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Sister Sophie Boueri, D.C.

by Amal Morcos

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Even at the age of 83, the indomitable Sister Sophie Boueri is ready and willing to take on a new mission in a new place; after nurturing orphans in the West Bank for 30 years, she now cares for abandoned elderly women in her native Lebanon. Her community, the Daughters of Charity, has a worldwide charism to help the poor and the marginalized. But Sister Sophie, a highly qualified pediatric nurse — and something of a maverick — pursues her own special apostolate wherever she goes. CNEWA sat down with her to learn about her early life, her calling and what keeps her strong after so many years of ministry to the poor.

ONE: Tell us about your early life.

Sister Sophie Boeuri: I was born in Jounieh, Lebanon, in 1931. My father died when I was 8. My mother was just 28 and couldn’t support four children, so I was sent to live in an orphanage. When I was 13, I had a dream I saw children crying. I asked them, “Why are you crying?” They said, “It is because the sisters do not treat us very well.” I decided to be a religious sister, to take care of orphans. My mother was against it, but I became a sister at 19.

ONE: How did you become a pediatric nurse?

SS: I went to France and spent four years studying at the Université de Lyon. I specialized in hospital management, pediatric nursing and psychology. I excelled at my studies and because of this I was able to get my papers to go to the Holy Land. I started out working in one of our hospitals in Nazareth. My mother superior then sent me to Bethlehem in 1988, during the first intifada. Our hospital had an intensive care unit and a neonatal unit, and cared for 360 newborn babies per month.

ONE: Tell us about the home you started for abandoned infants in Bethlehem.

SS: In 1989, I started caring for abandoned babies in the corner of a run-down hospital. A wing of the hospital was renovated with the help of CNEWA and we made that the Creche. Some of the children were left anonymously at the hospital, some were the victims of child abuse. Some were given up by unwed mothers, others had parents who could not take care of them.

ONE: How were you led to reach out to unwed mothers and abandoned children?

SS: I had an ambulance and I used to travel to the villages by myself. One day, I found two girls who had been stabbed to death because they were unwed mothers. It was then I decided to prepare a department to receive unwed mothers. After delivery, we took care of their babies until we could find parents to adopt them, often in the U.S. and Europe. We didn’t tell the families of these women; their lives were at risk, and so was mine!

ONE: What was it like to live in the West Bank in the middle of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians?

SS: I was not afraid. People were wounded in the streets. Israeli soldiers would capture someone and I would intervene. The soldiers knew me. They allowed me to pass because they respected my work with the children. At the time there was no Palestinian government. The Israelis helped me to file the papers so the children could travel. I had help from both people — Israelis and Palestinians.

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