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In Macau, there are only two places where the elderly can go for total care during the last stages of life.
On July 25, the Education Department offered free tickets to the movie English-Vinglish. It is the story of an Indian mother whose children made fun of her lack of English. A family member in the USA invited her to come to the wedding and stay five weeks. While there, she discovers a short course in learning English. It also shows the trials and tribulations of her learning while keeping it a secret from the family. Very beautifully done and I am so glad that the English teachers could invite friends to the showing. I am developing a real appreciation for Indian movie productions.
Many elderly in Macau don’t have caretakers to tend to their ailing feet, so Sister Anne Marie Emdin is happy to oblige.
Several years ago, while waiting on a street for one of the centers where I do foot care to open its doors, I met Madam Ma. She was sitting in her wheelchair waiting for her daughter to take her to hospital for a medical appointment. Her exposed toenails were in poor condition and so, by my perching myself on a fire hydrant, I was able to do her toes and fingernails before the daughter came with a taxi. I continued going to her home monthly to do this service. Her husband was her chief caretaker and was very solicitous of her. However, he died suddenly one day and the daughter came to care for her. Her health deteriorated until she was totally bedridden and needed 24/7 care.
As good as the daughter is, 24/7 care is exhausting. Madam Ma was accepted into an elderly home, but her care needs were greater than that particular home could offer so she returned home. Home is a storefront down an ally where sun never penetrates. Her condition continued to deteriorate and the daughter was becoming more exhausted.
Finally, she was able to be placed in the Caritas infirmary (long-term care home) where I also do foot care. The daughter visits daily and Madam Ma, surprisingly, is becoming more alert to her surroundings. There are only two infirmaries of this ilk here in Macau and the need is so great. Pray that Macau will establish more total-care infirmaries where both the elderly and the families can be assured of loving care no matter what the condition of their loved one and no matter what age the loved one is!
God Bless and hope you all have a peace-filled summer.
–Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MM
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Mother Cat stayed within sight of the kittens but later died. We are now trying to keep the kittens alive with the help of many elderly looking on at the Fatima Elderly Center.
Several weeks ago, our feral Mother Cat had what I think was her ninth litter with us anyway, and as usual she hid them from us. On Monday, May 6, she suddenly appeared with two small kittens but herself looking quite sick, refusing food or drink from us and hiding where she could see the kittens but not be caught herself.
The next morning, the kittens were back, and Mother looked very much the worse for wear. I missed Mass trying to feed the kittens some milk but when our parish “St. Francis” (aka–Ana Leung) appeared after Mass with some cat food, they tore into it as if there was no tomorrow. Mother Cat stayed within sight of the kittens but died that afternoon and we are now trying to keep the kittens alive with the help of many elderly looking on and giving their sage advice as to what to feed them and how to care for them.
What is even more interesting is the fact that “Mother” was the Alpha Cat since all but one cat are her offspring. The other cats for quite some days did not know how to act without their daily neck or head rubbing from “mother.” They, of course do not like the new kittens, so kittens are in a box in the Center except when we “supervise” their play outside.
On the night of May 22 around midnight, it started to rain. And it rained and rained and rained. By morning when I started out to work, the waters at the bottom of the slope between our house and church rose up to my knees while the waves that formed when cars or buses went by splashed up to the neckline of my T-shirt!
Sr. Anne Marie Emdin (l.) ministers to the health and pastoral needs of Macau’s elderly.
I knew the elderly center would be flooded and worried that the kittens would have come to a watery death! But when I arrived at the flooded center, the kittens, looking like semi-drowned rats, were safe in their cage, which had been placed up on some chairs. Our pastor, Father Angel had been out to check on the conditions for the parish grounds and the center and found the kittens in their cage floating around the flooded center. Our other cats were nowhere to be seen. (However, they appeared the next day no worse for wear!) Five of the elderly also ventured out and down the flooded street to check up on the center and help us clear out the debris. Because much of Macau is at sea-level, this can become a regular summer occurrence.
Perhaps our new name for the center should be Fatima Parish Elderly Center and St. Francis Cattery. What we do need, however, is a litter box (we now have one DYI) and a trainer for the kittens to show them how to use the box until they can get outside for their needs. The kittens think the litter box is their bed!
– Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MM
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Sister Anne Marie Emdin (l) is a welcome visitor for elderly people who have no one. Read on for her update from Macau, China.
Last month, Mr. and Mrs. Hui invited me to share with their family the Winter Solstice Pot Luck supper. He is 90 and she is 88.
Mr. Hui is now totally blind. He had been the Church caretaker for many years and they have a small cement house on the church property next to our elderly center. They borrowed the Church hall for the occasion, and I counted 40-plus family members: children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren running all over the church hall in a wonderful spirit.
As we were leaving, Mrs. Hui said to me, “The wonderful thing about having so many relatives is I can leave the hall and go to bed knowing the offspring will clean up!”
Earlier that day, our center invited all those elderly who would not have someone to celebrate the Winter Solstice with them to join together to celebrate the festival with a noon meal. We started this custom 19 years ago with the idea that either you brought something to share or contributed some money so the center could buy extra goodies.
For the last two years, most of the elderly contributed a bit of cash but this year several decided to do some communal cooking! They went shopping together and were at the center to start their preparations before 7:30 am.
They had a glorious time cooking together in the parish tea area and serving over 60 elderly who came to share the meal. The center, of course, also provided quite a few dishes to supplement the delicious food prepared by the group. Winter Solstice is the biggest festival in the Chinese “religious” calendar, and to be alone on that day is, if at all possible, not to be considered.
The Catholic Youth Center also prepares a meal to deliver on that night to many single elderly or any poor family they know. The youth of the teenage center spend hours cooking and delivering both food and extra goodies to these families on that day before they go home to their own family meal.
Our Pastor, Father Angel, invited all of the morning Mass people to a “bring your own breakfast and share it” after Mass on Winter Solstice. Many had to leave, even though it was a legal holiday, but around 15 of us stayed for breakfast and a bit of a song fest with Seminarian Hung on the guitar and Father on the accordion. Times like this are great for building the spirit of the group.
For Christmas Eve, Father Angel decided that we should go caroling in the north district of Macau (our parish boundary). The main problem was that our three choirs were, for the most part, taking part in the diocesan program down in the center plaza at the same time. Not to be put off by such fickleness by our choirs, Father invited anyone interested to take part in this event.
We were a motley crew of Chinese, Filipinas, Indonesians, one Mexican (the pastor), one Polish assistant pastor, and one tone-deaf American, ranging in age from a toddler being pushed in a baby stroller up and to a couple of 80-plus-year-old women from our elderly center. Father Angel put on a choir robe that came only to his knees and a pair of authentic feathered wings and led the group while playing his accordion. The group also included five other “angels” in cardboard wings and two guitars and a tambourine!
At the Macau-China border, we created a sensation—not necessarily for our singing ability, as part of the group could only sing in Chinese and the other songsters only in English, and we sang in both languages simultaneously, but shall we just say the Macau-China border has not seen such a spectacularly weird vision of angels and red-capped Santas singing in the 450+ years of its existence!
There was a rush for cameras or mobile phones by people going in or coming out of China to record this event and a dash for the candy that the smaller (and not-so -small) “angels” were passing out. Our presence was truly verified on film, and we too had a great fun, getting back well in time to prepare for Midnight Mass.
– Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MM
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In Macau, China, Sr. Anne Marie (c.) combines care of the elderly with care of the body.
Last month, while I was doing some foot care for Grandmother Ma in her home, as she is wheelchair-bound, I received a telephone call from the elderly center on Ha Van Street in Macau, where I was to go next.
“Did we forget to mention to you that we have moved to a new location?” came a voice over the phone.
“Well, yes. You did.” I replied. The original center managed by the social welfare department was torn down last year and is being rebuilt. The center for the elderly temporarily uses borrowed premises.
The staff member assured me that someone would be at the last borrowed place and would escort me down to their newly rented center. “Don’t worry; we will get you to our new quarters,”she assured me.
When I finished with Grandmother Ma, I went to the old temporary center and there at the door were seven grandmothers and one grandfather waiting for me. As we paraded en mass down the middle of the street together, I couldn’t help but wonder if humming “76 Trombones . . .” would be appropriate or if I should be a bit more pious and sing the hymn of Ruth from the Old Testament: “Wherever you go I will go . . .?”
