" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Sister Marie undertakes the task of repairing the Naval Hospital and living quarters, much at her own expense. She also seized the chance to attempt to change the moral attitude of the city and launch another unit of Children of Mary.
Despite the state of the hospital, Sister Marie didn’t throw up her hands in despair. She focused on what was missing and continued to express her total gift of self to God with complete faith and trust in His generosity and love. It was typical of her behavior.
Within a short time, workers were making repairs in the hospital wards, new equipment began to arrive to replace the old dilapidated pieces. Painters quickly began to brighten rooms and corridors. That gave a whole new look to the wards of the patients.
Next came the quarters of the medical staff. That area received a complete makeover and provided more comfort and attraction. The old Sacred Heart Hospital took on a new and somewhat vibrant look.
Very few people knew that most of the costs were furnished from Sister Marie’s personal funds. But the living quarters of the Daughters of Charity remained untouched. Their area was considered the poorest religious residence in all of Smyrna.
Sister Marie and the other Daughters of Charity made the hospital more comfortable for the Navy patients and also for the doctors and nurses who took care of them. With her strong direction and will, they restored the facility, her own financial resources used whenever necessary.
When naval ships stopped at Smyrna several sailors would make quick visits to the sisters. It seemed most of the sailors knew Sister Marie had a royal brother in the Navy so many went to visit her. They were the ones who received grand treatment with a fine meal.
The restoration included the addition of rooms for young girls to keep them off the streets and to establish a small classroom for sick children. This addition blossomed into workshops and a full-fledged school.
When the Naval Station became operative, a new subdivision for the working class was opened next to the naval base and the hospital. Since a great number of children were housed in the new area, the town was in dire need of a school so the sisters were asked to operate it. Like in many other institutions of the Daughters, it was another task added to their responsibilities.
Sister Marie saw this as a great opportunity to change the moral climate of this port city that was already known for some rather sordid activities by its floating population. Not only did the children need religious instruction, but she wanted to begin immediately another unit of the Children of Mary as a help to reform this area which had once been known for its apostolic settlement.
By the time Sister Marie was appointed Sister Servant of the Daughters of Charity in Smyrna in 1890, she had established the Children of Mary in order to catechize the children in her charge. She would be the Sister Servant for the next 25 years, until her death in 1915. Her effort was costly and depleted her fortune so that later, when an opportunity arose to acquire the property containing the Blessed Virgin Mary’s house, she needed financial assistance from her father. It would be the only time she’d return home to Burgundy after she became a Daughter of Charity.
As Sister Servant, she assumed other duties such as Sister in Charge, school principal, teacher of nursing, Director of the Children of Mary and she was sought to be respondent in every need. She had been so enthused in this apostolate, it was similar to her early days on mission. It was a thrill to be in a beautiful classroom, to once again train girls in a new sewing shop and share her talents in needlecraft.
Then in 1895, she used her personal funds to build a hospital pavilion. Youthful girls who came to Smyrna to seek work could find inexpensive housing, and some of the unemployed were given temporary shelter.
Over the years in her various missions, she taught many youth the arts of penmanship, printing, coloring, all the handicrafts used to beautify wall hangings, banners, and stationery, etc. Sister Marie had substantial revenue to spend each year. It all went to charities, for the needs of the hospital or other works of the house, and to poor children in classes, the dispensary and visits to the poor in the neighborhood. Sometimes she provided revenue for the diverse needs that solicited her good will from all sides. The question was, how much did she give to all kinds of people and on every occasion? How many discrete and well-placed charities? How many times was she taken advantage of in an undignified manner?
Over time Sister Marie sold off several properties and liquidated stocks and other assets. She finally eliminated her regular sources of income. As a result, she wasn’t able to alleviate the growth of suffering around her as much as she wanted and it caused her intense misery.
Segment 8: Sister Marie uses all of her talents and also finds Father Eugene Poulin.
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