News from St Francis Leprosy Guild

On World Leprosy Day 2022, Sunday 30 January, St Francis Leprosy Guild asks the Catholic community to reflect on the great work carried out by the Catholic Orders of nuns and to unite in prayer for God’s blessing on their vocation.

Throughout the world, working in remote or impoverished locations, Catholic nuns, with hearts of compassion and dedication, are caring for people with leprosy, visiting those that are alone or isolated and restoring dignity.

“Effective, compassionate, Christian care is hard to beat. Some nuns devote their entire lives to caring for people with leprosy,” said Dr Gosia Brykczyńska, RN/RSCN, European President of The International Association of Catholic Nurses (SICIAMS) and Trustee of St Francis Leprosy Guild.

Throughout its history and as part of its TRACE operating strategy, St Francis Leprosy Guild has partnered with Catholic Orders: nuns who devote their lives to caring for people affected by leprosy.

“It is impossible to quantify how much our dedicated Catholic nuns have transformed lives by caring for people with leprosy and dealing with the loneliness and neglect that come from leprosy stigma” said SFLG’s Chief Executive Officer, Clare McIntosh. “Their unspoken legacy of love and dedication is immeasurable and, thank heavens, continues unceasingly. We feel privileged to support the great work of our Silent Heroes.”

Sister Lalitha Fernando of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) works with leprosy patients from the Badulla Leprosy Centre, situated in the lower central hills of Sri Lanka. Her work often includes long journeys, travelling to remote locations. She visits people with leprosy as their friend, so their neighbours don’t suspect a link with leprosy, and the stigma and rejection, so often associated with this disease, can be avoided.

“No matter how long my journey or how tired I feel, I love doing the work of St Francis” said Sister Lalitha, who visits around 22 people with leprosy every month. Some are frail and elderly, others are isolated and alone, some are living with lifelong disabilities due to leprosy.

“I visit a 40-year-old woman, whose leg is amputated due to leprosy and who is cared for by her 60-year-old mother. I take them provisions and nutritional supplements. When I first met them, their house was dilapidated, and the roof was falling in. We have since replaced the ceiling, provided running water and a toilet thanks to the support of St Francis Leprosy Guild.”

“This is such a worthwhile cause” she added. “People with leprosy feel that someone kind loves them, and they feel understood. They are so happy that someone is just there for them.”

Sister Lalitha inspecting Shivalingam’s hand, which is also damaged by leprosy. Photographs copyright St Francis Leprosy Guild.

The Right Reverend Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and Chair of the Department of International Affairs in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: “We are inspired by the work that St Francis Leprosy Guild and the sisters carry out in Sri Lanka, and in other countries across the world.

“In the communities that you support, there must be great loneliness and hardship. I know that the visits and care you provide have a transformative impact on people’s lives.

“The Church has a long tradition of supporting our brothers and sisters living with the effects of leprosy. We have a duty to see that they are included and valued.

“I am mindful of Pope Francis' call to world leaders last World Leprosy Day, to ensure that people are cured from leprosy and can thrive in their communities. I too hope that the leaders of nations will unite in their efforts to treat those with leprosy and promote their social inclusion.

“I share the Holy Father’s encouragement to nuns, health workers, and volunteers committed to this work and hope that Catholics in England and Wales will pray for and support their mission. It is through such kindness and generosity that people with leprosy can receive medication, provisions and assistance in the most difficult circumstances.”

Find out more about St Francis Leprosy Guild