The sisters of St Elisabeth Convent organised a real feast for the patients and the staff of the Boarding Home No. 4 on the day of the Merciful icon of the Mother of God. A Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the chapel. After the Liturgy, everyone prayed during a procession as a way of consecrating this place that has become the home for some and the meaning of life for others.
The Boarding Home in Vulica Siamaška was opened in 2010. Former patients of the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs were transferred here immediately.
Nina Sandovich, a sister of mercy, recalls:
— When we began visiting our friends in this Boarding Home, we saw that they were somewhat forlorn; they felt lonely. We had visited them in the Boarding Home for children, and they had attended church. They had a hard time getting used to this new place, new people, and new circumstances. We would simply come to our children and invite Father Valery. We dreamed of having a church here. We decided that the church was to be consecrated in honour of the Merciful icon of the Mother of God. People pray to this icon of the Mother of God for those who have mental health issues or special needs, or, as they used to put it, about the “paralytics”. Of course, the Mother of God is the mother of us all. Most of those who stay here lack motherly protection, love, and support.
A chapel in the Boarding Home was founded in 2013 and has been the place of weekly worship since that time. It is in this room that the residents meet their relatives on weekdays and encounter God on weekends and holidays.
The Boarding Home is a special and isolated world where things are different. As Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok noted in his address to the staff of the Boarding Home, “Christ teaches us to love. Out there in this world each person lives for his own sake but here we try to understand and accept people who suffer and in so doing defeat the sinful laws of this world. Prayers that are going on here help everyone and give us hope and faith, which are lost so easily. We see the insanity of what happens around us. These people who were cast out of this world due to their illness are much more honest and pure than those who consider themselves to be valuable and significant in this world.
Angels in Slippers
If you draw an analogy between the invisible world of the Boarding Home and the invisible world of the paradise, the people who stay here are Angels… They came to the Liturgy on the day of the Merciful icon of the Mother of God wearing slippers on their feet. It is dark and everyone else is sleeping in the houses that surround the Boarding Home but there are two windows shining in the building of the facility because the Liturgy is going on. Someone holds the hand of a sister, someone sings along with the choir, someone in his simple-heartedness blesses the priest. Some of the patients cannot leave their units but a priest comes to them so that they could receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
— Those who live here appreciate every meeting and every minute spent together. They show us how to be grateful, how to love, and how to appreciate each other. People who come here are genuinely blessed, — the Rev Rodion Alkhovik, who is the spiritual counsellor of the Boarding Home, says.
The sisters of St Elisabeth Convent regularly organise spiritual meetings with Father Rodion, pilgrimages to holy places, and birthday parties for the patients.
— The staff are so professional, and the art therapy classes are so amazing here that our main task is to come and just talk with the patients. You should not do things in a formal manner but instead you must show each of the people who you talk with that you care, — Sister Nina believes.
The celebration was marked by a special atmosphere created thanks to spiritual chants, ballads, and contemporary church music performed by Rejoice Choir of the Sisters of Mercy and their friends. The staff are looking forward to new concerts like this one.
The concert kicked off with dances prepared by the residents of the Boarding Home. It was their first appearance on stage in front of the sisters and the personnel. It took them two years to prepare for this performance. They had prepared four dances. Some of the dancers can’t even talk but they are very creative. Sister Ludmila who teaches them is a professional choreographer.
There was an exhibition of pictures and other artefacts made by the patients of the Boarding Home No. 4 for the mentally challenged in the National Art Museum of Belarus on Sunday December 3, which proved yet again that the residents of the Boarding Home are extremely talented.