A way called Charity: Thouret Foundation marks 10th anniversary
By Lisa Zengarini and Francesca Sabatinelli
From war-torn Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR), to Thailand, Chad, Albania, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Italy.
These are some of the 30 countries in which the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret carry out their mission to promote social inclusion and integral human development in the world’s peripheries through their Thouret Foundation.
Charism of the foundress
This year, the Catholic charity inspired by the charism of their foundress - who founded the congregation in Besançon, France, on 11 April 1799 - is celebrating its tenth anniversary. To mark this milestone, the Foundation is organizing a number of events and has published ten significant pictures from these countries, one for each year, illustrating the precious work the nuns are carrying out in four continents.
Over the past decade, the Foundation has supported the education of many children and young people, but also human development projects for men and women, inspired by the Gospel passage "I was hungry ... thirsty ... I was a stranger ... sick ... in prison. Every time you have done these things to only one of these little brothers of mine, you have done it to me” (Matthew 25:31-46).
The Foundation’s activities range from serving and supporting people in countries devastated by war, like in Syria, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic (CAR), social inclusion projects addressed to young people in Albania; managing a day center for disabled people in Thailand, or supporting Lebanese families affected by the devastating explosion in Beirut in 2020.
Operative arm of the Congregation
“The Foundation is the operative arm of the Congregation which places itself at the service of the poorest, with the aim of promoting the human person”, the coordinator Sister Maria Luisa Caruso, told Vatican News' Francesca Sabatinelli.
She explained that the nuns are guided by the firm belief that giving the poorest the opportunity to discover their potential can help them become the protagonists of their own lives and also be a valid help for their communities.
An important example of this strategy are the scholarships awarded in recent years to many young girls who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have an education.
"We offer these girls scholarships so they can instill values in their communities, without changing the traditions and basic cultural values in their villages, but integrating them with the Christian values,” Sister Maria Luisa explained.
The “Jeanne Antide Centre” in Chad
One of the projects that best summarizes the Foundation’s work and spirit is being carried out in Chad, where the nuns are supporting 35 girls from remote villages and poor families in their studies at high school, as well as at university.
“These young women, in turn, help the sisters in their service, in another center that welcomes street children. In this way they not only receive a traditional school education, but are also trained to serve other people,” Sister Maria Luisa explains.
Giving hope in countries scarred by forgotten wars
The Sisters of Charity continue to work in the peripheries of the world, even in areas where armed conflicts are still going on, like Syria and the Tigray region, in Ethiopia, in spite of the many dangers this entails.
“No one speaks about these conflicts anymore, but the situation there is still dramatic and despite the risks our sisters have decided to stay not to deceive the people who see in them a sign of hope,” Sister Maria Luisa said.
She concluded by noting that another important sign of hope is represented by the many benefactors who continue to support the Foundation’s work.
Pope Francis met the Sisters of Charity on 11 October 2021 on the occasion of their 21st General Chapter.
In his address, the Pope thanked the nuns for their work and for their “concern for the poor and listening to the poor.”
"You are masters not with words, but with deeds, with the history of so many of your sisters who have given their lives for this, in solicitude and listening to the elderly, the sick, the marginalized; close to the little ones, to the last with the tenderness and compassion of God."