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Diaconia: Visiting-nurse service
The Community of Mercy in the Name of St. Martha and Maria (Moscow)
Sisterhood of Mercy in the Name of St. Grand Duchess Elizabeth (Novosibirsk)
The St. Dimitry Community of Sisters of Mercy (Moscow)
The Orthodox Community of Sisters and Brothers of Mercy (St.-Petersburg)

The Community of Mercy in the Name of St. Martha and Maria

It is not from scratch that the visiting-nurse service of today has revived. This kind of charitable deed has rich historical traditions rooted in the distant past. Let us consider the historical experience of the Community of Mercy in the name of St. Martha and Maria where visiting-nurse activity takes a special place.

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth, a founder of the Community, had brought the visiting-nurse system to a new level of quality. Those were not just visits of sisters rendering a trivial care. The Great Mother was seeking for a highly qualified, comprehensive support of the sick. Spiritual help, including confession, the Extreme unction, and Communion, was combined with a professional medical service provided by doctors and nurses with medical training. Nursesí visits to homes were to be supported by social protection: placement into a nursing-home, an alms-house, help with clothes, medicines, money, and food. A special attention was given to children. Not a single fosterling was left to the mercy of fate; all the most complicated situations were brought to a completion. It is hard to picture the number of sufferers who had managed to rise to their feet, avoiding loosing themselves in those cruel times at the threshold or revolutionary upheavals.

Reviving the Community traditions, todayís sisters of mercy go along the way well-trodden by their distant predecessors. Today, there are many a state and public structures that undertake to care for the old and the sick. This is a low-qualified labor, however. For a charge, it is not that difficult to buy food and medicines, tidy a flat, give care to a bed-patient. Relying on its historic experience, the Community has chosen a different route.

First of all, it is necessary to receive a medical training, as it was in the past. Believers - former technical or humanitarian employees, students or schoolgirls - wanting to try themselves in the field of mercy, should not degrade to an unqualified physical labor that turns the visiting-nurse activity into a poor amateurism. Sisters understood this. With the great enthusiasm they started to visit the two-week St. Martha and Maria Courses specially arranged for the Community in the Medical College No. 2. Training and practical work have covered numerous issues: what is the right way to turn the patient over, how to carry out disinfection, measure blood pressure, make intramuscular injection, render first aid, including that in case of fractures, and many others.

Having received a certificate of graduation from the Courses, sisters of mercy could, with a complete knowledge of the subject, act as visiting nurses. Many of them continue their education at the night department of the Medical College, listening to a full curriculum. In the Community, sisters receive spiritual support and theological knowledge. Now three of the first graduates complete their education having a three-month practical training in hospitals of Darmstadt (Germany).

At the moment, ten sisters of the Community, besides labor in the Institute of N.V. Sklifassovsky, have under their wardship twenty gravely ill patients. A night watch was arranged for the two of them, the other three require two visits each day. The sisters work free of charge, for the glory of God. Two priests from other cathedrals having a higher medical education and a M.D. degree help sustain those under Community wardship and are invited, if needed, for medical consultations.

The Community has affiliate sisterhoods in various dioceses. Where the state and local administration show understanding of charity and mercy activity, sisterhoods grow, become stronger and, jointly with the state, resolve not only spiritual and medical but also social problems of the lonely, ill, and disabled. The link created by the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, a founder of the Community of Mercy in the name of St. Martha and Maria, works where the state and the Church go along. A lack of understanding of Church charity begets a gap in the interaction between the Church and the state in resolving vital problems of salvation of the most unprotected strata of the population.

M.N.Kriuchkova
Head of the Community of Mercy
in the name of St. Martha and Maria
Telephone for contacts: (095) 231-84-46

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Sisterhood of Mercy in the Name of St. Grand Duchess Elizabeth

The Sisterhood in the name of Saint Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth was founded on the day of Holy Easter, April 18, 1993. It had been formed on the basis of parish patronage in the parish of All Saints Who Shown Forth in the Russian Land. The work is being carried out under blessing and spiritual sustenance of the parish superior, archpriest Boris Pivovarov.

