Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bon Secours - "Good Help to those in Need"

I have'nt contributed a posting to the site in the past 12 days and the reason was that I fell victim to a relatively minor but nevertheless utterly debilitating health malfunction. We take our usual state of rude good health as pretty much a given, but when things go wrong its then that you realise just how essential excellent health care is. I am fortunate in that in my position a health policy provides me with access to that very precious commodity, outstanding medical care. How I wish that the standard of care extended in the hospitals of the Bon Secours foundation was attained in all the hospitals of the world.
I also became rather intrigued by the origins of this unique hospitalling order of catholic nuns which has now evolved into a large health foundation, still it must be said based upon all that is best in the Christian tradition, namely reflecting the fact that one of Christ's practical activities on earth was to heal the sick, ergo the duty of Christians today is to be concerned with this very same project fundamental to all our well beings regardless of creed colour or social status. But there lies the problem, not all can avail of this sort of health care due to social disadvantage and that surely is an evil.
The origins of this unique order lay in the years just after the French Revolution, a handful of young women began to nurse the sick and dying. The twelve young women stayed in the sick person’s home day and night, demonstrating the healing presence of God through their compassionate care.
They chose one of the group as their leader – Josephine Potel- - and in January 1824 were professed in the Church of St Sulpice. The word spread. People began to hear about the spirituality of the tiny group, and about the ‘good care’ (‘bon secours’) they offered to rich and poor alike. Other young women joined them. Even Josephine Potel’s death in her early twenties did not deflect the group from their mission. Led by her successor, Angelique Geay, the Congregation spread throughout France, driven by a belief that their foundation had been an act of compassion and that they must continue to show that compassion in action.The work and spirituality of the early Bon Secours Sisters attracted the attention of an ex-patriate Irishwoman, Catherine O’Farrell, who persuaded them to come to Ireland.In 1861, the first foundation outside of France was made in Dublin, when four sisters came to the city to care for the sick and dying in their homes. From Dublin, the sisters expanded their work to Cork, Belfast, Tralee and Galway. A decade later, Bon Secours had set up in London and another ten years later were working in Baltimore, USA. By 1900, healthcare was changing and Bon Secours changed with it. Care of the sick was moving from the homes of patients to hospitals, and so Bon Secours began to set up hospitals, together with nursing homes for elderly patients.In 1966, when Bishop Lucey of Cork and Ross asked Bon Secours to take part in the Cork Diocesan Mission in Peru, four Irish sisters opened a mission in Trujillo, a coastal Peruvian city. They faced a grim and complex challenge. Because no hospitals served the poor, diseases went untreated and many – particularly the young and the old – died each year as a direct result. Because vital operations were not provided for children, deformity was widespread.The Sisters developed a wide range of community health programmes, operating both in medical clinics and in the homes of the poor. But they widened their scope to respond to community need, teaching, taking care of and educating people with mental disabilities. To help improve the quality of life, they undertook home economics and pastoral care, becoming deeply involved in the life of the local community. Today, thirty eight Peruvian sisters, together with five Irish sisters, continue the work initiated in the sixties.
I was a direct beneficiary of that organisations mission, and it has led me to consider that whatever the source of the motivation, religion, or altruism, or ideology, there is a deep seated desire in humanity to assist one another, there are of course other traits present in humanity, destructive and evil inclinations. I still hope that a world can emerge one day, when the commitment to 'Good help to those in need' as expressed by orders such as the Bon Secours becomes the paramount value in all societies, that is what I still consider to be the fundamental concept underlying socialism, since selfless dedication to the needs of the unwell is not provided for within the parameters set on society by capitalist values and the pure exigencies of the market system . Whether the motivation towards doing good unto our fellow human beings is derived from religion, philosophy or politics, it is most likely to flourish in societies which reflect that the core values of human existence does not have to be greed and consumption. As Nick Lowe put it so well in the song Elvis Costello performed an exemplary version of , " Whats so funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding"?..... Quite.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I have an aunt who worked in their Peru branch for some years.

"Whether the motivation towards doing good unto our fellow human beings is derived from religion, philosophy or politics, it is most likely to flourish in societies which reflect that the core values of human existence does not have to be greed and consumption"

Best wishes for the New Year comrade!

Organized Rage. said...


I hope your feeling much better and are on the mend.

Take care comrade.


Phil said...

Cheers for the link, comrade. And good to see you back at the blogging coal face again.

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