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Two orders of religious women are serving at local hospitals

01/21/2022 | Comments

COLORADO SPRINGS. Members of two religious orders based in India have moved to Colorado Springs to work as nurses at Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center. Both orders were invited by Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Abraham Kannampalackal, who serves as a chaplain at Penrose Hospital.

Three sisters from the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel are working at Penrose Hospital and living across the street at Our Lady of Good Health convent on North Cascade Avenue. Carmelite Sisters Alphy, Metsy and Bindhu arrived in Colorado Springs in September and, like other nurses, work three 12-hour shifts each week at Penrose Hospital. Their order was founded in India in 1866 and consists of approximately 6,500 sisters in 10 provinces worldwide. Through an affiliation with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Sisters Alphy and Metsy each have decades of experience working in Catholic hospitals in northwest Indiana. Sister Bindhu is new to the United States, having arrived in March 2021.

All three sisters say that patients are often surprised to find out that their nurse is also a religious sister.

“They ask me, ‘Are you a real nun?’” said Sister Bindhu.

They also say that they don’t focus on religious topics unless the patients bring them up.

“They don’t expect us to preach about God too much,” said Sister Metsy. “God tells us to love them, and then if they’re willing, to pray with them. If they don’t want us to pray with them, we can pray interiorly for them and be there for them.”

But they also say that their presence has been appreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s so much desperation and anxiety,” said Sister Metsy. “Often they’re not sure they will be able to get back to their homes or to their loved ones, so they are fearful.”

And the sisters sometimes work with the hospital chaplains, Father Timothy Corbley and Father Kannampalackal, to respond to patients’ sacramental requests. 

Three Medical Sisters of St. Joseph, another order based in India, came to Colorado Springs in August 2021 to work as nurses at St. Francis Medical Center. They are living at a residence on the grounds of Mount St. Francis. Sister Rose Varkey, Sister Lizy Thomas and Sister Shine Joseph previously worked in hospitals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Wichita, Kansas.

“The people here have been warm and welcoming,” said Sister Varkey.

Just like at Penrose, St. Francis Medical Center patients often aren’t sure how to react to having religious women as their nurses.

“Some patients don’t know that we don’t get married, so they’ll ask how many children we have and how our husband is doing,” said Sister Shine. “I will say ‘My husband is Jesus. I dedicated my life to Jesus and I am working for you.’”

Both orders are part of the Syro-Malabar Church, which is in full communion with the pope but celebrates Mass according to its own rite and has its own liturgical year. 

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