The sister-of-mercy service under the parish of All Saints Who Shown Forth in the Russian Land had started with care given to the older, disabled children, chronic inpatients and outpatients (including oncological patients and those paralyzed after traumas, insults, locomotor diseases, etc.), providing them with food, medical consultations and medicines, spiritual sustenance of the wards. Parishioners taking care of the patients were people of various occupations, age and education, but unified by aspiration to serve to those nearest and alleviate suffering of the sick. It were those people who had brought our visiting-nurse service into being.

It so happened that our wardship over the sick was not limited only by visits, spiritual support, preparation of food and cleaning of apartments. Medics of the parish organized the Courses for sisters of mercy - first in Siberia - back in 1992. At the moment, the Courses operate as a branch of city Medical School No. 3, and its graduates receive certificates of junior nurses. Such certificates were issued to over 50 persons, of them more than 20 belong to other parishes. This year, graduation certificates were issued to five groups of nurses. By recommendation of the Head of the Sisterhood, the graduates, who first were tried out for a long time as applicants, receive a church service blessing to toil in the Sisterhood, and acquire the right to wear an appropriate uniform. In 1994, the Sisterhood registered its Charter and acquired the legal entity status. At the moment, working at the Sisterhood are 7 professional interns, 5 qualified nurses, more than 30 sisters of mercy, and 15 applicants.

Work of the Sisterhood is largely determined by a large medical and spiritual experience of its Head, Natalia Alekseevna Malkina. Not only she has a rich and varied medical practice and a M.D. degree, she has a Christian merciful heart, and the sisters around her become inflamed with mercy and love to people.

Our wardship over outpatients includes both regular care (re-doing the bed, toilet, feeding, etc.) and medical consultation and therapeutic help. If needed, sisters perform hospital functions: give purgative and medicinal enemae, make massage, medicinal gymnastics, intramuscular and subcutaneous injections, apply bandages, treat bedsores, apply droppers, give qualified treatment to surgical wounds.

Various medical specialists - a cardiologists, an anesthesiologists, a pediatrician, and an obstetrician-gynecologist - render their help to the Sisterhood. All this allows to extend and elevate our visiting-nurse service to the level of full-fledged hospital treatment at home. The next priority is to license the service.

In last three years sisters of mercy took care of people suffering of a large variety of diseases: older people with distributed atherosclerosis; patients with impaired cerebral circulation, variously located tumors, completely paralyzed; deaf and blind patients, urologic patients with pelvic disfunctions, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic gangrene patients, and patients who survived myocardial infarction. Our Sisterhood took wardship over about 30 patients and still takes care for some of them. Wardship over some patients continues for months and years, and this requires efforts and concentration of all forces of the Sisterhood, since often a daily or - sometimes - a twenty-four-hour care is required.

One would like to especially note that our sisters of mercy become attached to the sick, turning into real kin to them. The story and fate of each particular patient is unique. Acquiring a spiritual support from the sisters of mercy, they have taken various routes to come to God, to Faith. It is from our sisters of mercy that patients hear first words of God, of Faith, of the Church, and this is an important missionary work and an enormous responsibility for the sisters. Sisters prepare the sick for the mysteries of Holy Christening, Communion, and, sometimes, for Unction. Each week parish priests hold discussions in hospitals and, as a rule, Holy Christening or Communion takes place on the next day and sisters assist the priests. At the moment, over five hundred persons took Holy Christening and about a thousand, Holy Communion, in Akademgorodok hospitals.

Many thankful words are said to sisters. Here are lines from a letter: "To come to God with all my soul, heart, and body, He placed me so far in Siberia and, constantly persuading me, has brought me to Him. I thank God for His great love and patience. Everyday powers I derive from prayers, from the christening water, while confession and Communion give me the great happiness on earth. [...] I bow you low for your support!" Thanks to the service of sisters and brothers of the Sisterhood, many patients had time to accept the Sacraments of Christening or Communion a day or a few hours before death. Some patients whose medical prognoses rendered as hopeless acquired power to recover.

