Leprosy Day: Silent Heroes, the work of Catholic nuns

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Credit: Sr Lalitha Fernando

Source: St. Francis Leprosy Guild

World Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of January every year, to raise awareness about leprosy. It is estimated that around four million people worldwide are affected by leprosy. This year, the UK-based charity, St Francis Leprosy Guild, is asking the Catholic community to reflect and pray for the work of Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to caring for people affected by leprosy.

St Francis Chief Executive Clare McIntosh says: “It is impossible to quantify how much our dedicated Catholic nuns have transformed lives, caring for people affected by leprosy and the stigma of leprosy. Their legacy of love and care is immeasurable and, thank God, continues unceasingly. We feel privileged to support the great work of these silent heroes.

Sr. Lalitha Fernando of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, for example, works with leprosy patients at the Badulla Leprosy Centre, located in the central low hills of Sri Lanka. His work includes long journeys and trips to remote places. She visits people with leprosy as a friend, so that their neighbors do not suspect a leprosy connection, and the stigma and rejection so often associated with this disease can be avoided. “No matter how long my trip is or how tired I feel, I love doing the work of St. Francis,” said Sr. Lalitha who visits about 22 leprosy sufferers every month.

Some are frail and elderly, others are isolated and alone and some live with permanent disabilities due to leprosy. Sr. Lalitha is aware that people with leprosy suffer from weakened immune systems and are susceptible to illnesses and injuries and, in particular, to developing leprosy-related ulcers. Thus, she takes medication during her visits as well as provisions, such as powdered milk and nutritional supplements to supplement their daily rations.

In addition to their patron, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the St Francis Leprosy Guild is supported by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, in his capacity as Senior Bishop of International Affairs for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and the Land of Wales.

“We are inspired by the work that the St Francis Leprosy Guild and the sisters are doing in Sri Lanka and other countries around the world,” Bishop Lang said. “In the communities you support there must be great loneliness and hardship – I know the visitation and care you provide has a transformative impact on people’s lives.”

Prayer for people affected by leprosy and the nuns who care for them:

Lord, we remember the many people in the world affected by leprosy.

May we follow the example of your Son Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi and show them love and compassion.

We pray for freedom from the disease and its stigma.

We give thanks for those who have been healed.

We remember those who are permanently scarred by the disease and all those who care for them.

We give thanks for every Catholic nun who cares for people affected by leprosy.

We pray that you will bless them with all they need to serve those in their care and support them in their mission.

Amen.

The Guild has compiled information into a “toolbox”. It can be found on their website at: www.stfrancisleprosy.org/world-leprosy-day-2022.html

Keywords: World Leprosy Day, St Francis Leprosy Guild, Clare McIntosh, Sr Lalitha Fernando, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, CBCEW

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