In Aleppo’s St. Louis Hospital, Wounds are Healing

By Josue Villalón

Dr. George Theodory

St. LOUIS HOSPITAL, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, is located in the city district of Ismailie, in the western part of Aleppo. It is one of the few medical facilities that was left standing in the northern Syrian metropolis after bomb attacks on the city came to a halt last December.

“We are working day and night, in part for free, to treat those who were wounded during the war and the other sick people,” the medical director of the hospital, Dr. George Theodory, told us.

The doctor explained: “We currently have 55 patients. We have a medical staff of about 100 people. But there were times when we had more than twice the number of admissions, mostly casualties from the bombings

“Our income hardly covers the costs of wages and fuel for the generators. These are essential because there is not enough electricity throughout the city.”

This is why the hospital turned to the local Church for help, which in turn entrusted the task to the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition through the religious who run it. The hospital asked for help in maintaining the hospital and replacing medical equipment. Aid to the Church in Need responded with a gift of $275,000.

Dr. Theodory is assisted by Sister Anne Marie, a trained nurse from Canada, who has lived in Aleppo for 18 years. She said: “There are six sisters in our community. We run the hospital. At the beginning of the war, our Reverend Mother gave us the choice of leaving the country. But all of us decided to stay, because it is our job to stand by the sick. And their need for us is greatest now.”

“We also treat the destitute. Even though we are a Catholic hospital, we do not make any distinctions based on religious affiliation. I would estimate that about 70 percent of our patients are Muslim,” Dr. Theodory said.

When Syria’s civil war first started, the doctor and his family emigrated to the US. He returned to Syria because his medical credentials were not recognized in America. He said: “Here in Aleppo, I was already a doctor. That is why I decided to return, to work together with my colleagues and help the people in this country who are in such desperate need.

He does not deny that the fighting frightened him, but he said “my faith helped me have hope. I am a Christian and feel obligated to help those who are in need of help. The circumstances are immaterial.”

Of all the patients, the Muslims are the most grateful. “They are impressed that we Christians help them with so much kindness. They say that we have treated them better than any other hospital,” said Sister Anne Marie, who added that “the strength to continue working comes only from God. The faith upholds us. We ask all the benefactors to pray for us. Thank you!”

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org