Meet Sister Josephine, ‘mother’ to destitute patients

Many of the women inmates at the Mental Health Centre, West Fort in Thrissur are cured of their illness but are unable to go home as their kin are unwilling to take them back. For long, these women used to wait in the labyrinths of the mental asylum for their loved ones to welcome them back home. But no one turned up.

The women still wait with their watchful eyes glued on the entrance of the hospital from 9 am every day. But now the wait don't go unanswered and they are certain that a ‘mother’ in a white attire would make a call on them. The greathearted soul is Sister Josephine, hailing from Kottappady in Chavakkad, Thrissur, Kerala. Her real name is Thresya.

From the day she was ordained as a nun, Sister Josephine wanted to serve sick people. She attempted the exam for joining the nursing course, but did not get admission. The nun enrolled for the TTC course instead and became a primary school teacher. Sister Josephine taught at St Ann’s School, West Fort and S H School, Kandassamkadavu.

Around 25 years ago, the nun took training to care for leprosy patients and worked among them for some years. During the time of retirement from her teacher’s job, Sister Josephine had a dream in which she saw herself offering services to sick women.

Around this time, Fr Dr Francis Alappatt visited the Mental Health Centre in Thrissur as the member of a committee set up to study the issues in such institutions. Fr Alappatt later met Bishop Mar Thoomkuzhy and suggested that more people were needed to attend to the patients at the centre. Incidentally, Sister Josephine was the first person to respond when the Bishop issued a call seeking volunteers. The nun felt that her dream was coming true. During the initial stages of this programme, there were many people involved in the service but all except the sister gradually left. Now Sister Josephine engages in this noble task all alone and has become the ‘Mother’ for the inmates.

The nun’s first initiative at the hospital was to make the inmates venture out of the wards to the outdoors. She taught the hapless women how to set up a garden and grow vegetables. A society was also formed for the purpose. The inmates were trained in making small covers in which drugs are packed while delivering to customers at medical shops.

Sister Josephine ensured that the inmates had entertainment too. For this, she encouraged the inmates and nursing students to sing songs. Flower carpets were laid during Onam and a Christmas tree was set up when the season arrived. The inmates were given training in tailoring also.

The hospital management supported the Sister in all these activities. Sister Josephine also ensured that the patients who left the hospital after treatment and having learnt tailoring received a certain amount. Several of these women later used the money to buy a sewing machine and are earning for themselves.

The kind nun has now been engaged in serving the inmates at the Mental Health Centre for over 18 years now. Some years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but the brave nun underwent surgery and returned to the hospital to offer her service again.

Sister Josephine, who will turn 80 next year, is now celebrating the golden jubilee of her ordination. A function was organized at St Paul’s auditorium in Kuriachira on the occasion.

Though her age is advancing, the nun still arrives at the gate of the Mental Health Centre at 9 am on all days, except Saturdays and Sundays and does all she can for the inmates till 1 pm. Her presence there is indeed a blessing for the destitute patients, for whom she is nothing but an angel.

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