How sisters mourn over their wards who are passing away, what care they take of their Christian end and burial! There were instances when sisters took their last breath. Sisters of mercy enter names of the diseased into their synodics and continue praying for them.

Succession in care for the sick that started in hospitals is an important feature of the work in our Sisterhood. Single cardiology patients are the first to receive the care, since after a myocardial infarction a patient has to gradually come back to his former life style and is sometimes unable to go outdoors. In these cases sisters undertake to provide the patient with medicines, food, monitor patientís physical loads. Patients receiving care and observation rarely undergo re-hospitalization, and the latter is often caused by fright and solitude than by relapses of heart ischemia. And this gives a relief and alleviation to the cardiological ward where bunks are sometimes in scarcity even for emergency patients.

Disabled children receive a continuous care. They receive a special support from gymnasium students who help sisters of mercy. A "Merciful Samaritan" group has been formed in the Orthodox Gymnasium in the name of Saint Sergy of Radonezh. Help from these children is irreplaceable. Young "Samaritans" play music with a girl suffering from infantile spinal paralysis, while sisters of mercy teach her various subjects.

It has become a tradition in the Sisterhood to meet after every Sunday Liturgy to schedule work and discuss what has been lived through and experienced during the week. Sisters start their work after joint prayer and meal. They make reports on their patients, share there experiences; if needed, physicians introduce corrections in their prescriptions and go on their rounds to patients for examinations and prescriptions. Watch schedules are drawn up at the meetings. Medicines are distributed from the relief pharmacy for outpatients who are taken care of at home. Work of sisters of mercy in four regional hospitals is coordinated. Senior sisters (who are responsible for the hospitals) plan duty hours in hospital chapels and schedule work of the sisters of mercy in wards. Normally, sisters and brothers catehizers are on duty in the chapels; they talk to patients, issue spiritual literature, distribute icons and prayer-books.

Ward sisters do their rounds of various wards and, first learning from the duty-points which patients require an additional care (re-doing the bed, feeding, sometimes toilet, injections, preparation do diagnostic procedures), perform patientsí requests and, of course, talk to them, thus rendering them spiritual support. In all chapel rooms of the four hospitals there are religious libraries for patients and medical personnel. On Easter, Christmas, and Epiphany holidays, children from the "Merciful Samaritan" group come, bringing congratulations and gifts made by the children from the parish kindergarten. This has already become a good tradition.

To get treatment in regional hospitals, people come from afar - many come from the North, from Yakutia where there are not many churches. Here they acquire their first religious experience and coming home bring there spiritual literature. From their letters we learn that they live the life of Church. There is an amazing example of a man and wife treated in one of the wardship hospitals who made a wooden chapel in their village far in the North. Sisters of mercy helped them get required church ware.

Relations between sisters and hospital medical personnel are remarkable. At first, the attitude was one of caution later replaced with thankfulness and cordiality. As a hospital chief surgeon noted, the service of sisters of mercy, besides obvious usefulness and help to patients, beneficially affects the very atmosphere in wards, both for patients and the personnel. Noted especially was the delicate attitude of sisters carrying out their duties: they help everyone, without finding faults or making remarks.

People come to the Sisterhood by various ways but what unites them is their merciful heart, and love to God and the nearest.

Current account of the Orthodox Sisterhood of Mercy in the name of St. Grand Duchess Elizabeth: No. 701904 ÍÓš 722 ņ Ń “ő őŃņÕ  Õ‘, »ÕÕ 5408144618 Correspondent account 700161622 in —Ó‚. – ÷ Ő‘ő 224916

N.G.Gorelova
Member of the Trustee Board of the Sisterhood
in the name of St. Martyr Elizabeth
Telephone for contacts: (3832) 35-25-31

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The St. Dimitry Community of Sisters of Mercy

At the end of 1990, as soon as the hospital Church of the Righteous Czarevich Dimitry under the First City Hospital was returned to the Church by resolution of the Moscow Administration, gathered there began believers who wanted to help the sick and those in need. Among them there were doctors and nurses.

