Nigerian Nuns: Children Are Jewels
Religious Live Spiritual and Practical Motherhood
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IKEDURU, Nigeria, JULY 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- After an abandoned newborn was found in the bush, a community of religious sisters decided to open a house to give refuge to children like her.
The story of Chidimma, the abandoned baby girl, was detailed in a feature published today by Aid to the Church in Need.
The baby, who was discovered in 2001 just as ants were beginning to crawl over her, was taken to the local convent of the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood in Ikeduru, eastern Nigeria.
The nuns took her in, naming her "Chidimma," which means "God is good."
Soon, more children were brought to the convent, especially newborns whose mothers died in childbirth.
The aid agency reported that many times these babies were unwanted because they were blamed by relatives for the death of their mothers.
Also, many times the impoverished families or single mothers were unable to feed another child, and surrendered them to the religious community.
A couple of children were rejected because they are albinos with white skin and hair.
The agency noted that this discrimination often takes place throughout Africa, and in some countries such as Tanzania, the albino children are "murdered by witch doctors in order to make supposed magic potions from their body parts."
Yet, as the nuns welcomed a growing number of these "unwanted" children, they opened a "House of Hope" as a loving home for them.
Sister Stella, who runs this house, stated, "These children are like jewels to us."
She explained that their "yardstick" in caring for the children is to ask, "What would their natural mother, who is now in heaven, have done for and wanted for, her child?"
The sister acknowledged that many of these children were saved from death by this home, and she exclaimed, "God is so good!"
The aid agency reported that the "children love the sisters," and whenever one of the nuns enters the room, they come running, calling out, "Sister, Sister!"
The nuns attempt to remain in contact with the child's family, and often relatives can be persuaded to later take the young one back in when their situation has stabilized.
However, the religious continue to care for the children, visiting the families and accompanying their charges as they grow.
They aim to place the orphans back with extended families if possible, but also to continue guiding the maturing youth to keep them from "falling into the hands of the drug dealers."
Sister Stella expressed the need to minister to the young people, to help them have a happy and stable family life, based on Gospel values.
She also helps educate the youth integrally, showing them how to run a home and earn a living.
Sister Stella affirmed, "Above all, you have to lay a solid foundation."
The nuns are also educating young women about prenatal health, with the goal of reducing childbirth mortality and keeping more families together.
The agency's report noted that sadly, the child who started this extensive project, Chidimma, died at the age of eight from the HIV she was born with, and was buried inside the convent.
However, she was given those years of happiness with the family she knew inside the religious community, rather than death in the bush.
As well, thanks to her, the house was founded for numerous other children who have been and will be given refuge there.