“I am living the Gospel a new way.”
Sister Annie Credidio, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.), has dedicated her life to bringing care and dignity to Hansen’s patients. In the late 1980s, Annie began volunteering in the Hansen’s wing of one of Santiago de Guayaquil, Ecuador’s hospitals, teaching arts and crafts to the patients. As she formed relationships with the staff and residents, she realized she and the hospital could do much more to dispel the misery in these patients’ lives. In the early 1990s, Sister Annie andother hospital volunteers reorganized the Hansen’s (leprosy) wing to form Damien House, hoping to transform the lives of patients with Hansen’s disease. Through her vision and leadership, Damien House has restored the health, hope, and confidence of several thousand patients and their family members. In 1994, Annie founded the U.S. based Damien House charitable organization, which invites donors to join the effort to bring hope and dignity to the lives of Hansen’s patients. In addition to running the hospital, Sister Annie spends several months of the year traveling in the U.S. to seek the funding that keeps Damien House open.
Q. If you had thirty seconds with someone in an elevator, what three things would you tell him or her to do to be joyful, peaceful, and whole?
A. I hardly ever take elevators. But if I were on one, I would smile at the person. That’s because when I am down, someone smiling at me always helps. The face of Christ is in everyone—like that woman infected with Hansen’s disease who crawled over to me in the hospital chapel. When she smiled, I truly saw the face of Christ. So just a simple smile can ease someone’s tension.
Q. What do you think of the concept that my enemy is my lover?
A. It reminds me of a story. One day a woman infected with Hansen’s disease came to our hospital for treatment. She had been there only a few days when I walked in and said, “I’m not going to be here for a week. North American surgeons are coming to operate on children with deformities and I’m going to interpret for them.” This woman came up to me and said, “What are you talking about? What children? Where?” I told her the details and she said, “I have a grandson who was born with multiple birth defects—webbed hands, cleft palate, and pigeon-toed feet. He can’t go to school because he can’t walk or write. Could you please help him?” I said, “Call your family and tell them to bring him on Sunday when they are going to review the children. I’ll make sure he gets checked first.” Out of the hundreds of children, the boy was chosen for surgery. The grandmother stayed overnight with him at the hospital and said to me the next day, “I remembered a promise I made to God when my grandson was born. I said I would do anything to help him. Last night I realized God answered my prayer by using Hansen’s disease to get him help. When I first got the disease, I used to cry, ‘Why me?’ Now, I realize it was a blessing in disguise.” Talk about an enemy as a lover! Since then, this boy has had several successful surgeries and can smile, walk, write, and attend school. The medical team even gives him two new pairs of orthopedic shoes a year. God works in mysterious ways.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.