At first divine services, parishioners were appealed to help the hospital in care of patients. That was the beginning of work of the Community soon headed by the newly founded St. Dimitry Sisterhood. Such help is vital, since state hospitals are understaffed to take care of the gravely ill (1 nurse per 30-40 patients and, at best, 1 hospital attendant per 60-80 patients).

In 5 years, 80 sisters of the St. Dimitry Community and 25 Sister of Mercy School students were enrolled and now work in 10 wards of the First City Hospital. Six registered nurses, graduates from the St. Dimitry School, are restoring service for the gravely ill in the most labor-intensive wards (neurological, combined traumas, cranio-cerebral traumas, intensive care) of the hospital, acting as critical patient care nurses. This position did not exist in the hospital for decades, as there was no persons who could, let alone wanted to do the job. This replenishment of wards with medium and junior personnel has brought about actual results. For example, a good care, treatment of the gravest bedsores, prophylactics of bedsore formation, and individual patient rehabilitation measures have led to a decrease of combined trauma patient death rate from 3.5% in 1994 to 0.9% in 1995.

Besides, 35 parishioners of the Church not having a special medical training take care of patients jointly with hospital attendants and School students under the supervision of sisters of mercy.

Working in the hospital and in the Church, the St. Dimitry Sisterhood encountered the problem of outpatients who, following therapeutic treatment, needed a scrupulous care and re-adaptation in home conditions. The majority of them have only their relatives to count on, while there is nobody to count on for the single. That is why a nursing service for outpatients came into being in parallel with the hospital work in 1991. Up to 1992, these were sporadic single-time visits to patients which included a medical help (application of bandages, bedsore treatment, training in self-service and movement techniques) and a social relief (provision of food and clothing).

In 1993 the Sisterhood set the first twenty-four-hour sister station with a 84-year old patient suffering from femur neck fracture and senile disorders. The patientís state was stabilized.

On December 24, 1995, the Moscow Government issued the St. Dimitry Sisterhood a State License for medical activity, including sister-of-mercy care and medical consulting in the field of general therapy and pediatrics. In 1996 the License was prolonged till 1999.

That was how the visiting-nurse service of the St. Dimitry Community of Sisters of Mercy came into being. At present, it includes 40 nurses, of them:

  • 15 sisters are highly qualified registered nurses having an experience in intensive-care, surgical, and neurological wards;
  • 15 sisters are students of the St. Dimitry Sister of Mercy School acting as junior nurses;
  • 4 sisters are assisting sisters of a missionary service, having a medical and religious training;
  • 6 sisters are critical patient care nurses.
The visiting-nurse service structure also includes 15 medical specialists of various orientation (therapists, pediatricians, a cardiologist, a surgeon, a dermatologist, an infectionist, etc.) and parishioners without special medical education. In 1995, the visiting-nurse service was taking sister-of-mercy care of 40 patients, manned 8 twenty-four-hour stations, gave 110 medical consultations, of them 35 at home, 15 in the hospital, and the rest in medical rooms (at physiciansí workplaces).

Wardship patients are mainly elderly people of 70 to 97, primarily with diagnoses of: the state after femur neck fracture, ischemic and hemorrhagic insults with paraparesis, cerebral atherosclerosis, oncological diseases. There are younger patients with a disseminated sclerosis diagnosis. Care for such patients requires a qualification and, particularly, compassion, patience, and an ability to render a spiritual help. Sisters of mercy learn this, attending church services and living the life of the Church.

To improve qualification and training of sisters, doctors from the visiting-nurse service and the hospital give theoretical and practical consultations, educational brochures for sistersí practical work are being developed and distributed. In turn, sisters teach home relatives the care techniques and simplest medical procedures.

