Sister Mercedes, what is the mission of the Hospital Sisters of the Holy Cross, what is your apostolate?
As Hospital Sisters of the Holy Cross, our mission is to reach out to the poor, the infirm and those in need. During the 238 years from the time of our foundation — first as a Pious Association established by Mother Teresa Cortes y Baro, DC and then as a Congregation in 1927 under the leadership of Teresa Alaba Encarnación Canals. Our Congregation has lived its charism in accord with the needs of each era. In the beginning our mission was centered on the Holy Cross Hospital where we were first established. We then began to open leprosariums, centers for people suffering from mental illness, orphanages, hospitals and clinics.
Presently, because of a decline in vocations, our mission in Spain is focused on residences for the elderly. In South America we have a kindergarten and we collaborate with “Fe y Alegria” [Faith and Joy”] in school ministry. We also have two residences for homeless people and a house of welcome for poor children.
Can you speak concretely about your charism and your relationship with the poor? How do you relate your history and your daily activity to Vincent de Paul and the Vincentian Family?
Our origins are rooted in the charism of Saint Vincent de Paul: to see Christ in the poor. The poor are our Lords … those words were written into our Rule and signed by the first three Sisters among whom was Teresa Cortes. As already stated, Sister Teresa Cortes was a Daughter of Charity and so it was quite natural that the Vincentian charism was expressed and made explicit in our Rule. All our activities have these various characteristics of Saint Vincent and in our present Constitutions we find words that state that any religious act can be put aside in order to attend to the needs of the poor.
During this time of pandemic, what have been and what continue to be the greatest needs that you have had to confront? What sectors of society are suffering the most?
We have found many needs during this time of pandemic. Some of our centers do not have sufficient resources to attend to all the needs that are arising. Those living in our various residences have had to help their families and all of this has an economic impact. In South America there are not sufficient resources and families are becoming poorer with the passing of each day. The Congregation is attempting to confront all of these various situations and hopefully we will be able to resolve them.
In January 2020 you participated in the meeting of the Vincentian Family in Rome. Now, almost a year removed from that event, how has that initiative touched your heart?
That was a very positive experience for me. I met women and men religious and lay people all working together with a common purpose. This is quite difficult to explain and the grandeur of God was constantly revealed. The various presentations were very profound and during the group work I was able to experience the richness that each person contributes to this process as well as the enthusiasm in helping others … all of this had a tremendous impact on me. This was an unforgettable, magnificent experience and I want to once again express me gratitude to the organizing team.
As Hospital Sisters of the Holy Cross, is there some project or activity that is especially close to your heart?
At this time we have no special project … my hope is to travel to Africa, especially to the Congo in order to communicate our charism and assist those who are in need.
Webpage of the Hospital Sisters of the Holy Cross: www.hhsantacruz.org
Interviewer: Elena Grazini