However, we did make it to the new temporary quarters for the Center and although it is quite crowded, it suits the folks fine, at least until the new building is built in one or two years.
Since we were starting the Mid-Autumn Festival season in Macau (15th day of the 8th Lunar Month or September 11 in the solar Calendar this year), I brought some “fruit” flavored penny candy (whoever heard of penny candy these days?) to distribute when I went to take the blood pressures of those getting rice from the group Caritas Internationalis on September 3.
My 12-year-old “secretary” came by and decided that each recipient should get one of each flavor rather than only one piece of candy, although when I am alone, I use the grab-bag system and do not piece-meal the candy.
He had an absolutely glorious time going through the bag and selecting 4-5 pieces of different flavored candy for each customer. The mothers in the background thoroughly enjoyed his largesse and I did too. In view of the fact that he is usually the recipient rather than the donor of various handouts, I did not limit his generosity.
Nevertheless, the candy ran out well before the last person came for a blood pressure measurement. Then again, the late customers did not know candy had been part of the service so there was no problem. This time however there were more men asking for their blood pressures to be taken (and taking the candy) than I had in the past.
Perhaps they do need a sweet incentive?
– Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MM
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Strong yet flexible, the bamboo symbolizes the resilience of the peoples of East Asia. “The bamboo bends but doesn ‘t break,” explains Sister Helen Kenny, who has witnessed the changes in the region for almost half a century.
The nations of the region have weathered many storms – war, colonial occupation, internal struggles and social and political upheavals – and have emerged as dynamic, vibrant nations – each with a unique cultural heritage and language but united by a common Asian identity.
On the surface, the Philippines reminded me of East Africa with its profusion of tropical fruits and flowers and the warm hospitality of its people. It also shares with Africa a colonial background, by Spain and then the United States. As it struggles to forge its own identity, it is going through the growing pains of unemployment, corruption, militarization and a growing gap between rich and poor.
Katrina Eggert and I enjoyed the first celebration of our Golden Jubilee during the Asia East World Section meeting where we shared our vocation journey and enjoyed a special Filipino meal in our honor. It was indeed a memorable beginning to a year of celebration for us.
A highlight of our trip was a visit to Fort Santiago in Manila where our Sisters Trinita and Brigida were imprisoned and tortured during the Second World War, uniting us with the thousands of Filipino men and women who suffered, were tortured and killed at this time. We also visited Miriam College where the Maryknoll identity is thriving. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the College’s new President, Rosario Lapus, and many of the senior staff who gave us a tour of the campus and shared their history of a long and loving relationship with Maryknoll. It is easy to see that the centennial celebrations in the Philippines will be very special indeed.
Hong Kong is a vibrant, dynamic city with one of the best public transport systems I have ever seen. I expected a concrete jungle but found beautiful gardens and tree-lined streets even in the heart of the city. As always on these visits, one is inspired and impressed by the ministries of each Sister – so diverse and so in keeping with the needs of the people. Whether we are assisting migrant workers, editing human rights bulletins, animating youth, teaching, providing pastoral care to patients, or preparing reports about the Church in China, each ministry is meaningful and needed.
The staff at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital and Maryknoll Convent School stopped everything else they were doing to give us their full attention for a day. It was very humbling indeed to experience the respect and appreciation in which our congregation is held. Both institutions have been turned over to local staff who are alive with the Maryknoll spirit and very proud to maintain the standards and values that were instilled by the Maryknoll founders. At Holy Spirit Study Center, Bishop Tong expressed his deep appreciation for the Sisters who have worked in Hong Kong and assured us that we are still needed there.
Macau felt like home since the Portuguese influence there is similar to what I had experienced in Mozambique, another former Portuguese colony. Cultural and historic treasures abound in a multitude of churches, museums and galleries while the ever-growmg expansion of casinos helps to finance China’s amazing growth and prosperity.
A short side trip to Guangzhou where we had a taste of the student life of Sisters Anastasia Lindawati and Ngoc Ha Pham capped our visit. We can only say a heartfelt thanks to all those who shared so deeply of themselves and who are so wholly committed to keeping the Maryknoll legacy alive – truly a gift as we move towards our centennial.
— Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM
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