There's “a real mission and partnership,” Brother Richard Hirbe BSCC observes when he speaks about the missionaries who now work in St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif. In many respects, the missionaries at the inner city hospital run by the Daughters of Charity make up a microcosm of the service brought by those orders who have emigrated to the states.
Brother Richard, director of chaplain services in the pastoral care department, has high praise for the staff which includes Sister Mary Joachim of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, and Sister Paz Sanchez EFMS of the Eucharistic Franciscan Sisters of Mexico.
Most patients in the 515-bed facility that borders Watts, the scene of the L.A. riots, are “marginalized and poor,” according to Brother Richard. Every 24 hours, 250 enter the emergency area. Every month, there are 500 births and most of the women giving birth have had no pre-natal care.
The Nigerian sisters, in their royal blue and white full habits, work as nurses, dieticians, and spiritual counselors to patients, three-fourths of whom are Hispanic and one-fourth African American. The Vietnamese Lovers of the Holy Cross are also nurses at the hospital. They are indirectly aided by the seven Missionaries of Charity who live around the corner and care for homeless expectant mothers.
“My prominent place every day is in the surgery center,” says Sister Joachim, who is on the pastoral care team. “I meet them, pray for them, give them emotional support.”
In the same department, Sister Paz visits the sick, helps counsel patients in emotional and spiritual conflicts, and does much evangelization, especially among the Hispanics, many of whom are former Catholics.
“You're re-affirming what they used to believe in,” she says. “They begin to understand what they've lost. Then you leave it up to them.”