Therapy for the children includes stimulating them with music and storytelling. Although the Sisters have beautiful, rich voices, they have practical limitations. Since not enough staff or volunteers are available to give each child all the attention she or he deserves, they will play tapes of Arab music or stories.
Other dimensions of the childrens handicaps also get special attention. Parents of these children have become a special concern of the Haifa ministry. They especially have to come to terms with their childrens disabilities. Many handicapped children first came to the Maison because the parents did not know how they could care for the child. Still, they never totally separated themselves from their child, even though they are consumed by shame. In this quiet desperation they turned to the care of the Sisters at the Maison. More than 60 children now receive care here.
The parents are being drawn into the healing process. During their visits, they meet people who enjoy their children as they are. They see models for childcare. The brokenness they feel their sense of disgrace at having a deformed or retarded child is healed as they learn to care for the child, to see him or her as someone accepted and loved by these nuns from France, the Philippines, Lebanon, and the United States. Some mothers of these children even serve as volunteers in the Maison.
With the extent of the care provided there, the Maison seems more a home than an institution. This reputation of care given with love and professionalism has brought other parents there to find the best treatment for their severely handicapped children.
The strong spiritual life of the religious community at the Maison has opened it to an imaginative approach to its ministry to special people. The joyful daily life helps the staff cope with other problems, such as the increasingly difficult task of obtaining necessary medications. They carry on as best they can like any family must.
The Sisters working at the Maison du Sacre Coeur seem to enjoy the new programs as much as the children do. It gives them a chance to play with them while they watch them develop strength and mobility. The childrens resilience has made the Maison much more hope-filled.
The staff at the Maison is going beyond mere maintenance care to offer the children a chance at enjoying life. They are offering more than smothering love by showing the children love which respects them as persons. Through their efforts and the additional contributions of supporters, such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, they have awakened the children to actively explore their clean little world. Nowadays, the staff may even wonder but only briefly what wild joy they have unleashed. In their hearts they are as happy as the children.
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Michael Healy is editor of Catholic Near East.
Tags: Children Israel Sisters Disabilities