By Rolf Bauerdick
Katarina (19) has spent 17 years under the care of Sister Admirata and Sister Manda who run a home in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, for orphans and abandoned children. As an infant, Katarina was left in the care of her grandmother who could not handle the responsibility of caring for her and her older brother Stipo. Katarina has spent happy years with the sisters, but her days in the home have drawn to a close, a bitter-sweet moment.
“I am a little nervous how life will be outside of the home,” she told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Sister Admirata reassured her charge, saying: “Katarina is well-equipped for the grown-up world.”
Sister Admirata Lučić is the provincial superior of the Servants of the Infant Jesus. The order runs an orphanage and a kindergarten at its convent. At its founding, the nuns named their convent “Egypt” to recall the flight of the Infant Jesus from the tyrant Herod. The order was expropriated in 1949 under the dictatorship of the Communist party in the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The convent building was confiscated, the children were taken away from the nuns and placed in state-run facilities, where religion was banned.
In 1992, at the beginning of the Bosnian War, the Serbian military destroyed the building completely, but Sister Admirata and her 12 fellow nuns—sustained in their daily living by Aid to the Church in Need—managed to establish the first post-war orphanage in Bosnia in 1999. Today, 55 boys and girls attend kindergarten there, while 19 children—some whose parents have died, others whose parents are not able to care for them—live full-time at the orphanage.
Sister Admirata said: “We do set great store by the fact that our kindergarten children not only come from difficult social environments, but also from intact backgrounds. We also have children of diplomats and of middle-class families here.” The nuns are currently helping Katarina find an affordable place to live in Sarajevo, which is not an easy task.
Two Muslim children recently arrived at the orphanage: seven-year-old Melissa and her brother Omer, who is eight. The two had been left under the care of their grandfather, after the mother moved away and the father took another wife. Today, Omer and Melissa are attending First Grade at the local Catholic primary school and are positively flourishing in terms of their development.
By accepting Muslim as well as Orthodox Christian children at “Egipat House,” the nuns are acting in complete accordance with the philosophy of the founder of their order: Archbishop Josip Stadler (1843–1918), who was esteemed as the “Father of the Poor” by people of all religions and denominations. The sisters also do not separate the children according to their religious affiliation. “We are simply there for the children that need us,” Sister Admirata said.
Aid to the Church in Need supports the nuns of the Servants of the Infant Jesus with funding for the training of their novices. Last year, the aid organization also helped renovate two convents of the order that had suffered severe flooding damage.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)