‘The works of mercy are handcrafted’, Pope Francis writes.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the service given by religious sisters around the world to their fellow men. They are the embodiment of God’s creative mercy, the face and hands of Mother Church.

The handiwork of mercy carried out by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary in Pakistan helps many girls and young women. Socially speaking, women have practically no rights in a society dominated by men and corruption – particularly if they are non-Muslims.

Christian girls and women are frequently molested sexually or even raped. In court they rarely find justice and it often happens that after being raped or forced into ‘marriage’ with a Muslim man, they are rejected or abandoned even by their own family. One way to counteract this discrimination is through education, and this is what the sisters provide.

They take in the poorest girls, including orphans and street children, aged 4 to 16 and offer them a new home in their Sacred Heart convent in Lahore. But now they are also in need of help, as their meagre resources are almost entirely exhausted, by the cost of medication for the ten frail and elderly sisters of the congregation among other things. And they also have to find the means to renovate their small bathrooms, as there are leaks everywhere and the pipework throughout their 80-year-old building is rusting through.

Of course, the medication for the elderly sisters – aged between 75 and 95 – has to take priority, as they cannot afford both. So we have promised help for essential repairs.

Many other elderly sisters, in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa, are frail and tired after giving their lives in the service of mercy. But there is no such thing as retirement or pensions for those engaged in this handiwork of mercy. Uncomplaining, they bear their final years with joyful serenity.

‘Mercy gives rise to joy, because our hearts are opened to the hope of a new life’ (Pope Francis). All their lives they have opened other people’s hearts to hope; now they themselves continue to hope, pray and work in the mother houses of their congregations – whether in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil or in Cameroon, Rwanda and Nigeria. They continue to serve, but now in a different way.

Their younger sisters take over the work – catechesis, youth apostolate, serving the liturgy, caring for the sick and elderly, teaching in the schools, caring for orphans and handicapped, parish bookkeeping, running rural clinics and providing basic medication – to say nothing of the consolation they so often bring by their mere presence. None of these services of love would be possible without the financial support we provide – thanks to the generosity of you, our benefactors.

Sometimes it is just enough to survive on. And when they have a little more than that, they pass it on to the poor. Nothing is wasted in this beautiful service of love.

This article can be found in Mirror 0217.