15 November 2016
Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S., served some of the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia.
For many years, some of the most dedicated heroes in CNEWA’s world were the Good Shepherd Sisters caring for the poor and destitute in Ethiopia. One of those we came to know and admire was Sister Mary James Clines, R.G.S.
Writing for our magazine in 1999, she described the sisters’ mission:
It was not until 1971 that the first Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in Ethiopia. Three years later, the Province of Ireland assumed support for the sisters, generously providing personnel and funds.
The first task of the three sisters who began the mission was to become familiar with the most deprived areas of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
“Everywhere we saw sad, downtrodden women — carrying water and firewood, caring for malnourished children, lining up outside hospitals and clinics,” Sister Mary Teresa Ryan recalls. “Equally visible were the city beggars, street children, handicapped persons and prostitutes.”
Following their constitution, the sisters resolved “to help bring about change in whatever condemns others to live a marginalized life.”
In 2003, photojournalist Peter Lemieux reported on the sisters’ work and said they were providing a “flicker of candlelight amid the darkness” among those poorest of the poor in Ethiopia — through education, a day care center, and health care in the midst of a growing AIDS epidemic. All this was geared toward trying to provide families with a sense of hope:
Since 1976, sisters at the Good Shepherd Day Care Center have been trying to help families in the Gotera section of Addis Ababa. During her recent evaluation of the program, Sister Enatnesh realized that in more than 25 years, the sisters “started by helping the mothers in a cooperative, then continued to help the children, and now we are continuing to help their grandchildren. “That’s really depressing. You want to see improvement — you help somebody and then they can go on by themselves. To keep helping the same families over and over is depressing.”
But in the struggle there is joy. Joy that so many children have passed through the center. Joy in seeing the children clean, happy, in uniform and at play in the school compound. “At school, they have a day off from their situation,” Sister Enatnesh said.
Equally, Sister Mary James added, “The highlight of my day is when I can be at the day care center.
“The children hold and kiss your hand. And when I look in their eyes...I see hope.”
Dwindling vocations eventually compelled the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to leave Ethiopia. But Sister Mary James Clines, now retired and living on Long Island, has left behind a remarkable legacy. As she said in an interview in 2009:
“We have always emphasized the need for education and are gratified that many of the children who began in our day care program or who benefitted from our education fund or training programs are now employed,” she said. “Considering an overall unemployment rate of 50 percent in the country, our work has made a difference.”
It is work CNEWA has been privileged to support — and that continues in so many different ways today. To be a part of our ongoing work in Ethiopia, visit this link.