Stories of the Sisterhood: the Breath of Fresh Air in a Hospital Ward

“…comforting the sick and helping them to get ready for the Sacraments of Penitence and Communion is the most wonderful work a believer can dream of doing…”
Today we get to know Sister Marina Jaskievič who carries out her obedience in the Spiritual Centre of the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University and the City Hospital No.2…
Sister Marina, could you please tell us how you found yourself in the Sisterhood?
It happened fourteen years ago. I read a book about the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth and was very impressed by it. Then I came to SS Peter and Paul Cathedral and saw sisters wearing white robes, and my heart was set ablaze momentarily! When I approached Father Andrew Lemeshonok, asking for his blessing to become a member of the Sisterhood, he replied, “Let us work together!” That was how I started visiting the patients of Minsk City Hospital No.2. I was very fond of this obedience: comforting the sick and helping them to get ready for the Sacraments of Penitence and Communion is the most wonderful work a believer can dream of doing.
I have my obedience in the cardiology department. People who stay there are in great need of spiritual support…I recall my first visit to this department: I was afraid to enter the wards, let alone to open my mouth and say something… However, the Lord acts within our hearts – undoubtedly! Everything went fine at that time. Most importantly, I was sincere. People may have various reactions, of course, but the majority react in a positive, rather than negative, way.
At first, we visited only the rheumatology department of the City Hospital No.2 but then they allowed us to visit the burn centre where they brought in emergency cases (it was relocated to our hospital due to a renovation of its previous premises). It was really horrible! The patients were brought in with severe burns. I recall one young man who had 70 per cent of total skin area burned. It was God’s mercy that we managed to prepare him for confession and communion quickly. He started partaking of the Sacraments regularly. He spent eight months in hospital and led a devoted spiritual life, relying solely on God. One day I came and saw Sergei walking towards me! It was like the real Pascha for me! Christ is Almighty. He always gives us what we really need according to our faith and never fails those who trust Him!
Had that young man been a believer before he found himself in hospital?
In all likelihood, no, he hadn’t. Our sisters told him about Orthodoxy and that the Lord awaits each one of us… We helped Sergei to get ready for confession and communion. Gradually, he started to believe in God. It must be noted, though, that for such a miracle to happen, the person needs to open his or her heart to God. The sisters of mercy will certainly explain everything in detail but it is the person in question who will have to choose. This is a matter of their free choice. Because people may react otherwise. We may come to the hospital unit and enter the wards, and the people would refuse to talk with us. There are superstitions that meeting a priest in a hospital is a bad omen, a sure death. It might seem funny or absurd but many people believe it and avoid both the sisters and the priests.
Did they openly ask you not to come?
Yes, they did. There was a patient who was sure that our visits bring misfortune. Then he has a vision of some sort, and he told us in the face, “Don’t come here again!” We cried and prayed for three months. We did not visit that man during those three months but when we suddenly met him again, he allowed us to come and visit him again — just imagine! Our joy was limitless. We flew to that hospital unit as if we had wings.
Sister Marina, do you feel that the atmosphere in the City Hospital No.2 is different in any way from that in other hospitals, which the sisters of mercy do not visit?
Yes, it is. It is radically different! I recall how I was in hospital as a patient… I was to have an operation performed on me. How pleasant and joyful it was for me to see a sister of mercy wearing the white robe! It was like a breath of fresh air. She did not do anything special: she simply stood by my side, comforted me as much as she could, read some excerpts from spiritual books. This might turn out to be enough to get stronger and to renew one’s hope…
By Natallia Klimova
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