Sisters in Bosnia: ‘We Are There for the Children That Need Us’

By Rolf Bauerdick

child-1542125_1280NEW YORK (Aug. 24, 2016)—Katarina (19) has spent 17 years under the care of Sisters Admirata and Manda who run a home in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, for orphans and abandoned children. As an infant, Katarina was left in the care of her grandmother who could not handle the responsibility of caring for her and her older brother Stipo. Katarina has spent happy years with the sisters, but her days in the home have drawn to a close, a bitter-sweet moment

“I am a little nervous how life will be outside of the home,” she told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Sister Admirata reassured her charge, saying: “Katarina is well-equipped for the grown-up world.”

Sister Admirata Lu?i? is the provincial superior of the Servants of the Infant Jesus, which run an orphanage and a kindergarten at its convent. At its founding, the nuns named their convent the name “Egypt” to recall the flight of the Infant Jesus from the tyrant Herod. The order was expropriated in 1949 under the dictatorship of the Communist party in the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The convent building was confiscated, the children were taken away from the nuns and placed in state-run facilities, where religion was banned.

In 1992, at the beginning of the Bosnian War, the Serbian military destroyed the building completely, but Sister Admirata and her 12 fellow nuns—sustained in their daily living by Aid to the Church in Need—managed to establish the first post-war orphanage in Bosnia in 1999. Today, 55 boys and girls attend kindergarten there, while 19 children—some whose parents have died, others whose parents are not able to care for them—live full-time at the orphanage.

Sister Admirata said: “We do set great store by the fact that our kindergarten children not only come from difficult social environments, but also from intact backgrounds. We also have children of diplomats and of middle-class families here.” The nuns are currently helping Katarina find an affordable place to live in Sarajevo, which is not an easy task.

Two Muslim children recently arrived at the orphanage: seven-year-old Melissa and her brother Omer, who is eight. The two had been left under the care of their grandfather, after the mother moved away and the father took another wife. Today, Omer and Melissa are attending First Grade at the local Catholic primary school and are positively flourishing in terms of their development.

By accepting Muslim as well as Orthodox Christian children at “Egipat House” as well, the nuns are acting in complete accordance with the philosophy of the founder of their order. Archbishop Josip Stadler (1843–1918), who was esteemed as the “Father of the Poor” by people of all religions and denominations. The sisters also do not separate the children according to their religious affiliation. “We are simply there for the children that need us,” Sister Admirata said.

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