The Sisters of Charity have been present in Belgium since 1840: firstly in Maaseik, where they organised education for blind and deaf children. A school was founded in Borgloon from 1844 and in 1851 two sisters took up residence in Zonhoven. Education and healthcare constituted the core of our works of charity. Belgium became an independent province in 1961; the number of sisters has gradually dwindled.
However, the sisters are still active in a number or areas, although most of them have officially retired. They still work as volunteers in the care for the elderly, in parishes, in a place of pilgrimage, where the sisters have worked for a certain period and where a community (Heppeneert) had been established. In Maaseik the priests are still welcome to a hot meal. The sisters’ great hospitality towards a variety of organisations, their dedication and their voluntary work for associations like the St Vincent’s association and A.T.D. Fourth World have meanwhile been replaced by financial contributions because of the advanced age of the sisters. Some of the sisters are still active members of Samana (= formerly care of the sick).
We have one large community left: St Catherine’s in Zonhoven, a residential care facility, which also houses some lay-residents. Our elderly most care-dependent sisters are able to enjoy the last years of their life here. In addition to a communal chapel they also have their own smaller chapel and premises for communal activities.
The Bridgettine convent in Borgloon, where sisters lived and worked for almost 175 years, mostly in education and the boarding school was closed in December 2015. The parish and school community said farewell to the last sisters who were warmly thanked for their dedication in and for the parish.
The other sisters live in smaller groups, which are still participating in a number of activities regularly including people from the neighbourhood.