Sister Brenda Hernandez, a member of the Daughters of the Immaculate Mary of Guadalupe in Mexico City who participated in research for the CARA project. “We lack facilities, we lack assistance” as well as trained caregivers and money to support aging sisters.

Sister Bibiana Ngundo, a member of the Little Sisters of St. Francis who does research at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, has made similar findings that show African sisters don’t talk about aging .

“The sisters who were placed in a home for the aged were never prepared,” she said, and one even refused, saying, “No, if I go , I die”.

“Sisters need to be prepared in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” she said, stressing that religious congregations need to talk about aging.

Assumption Sister Candida Mukundi, who works on research with Ngundo, spoke of the challenge of lack of homes for aging sisters and said congregations could help each other by working together.

“Each congregation took care of its own sisters,” she said, and while participating in the research, members of different orders learned that they could share their problems with each other.

She and her colleagues spoke to members of 57 religious congregations in Kenya. One of the first things they did was train religious superiors on how to complete the Google Forms survey.

At the 12th Triennial Conference on Religious Women’s History at the Cushwa Center at the University of Notre Dame in late June, Mukundi and others involved in the project presented some of their research.

Mukundi said the results were “a wake-up call for congregations in Kenya to become more aggressive in vocation recruitment, vocation sustainability, preparation for old age, keeping abreast of the signs of time in terms of apostolates and care for the elderly sisters”.

She said the nuns hoped to share resources and secure funds for a central physical structure for the aging sisters to live in holistic community life. This would facilitate, among other things, the offer of services for geriatric experts.

It would also help ease the stress on the sisters.

“I am old and weak, but sometimes I have to carry water to wash myself in a bucket because there are no showers,” an aging nun told them during the survey.

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