“I was sick and you took care of me…” Matthew 25:36
Sister Eulalie Nkengi, SNDdeN
In the Congo-Kinshasa Province, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN) minister in multiple ways to the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Educating the children has been a major priority since the arrival of the Sisters from Belgium in 1894. From the early years in the Congo, the Sisters reached out also in cities and villages by serving the growing needs for medical care of the Congolese people. At first, they established dispensaries wherever they opened schools and then considered also as priorities medical centers, dispensaries, maternity clinics and hospitals. With the expanding needs for medical care, in a ministry for serving sick, suffering and disabled persons, more Sisters became mid-wives, nurses and physicians as well, and now staff these centers.
Sister Eulalie Nkengi, SNDdeN is a physician who coordinates the medical services in seven health care facilities, administered by the Sisters in the Congo-Kinshasa Province, with two located in the Bandundu region and five located in Kongo-Central. She travels to cities and villages across the mid/south western region of the DRC. Her major responsibilities, begun in 2011, encompass the general oversight of the medical centers, maternity clinics and hospitals in Kimwenza, Kitenda, Lemfu, Mpese, Ngidinga and Pelende. In Ngidinga, there are two facilities, a hospital and a health care center. All facilities are affiliated with the Hospital Center, René de Haes in Kimwenza. The centers in Pelende and Kitenda are located in the most distant area of the province, in the Bandundu region. One center is 650 miles from the Province center at Kimwenza and the other is 720 miles away. Sr. Eulalie travels these distances on extremely difficult and often treacherous roads.
Sr. Eulalie works at unifying health care, especially in the formation and training of staff, so that each health center will be able to provide a similar quality of care. In visiting all the sites, her ministry includes:
• supervision of the management, resources and structures in each facility;
• review of the current pathologies, medications and care of patients;
• education and formation of nurses, mid-wives and doctors;
• evaluation of treatments and approaches to patient needs;
• leadership role at meeting sessions for staff and medical personnel.
Seven Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been responsible for the leadership and administration from 2012-2016 in these centers. Many other Sisters contribute to this medical care in pharmacies, laboratories, as mid-wives, nurses, assistants and bursars. With many lay co-workers, the Sisters help in healing and accompanying those suffering from long-term ailments, diseases, wounds and a variety of illnesses; they assist in the birth of infants, the care of their mothers, and treat the sick and the dying. They diagnose ailments, offer therapy and administer medications. They extend help to orphaned children and people made vulnerable from hunger and poverty.
Formation and Education
Formation of medical personnel and education of the people for preventative care is a priority for the Sisters serving in health ministries. Sr. Eulalie and other medical personnel provide education for staff in each of the seven centers. Sr. Eulalie manages a Communications/ Education Office (COMED/SND) in order to publish a quarterly magazine which is a tool for educating the people and health-care personnel on current pathologies and diseases within the country and offer some viable means for prevention when possible. This magazine announces also any activities and events for the people in general, as well as educational sessions in the COMED/SND for training nurses, physicians, mid-wives and assistants.
Finance is a serious issue for many of the people served in these centers; they have to pay for medications and their caregivers. Although the SNDdeN facilities are part of the national health system, no financial support comes from the Government. Sr. Eulalie attempts to find funding to help people without any finances. Some buildings, constructed by the Belgian Sisters in the years 1932–1950 now need serious repair. All administrators in the seven health care facilities are responsible, with Sr. Eulalie, for repair and regular maintenance.
Expansion and Growth
Another responsibility for Sr. Eulalie is the expansion and growth for healing a wider population by maintaining and upgrading hospital equipment and supplies. She is responsible for providing necessary furnishings for specific surgical rooms, patient rooms, wards, laboratories, waiting rooms, etc. Sr. Eulalie and medical personnel welcome the shipments from the United States which transport surgical and maternity suites sent from the International Medical Equipment Corporation (IMEC) in North Andover, MA. The Congregational Mission Office (CMO) in Ipswich, MA uses funding sent by donors to Sr. Leonore Coan, SNDdeN, Director of Mission Support in order to pay for the expensive transport of this equipment, suites and supplies donated by IMEC, in containers shipped from the USA to the Congo. In some cities and villages, the Photovoltaic Project, installed by the religious Congregation and funded by many donors, has helped to provide electricity and water to these medical facilities, as well as to the schools directed by the Sisters there.
The Sisters in the Congo-Kinshasa Unit proclaim God’s goodness in bringing health care, healing and new life to those suffering in any way.