LIVING WATER CANCER HOSPICE REOPENS
Gloria Maul (left) greets designer Brian MacFarlane
and benefactors Hannah Janoura and Rhoda Elias.
After three months closure for renovations, the Living Water Hospice opened its doors again last weekend on the Feast of All Saints, Saturday 1 November, at their Warner Street, Newtown, premises. The opening date, said Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, was no accident.
Unable to attend the event, he sent a written message read by Archdiocesan Vicar for Administration, Fr Jason Gordon.
"Today's feast is a real expression of faith in the triumph of love,'' wrote Archbishop Gullickson. "We confess that countless hosts of those who have gone before us in Baptism and in death are interceding for us in light, happiness and peace before the face of God."
Which is precisely the central ministry of the hospice; palliative care, while helping patients prepare spiritually, emotionally and psychologically for death a "gateway to heaven", said Fr Jason.
Living Water's first public ministry, more than 1000 people have passed through this "gateway" since it first opened on 14 August, 1983.
"I have seen so many beautiful people die here," Living Water co-founder and leader, Rhonda Maingot, told over 80 benefactors, volunteers, employees and Community members. "When we can make a journey with someone preparing to go to heaven, what could be greater than that?"
Retired matron, Gloria Maul, was instrumental in establishing and nurturing the culture of prayer that still pervades the daily regime there morning and night prayer and the Rosary three times daily, in which patients are free to participate or not. For her tireless work, Gloria was awarded the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, a papal award that recognises her efforts "for the Church and the Pope".
The ministry is dedicated to St Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of the dying. In life, St Maximilian exchanged places with a fellow prisoner condemned to die in a starvation bunker at the infamous Auschwitz Concentration camp during World War II. Of the prisoners with whom he was placed in the bunker, he was the last to die, encouraging the others with prayer and praises. Hospice lore is full of stories of sightings of the saint, as well as Jesus and Mary; the supernatural blends richly with professional medical care here. The hospice's new look reflects this reality.
A three-foot metallic angel of mercy hovers over the entrance, seeming to welcome visitors through to this earthly gateway to eternity. Once through, one comes face to face with a statue of a gentle-faced Madonna with her Divine Child. Earthen tones of burnt orange and greens escort visitors and patients to the mini-chapel at the front, or past images of the Divine Mercy and St Maximilian, to cool, spacious wards, where patients are attended by a battery of nurses and gentle volunteers.
Carnival bandleader and designer, Brian MacFarlane and his team were responsible for the hospice's new look, while Hannah Janoura took the fundraising helm. The reopening was more than a professional triumph for Brian.
"My mummy died here," he said, "actually, today, its three months ago. On the way here, I was playing a particular tune in the car was and remembering her, so this morning is really very emotional for me."
"He's responsible for this place's transformation!" declared Janoura of MacFarlane. "We completely re-did the ceiling with gypsum and the floors, all the walls everything came almost free," she added, "we're still a little indebted mainly because of the labour costs; we didn't get labour free."
But, Rhonda is not daunted by this. Operating the hospice, as with their other ministries, happens only through the generosity of benefactors, she said.
"How God has provided for this hospice has been incredible!" she declared. "It is so costly for all our ministries; it is only possible because of the tremendous help we receive from people. That is how we can touch the poor."
And the poor are touched, said doctor in charge, Richard Clerk, for admission to the hospice is free. Having served here since its inception, he has seen many conversions among patients and their families, owing to the tremendous spirituality they witness.
"A number of people have come back to the Church because of what they see," he said, "and keep coming back to help in some way."
And, so, through the generosity of many, the gateway remains open for the living and those nearer the entry to eternal life; new patients were received that very day.
"The blessing we invoke upon this hospice is, in a real sense, a dedication,'' wrote Archbishop Gullickson. "We claim this house as holy ground ... through the intercession of St Maximilian Kolbe as a bright space in death's dark corridor for our brothers and sisters who have begun the final journey this side of the grave."
PAPAL AWARD FOR MATRON MAUL
Fr Jason Gordon pins Papal Decoration
Under Matron Gloria Maul's watch, prayer permeated every aspect of the Living Water Hospice regimen. Nursing shifts began and ended with prayer, the Rosary was prayed three times daily and someone was always present at the bedside of dying patients praying until they died.
Now retired, Gloria hasn't changed much. Before we began our conversation on the cool, ordered porch in her Woodbrook home, she declared, "Before we start anything, we pray!"
Born on 22 October, 1934 to Octavia Pierre and Joseph Ferrette, Gloria was sent from the family home at Beaupres Road Extension, Paramin, to stay with a school principal at Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, to enable her to get to school. When she was 13, that person died in her very arms; God's first hint, she believed, at what she would be called to do.
"I didn't know what she died from children weren't supposed to ask but I was completely unafraid," she recalled. "Soon after that her sister died in my arms; it was so significant! After leaving school, I applied to be a nurse. And, you know, I got the gold medal for that first year! I wasn't the brightest of the students, but my mother pushed me to study."
It was Octavia's illness and death a few years later that further steered Gloria toward her vocation of palliative care for persons with cancer.
"My mother was at my home for three months in her terminal stage; she was the first cancer patient I ever nursed," she recalled. Dr Richard Clerk, who would become the doctor in charge of the hospice, was her mother's physician. There was no hospice then, but the doctor suggested that Gloria have Living Water co-founder, Rose Jackman, pray with her mother.
Rose did visit and, shortly thereafter, Octavia died. Later, Gloria visited Living Water and the community's leader, Rhonda Maingot, told her that they intended to start a cancer hospice of which they wanted her to be matron.
"I didn't even know what a hospice was!" exclaimed Gloria. "I said I didn't know how to be a matron! Rhonda said, 'Don't worry, you will know.' She must have known something I didn't!" she giggled.
Whatever Gloria didn't know, 25 years of caring for the dying certainly taught her. Years of experience at the septic wound ward and emergency room at the Port of Spain General Hospital also held her in good stead, as did her posting in the operating theatre at Elmhurst General Hospital in New York, with responsibility for the psychiatry unit.
The mother of Craig, she married Arthur Maul 37 years ago, entering the lives of his four adult children, Myrna, Arleene, Lystra-Ann and Robert, now deceased, and is grandmother to Kizanne and seven others. Arthur has been her strongest support during those years at the hospice.
"In those days, I would get a call at two or three in the morning to go down to the hospice," she said, "and Arthur would get up, put on his clothes and come with me. The Lord told me I had to publicly thank him."
Gloria is constantly guided by the Lord, especially in treating wounds. The treatments usually change according to the case, but always with astounding results, always medically sound. Yet, this is so natural for Gloria; every life situation is simply referred to God something she learnt during her years at the hospice's helm.
"It's so beautiful to know God," she said serenely. "I don't have stress, you know?"
Only a penchant for service. Even after retirement, Gloria continues to offer her expertise to other organizations and individuals.
It is for her life of continued service that the Holy Father has conferred the honour of the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, "for the Church and the Pope". The conferral text of the certificate, written in Latin, roughly translates: "The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recognizes (her) work and zeal on behalf of the Church and the Pope. He confers this honour and grants the right to wear this decoration."
Gloria continues to earn the honour of her Church and Community and, indeed, all whose lives have been touched by her gentle service.