Romania

The mission began in October 2000 when Sr. Rose Carmel arrived to Bucharest from Leeds. She came in blind faith as she had no clear concept of her mission at the time. Before she travelled from Leeds she organised a `Food Shoe Box ` appeal and with the support from a loyal new found Romanian friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Bohm distributed these boxes to the needy, meeting with them on the highways and byways.

She also involved herself in teaching English to abandoned children who have the HIV + virus. She continued with this until September 2005 when she felt that her presence was surplus to requirements as the schooling circumstances for the children changed.

Since her arrival to Bucharest she observed and assimilated the areas of priority needs within her call to Mercy in Romania. She felt that the plight of Senior Citizens and that of poor families who kept their children, struggling to educate them were for her the priority needs.

After much soul searching, prayer and deliberation she set up an S.V.P. conference with the help of Sr. Germaine Price (Daughter of Charity). This required not only the approval of the parish priest but also that of the bishop which was duly given by both.

Each conference must be legalised within the courts so this task bogged down with bureauacracy was adhered to. The Lord intervened on our behalf. A lawyer, a parishoner within the parish of the Assumption, ( Parish setting up the S.V.P.) voluntarily offered his services so within six months the conference was legally operating. Neither Sr. Germaine nor Sr. Rose Carmel became members as they were aware that they needed to set up other schemes where the needy could be further helped. Both of them gave their support for as long as it was necessary.

In 2001 Sr. Rose Carmel with the help of Mrs. Elizabeth Bohm organised a breakfast at the church of the Holy Cross beginning with a group of six people. The group immediately became ten and as space would not permit a greater number so with a little diplomatic persuasion we acquired the use of a parish room in the Sacred Heart presbytery. A team of four volunteers prepared sandwiches in Sr. Rose Carmel`s apartment and these were transported to our venue. Here we had a group of twelve people. The opportunity came our way to have the use of a three roomed apartment, owned by the Daughters of Charity. This was our new venue where we were able to have twenty persons at a time. We currently have two groups at this venue.

We have a further two groups in St. Helen`s parish room within the presbytery. A fifth group meet in the Franciscan Convent located in a desperately

poor area of Bucharest. Our groups are run as clubs open to Senior Citizens with small pensions and known as St. Brendan`s Boat.They are all run by our volunteers.The sandwiches have been replaced with a hearty meal.

Each of our guests return home with essential food items to help them throughout the month. This is a wonderful social occasion, a time of laughter and play when worries can be left aside for a few hours. The clubs meet on a monthly basis. Each club has on average twenty people and also has an `Outreach` to the housebound. This is also undertaken by the volunteers. Altogether we minister to 120 Senior Citizens.

We also support 20 families. We feel that families who keep their children deserve our support. This aspect of our work is called `Mercy Bridge`. We try not only to bridge financial gaps but to link people, encouraging able bodied people to give a helping hand to another family/ Senior Citizen forming bonds of trust and friendship.

Some families have a `Food Scheme` in place with local shops to ensure ongoing nourishment for the children. This is a further bridge of trust among families, shopkeepers and ourselves. Trust is sadly lacking in Romania, due to its past history.

Help is given for education, courses, school materials and uniform. The feast of Our Lady of Mercy was a highlight for all of us. At the end of a Mass of thanksgiving the volunteers were Missioned to BE Mercy in Romania. With the volunteers a formal legal association has been formed making us a recognised, registered charity.

We are the Association of Our Lady of Mercy in Romania with 16 volunteers. We make every effort to reflect Catherine`s charism. Our mission is to journey with the poor encouraging and educating each one to live life independently, positively and creatively regardless of age or circumstance.

The role of Sr. Rose Carmel in the above was initially one of Hands On and gradually letting go as confidence and trust were gained. Delegation and team work were vital and this was new thinking for the majority here. A BOSS is important so the idea of team was not an easy concept. As a team we pray together and this has had a tremendous bonding.