“It’s a difficult moment for us, even if we continue in the strength of the charism, in the strength of our evangelical mission to receive and take care of the sick wholeheartedly,” said Sister Carla Fiori, provincial head of the Italian communities of the Sisters of the Poor (Institute of the Sisters of the Poor), in an interview in Italian with “Vatican News” on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
In the region of Bergamo, 13 Sisters of her Congregation have died in these last days, at the service of the sick in different structures. Today Pope Francis offered his morning Mass for all the Sisters taking care of the sick and giving their lives for that endeavour.
An Appeal for Aid
Convinced that hands and hearts are necessary to serve the people, but also funds and tools to guarantee the necessary care to all, Sister Carla launched the project “With a Big Heart. Coronavirus Emergency,” which will make possible the purchase of appliances and devices of protection for the health professionals.” “We put in professionalism, competence, availability, humanity, devotion and heart; however, we ask for aid to purchase all these appliances…” she added.
This initiative “is nothing other than a request for aid “to “furnish 80 beds immediately and 50 others at a further date.” We also need numerous tools, those that we talk about permanently: masks, protection devices, oxygen and, therefore, through this initiative, we ask people to help us,” she continued.
“To have a big heart is a typical expression of our Founder, Luigi Maria Palazzolo (1827-1886, ndr), who always encouraged us in emergency situations not to be afraid and to put ourselves in the front line,” explained Sister Carla. “The Sisters of the Poor have already crossed this tranche some years ago with the Ebola virus and six of our religious lost their life, as in our charism there is in fact this availability for suffering and especially in case of emergency.
A Completely Reorganized Life
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, Sister Carla and her Sisters have reorganized the services of the nursing care homes they run, weaving collaboration with the Pope John XXIII hospital of Bergamo, where the intensive care centers are located. “We first tried to separate the coronavirus patients from the others and we began a close collaboration with the Pope John XXIII hospital of Bergamo to free vital places down there and to receive the sick in our Clinic . . . They are in the main the less seriously sick and we receive them . . . to look after them in our reality so that the Bergamo hospital can breathe.”
The situation remains “critical in Brescia as well as Bergamo and in the whole region,” she added. “At present I am in Brescia, but only because I have fever and am isolated; however, I’m close to all our realities of Bergamo and, in particular, our Rest Home, two other residences for elderly people and another that takes in the handicapped. In this dramatic moment, we are very tested, we have lost numerous elderly persons and 13 Religious have been taken from us.”
Sister Carla has also “heard talk of several Sisters in the Bergamo region and also several priests,” “at least 20 in the Bergamo region alone,” who have lost their life. Moreover, she added, “there are many Sisters of other Orders who are infected.”
Sister Carla wished to remember in particular Sister Costantina Ranioli (of the Sisters of the Poor), “a well known and loved nurse of the Bergamo hospital who arrived in Paradise yesterday.” “She was a very good nurse, very passionate, always sunny, and we remember her with much affection.”
At the end of the interview, Sister Carla remembered Father Fausto Resmini, who was the chaplain of the Bergamo prison and who died last March 23. “I was impressed because he was one who never withdrew. He was close to the prisoners, but also to the homeless who had no house to live in during this period of isolation. When he fell ill, he said was tired, that he felt tired but was glad to be close to the poor . . . he was quite young, 67, truly a priest of the poor, and his example is very strong for us.”