The visiting-nurse service submits materials to the State Statistics Department; leading experts from the Moscow Health Department carry out inspections of the service.

The St. Dimitry Sisterhood accepts requests for patient care from anyone who applies for help. Unfortunately, the percentage of patients receiving the help is very low (20% of the applicants). Of 336 applications the visiting-nurse service could render help to 65 only. The main reason for this is in the fact that the St. Dimitry Sisterhood, being a non-commercial religious organization, receives no financial help from the state and exists on - insufficient - donations. A part of financial problems is resolved by benefactors, of which a special merit deserve Moden-95 Ltd., represented by its General Director V.M. Razumikhin, the family of archpriest Alexander Kisselev, and conductor V.I. Fedoseev with his wife. However, available funds are insufficient to significantly expand the sister personnel, and the main obstacle in the visiting-nurse service activity of today is that it has to decline appeals to help the ill and helpless.

O.Yu. Egorova
Senior Hospital Nurse of the St. Dimitry Sisterhood
Telephone for contacts: (095) 236-92-63

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The Orthodox Community of Sisters and Brothers of Mercy in the name of the St. Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Visiting-nurse activity of the Sisterhood is hospice-based. The word Ďhospiceí is of a Latin origin. The name was used in Medieval times to describe monastery houses for sick pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land. Now the name is used for special medical institutions. First Russian hospice, a hospital to render comprehensive help to oncological patients on the last stage of disease, was opened in Sankt-Petersburg on October 1, 1990. The hospice can bed 30 patients. Besides, motor-vehicle teams visit oncological outpatients in Primorsky region (about 400 thousand inhabitants) of the city. The hospice hospital is a little better staffed than other hospitals. This is because of critical condition of patients, most of which are bedridden.

Besides strong physical pains, oncological patients suffer from desolation and a fear of death. A spiritual help is vital for them. Work experience in the hospice has shown that a majority of people facing inevitable death reassess and revise their lives, come to faith in God. The lack of Christian preparation to death, the lies that often surrounds the dying patient, a wish to conceal the diagnosis at any cost, deprive the man of ability to communicate, bringing about additional sorrows.

On July 18, 1994, by blessing of the Metropolitan of Sankt-Petersburg and Ladoga Ioann, a prayer room in the name of the St. Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth was consecrated in the hospice. A Community of sisters and brothers of mercy was formed, one of the main task of which is to give spiritual support and Christian preparation to death to the sick. Confessor of the Community talks to the patients, confesses them and administers to them Communion. Some patients took the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. To these people facing a lethal disease, God helped acquire faith and peace of mind. Relatives of the sick also take the Sacrament of Holy Christening in the hospice. Discussions with the priest console, give power both to the sick and their relatives in the hard time of trial with disease.

The hospital employs seven sisters of mercy from the Community. Besides medical care of the patients, sisters help them prepare for Communion, read prayers, Psalter, and akathists to them. On priestís blessing, sisters, if required, read the canon on expiration of soul and the Psalter on the demised.

The hospice has a library of spiritual literature used by everyone - patients, their relatives, hospital employees, sisters. On holidays prayer services are held; sisters and people who help the Community congratulate patients, give them presents, sing holiday troparions with them. A joint prayer is very important. Sisters do their best to start their work day with a joint prayer, weekly read the akathist on the St. Martyr Elizabeth, meet in the Church to jointly receive the Sacrament.

In the beginning of their activity the members of the Community went to Moscow where they met the St. Dimitry Sisterhood, sisters of the Community of St. Martha and Maria and the Sisterhood in the name of St. Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Besides the patient care cause, they are all united by the reverence of memory of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth. By mercy of God, the Community has blessing from the Church of Mary Magdalene of Jerusalem - fractions of relics of the St. Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and the Nun Varvara.

Priest Artemy Temirov
Telephone for contacts: (812) 238-26-84

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