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Many of these patients have been rejected or abandoned by their families. All have faced hardship, both from their illnesses and the stigmas attached to them. And yet despite — or perhaps because of — this struggle, the flame of faith burns strongly in the hearts of most of the institution’s beneficiaries.

“I love my Lord,” says Melanie, a patient in her 60’s at Our Lady’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill, another institution founded by Blessed Jacques and run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Antelias, a suburb of Beirut.

“I pray every morning to the sainted Jacques. I offer my day to him.”

In the evening, Melanie prays with her rosary beads, using each bead to mark a new intention.

“With each new bead, I name a new person I wish to pray for and in that way, I don’t repeat the prayers emptily. Each prayer has its own distinct intention.”

Geriatric patients comprise the largest population group in Our Lady’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill — people whose families can or will no longer care for them. Many of these patients suffer from mental conditions, including a large number with Alzheimer’s disease.

Sister Tammam Salameh, mother superior of the facility, performs her rounds, spread out across a number of pavilions. On her route, she pauses to exchange words, jokes and pleasantries with patients and staff alike. Sister Tammam brings to each room a warm and buoyant atmosphere, in juxtaposition to the condition of many of the wards themselves. The age of the buildings, most of them built some 40 years ago, is beginning to show. Patients live in crowded wards, without air conditioning, surrounded by peeling paint.

“These buildings are now old and we need to restore and enlarge them. That’s our vision and it’s urgent,” Sister Tammam says as she makes her way between wards.

Such a renovation and enlargement project would cost about $1 million, says hospital accountant Elie Rizkallah, but such funding is nowhere to be seen.

“We don’t have the money set aside,” he says. “We are living day to day.”

Of the 450 patients at the hospital, only 20 are private, fee-paying patients. For public patients, the government pays a symbolic subsidy, which amounts to about $10 per person per day, far below the real costs of care.

The Father Roberts Institute and the Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross face this same funding conundrum. United Nations agencies such as UNHCR and UNRWA contribute money respectively for Palestinian and other refugees taken in as patients or beneficiaries. CNEWA and other Catholic agencies, such as l’Œuvre d’Orient assist with non-operational support.

For example, CNEWA has helped the Father Roberts Institute to build a pastry kitchen from which the institute produces, packages and distributes Father Roberts Institute-branded cookies and cakes to supermarkets all over Lebanon. It has become a new mode of income generation and a cornerstone of the institute’s slow move toward self-sufficiency. CNEWA has also provided funding for educational materials for the school and for hearing aids for students.

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