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The Good Fight

Posted by Administrator (admin) on Nov 23 2016
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As the children at St. John’s Mission in Barberton, South Africa finish another school year in December, Sister Anece Salay reflects on the successes and challenges at the mission, where the School Sisters of St. Francis care for critically-ill and often abandoned children with HIV or full-blown AIDS.

It is the time of year when the sisters work hard to prepare as many children as possible to spend the holidays with relatives or foster families. Most have been abandoned by their families or have health challenges that were not managed at home, including regular use of anti-retroviral medications.

“Our social workers have worked very hard to locate the families of 34 of our children,” Sister Anece says. “In reality, some families cannot afford them or sadly find it more convenient to leave the children with us.”

Sister Anece has ministered in South Africa since 1989 and was there when St. John’s Care Center opened in 1997. Sister Anece is the mission administrator, and Sister Denise Olshausky is director of the care center. The program also is staffed by three sisters from the Region of India, one sister from the Slovak Republic and a small team of lay employees. Sisters Lorita Kristufek and Virginia Rose Carroll also each spent a month at the mission in 2016, teaching religion and music to the children.

St. John’s can accept up to 50 children from birth to age 18, depending on their needs. Most recently they took in a critically-ill 16-year-old girl who had been the primary caregiver of her younger siblings. Due to her circumstances, she was not eating properly or taking her medication and now needs to be on special care.

Cases like these wrench Sister Anece’s heart. The mission’s role will be to help the young girl to get healthy with proper nutrition, regular medication and spiritual enrichment and, hopefully, return her to her family. All too often, children like her return to the mission in just a few short weeks because their daily care has diminished again at home.

In addition to navigating through cultural challenges and government inefficiency, the mission often is charged with helping children who have turned 18 find a place in the adult world. To this end, job training and socialization are key components of the mission’s work.

In the past two years, the program has successfully placed three older children with relatives when they turned 18, and helped four younger children be placed with families. Another teenage boy, a gifted artist, is preparing to return to his one-time foster family. It is these small successes that keep the good work going.

Donations to support the challenging work at St. John Mission can be directed to the School Sisters of St. Francis (Mount Assisi Convent, 934 Forest Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15202) but must be earmarked for “South African Mission.”

Last changed: Sep 14 2017 at 12:30 PM

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