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Three Sisters’ Ministry of Hospitality

An update on support given to the displaced of Dbayeh Camp in Lebanon.

by Michael Healy

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The squalid Dbayeh camp on the outskirts of Beirut is not a place you’d expect to find hospitality. The lives of desperate men and women go on here. Children grow up amid the wreckage of an interminable civil war.

Only two years ago the only person serving the camp was Sister Georgette, starting a nursery school, a clinic for mothers and children, and a program of aid by Lebanese students.

Now hospitality is found in one structure tucked in the maze of alleys. Three Little Sisters of Nazareth, members of a small order which specializes in a “ministry of hospitality,” offer a model of being a Christian presence where it’s most needed. They share the life of the camp residents ’round the clock.

In a country where hatred and fear have kept doors and windows locked for more than a decade, the home of the three sisters has an open door for neighbors. Fresh paint makes the place inviting, suggesting the dignity extended to visitors.

The one telephone in Dbayeh was installed in the Little Sister’s home through the efforts of the Pontifical Mission. The telephone is an unexpected basis for their ministry. It is vital because transportation is precarious, erratic, or non-existent. While telephone service isn’t always reliable, it is safe.

Neighbors are welcome to make calls when there is a real need.

Using the telephone creates an opportunity to share the daily problems of life. Someone’s always at home to receive guests.

A mother may stop in to call the hospital to check on a son. She’ll bring along an infant or two, which gives Sister Josephine a chance to examine the child’s health. When she finishes telephoning, the mother inevitably spends time with a sister getting advice and encouragement.

Through these daily contacts with people throughout the camp, the Little Sisters in Dbayeh recognize needs and help the residents find solutions. But perhaps the most valuable service they provide is given by their presence in a place anyone else would avoid. They offer a living sign of the concern, efforts, and presence of the world’s Catholic community in the daily lives of the people of Dbayeh.

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Michael Healy is editor of Catholic Near East.



Tags: Lebanon Children Sisters Refugee Camps Civil War