17 Sep 2018

“I keep really good memories of my time in Liberia”

Sister Carmen Lasa was born in Navarra, Spain. Her hospitaller life started in 1948 and she was one of the four sisters who started the mission in Liberia. She now lives at St Teresa´s Home.

When did you decide to become hospitaller sister?

Several members of my family -aunts and cousins- where already sisters of the Congregation and I always felt attracted to the sister´s life.

When I was 15, I asked my mother if I could go to an apostolic school of the Sisters Hospitallers in Madrid called “Las Teresas” and she agreed -I was her only daughter and she could never say no to me!

Three years after, in 1948, I joined the novitiate. After my temporary vows, I was sent to Burgos (Spain) for one year and then I went back to Madrid until I professed my perpetual vows in 1954.

When did you join the English Province?

I came to England in 1954 and joined the Community of Addlestone for eight years. Then I was sent to Guernsey but really enjoyed my time there. There was a great family environment.

During the war, all missionaries were forced to leave the country. Those were horrible times

Tell us about Liberia…

In 1966, I left England in order to bring the hospitaller mission to an orphanage in Liberia together with three sisters. I was so pleased…! I loved the mission and I liked children so I was very excited and thankful for such a wonderful opportunity. It was hard at first. The first house we ran was in the middle of the forest and it was a bit scary sometimes. There were 53 children: some of them were affected by poliomyelitis, others were at the centre because their parents had already too many children at home to care for.

As the house was far from everything, we decided to open another centre in Monrovia -which is the current one. There, the children could be better treated after surgery, as we had more means within reach. I keep really good memories of all those years.

You had to leave the country because of the war…

Yes. We were cast of Liberia in 1998 because of the war. Those were horrible times. We went to the Hospital of the Brothers of St John of God to take care of the injured.

The country had been at war for a while when we left, when the “rebels” entered Monrovia, all missionaries were forced to leave. We went to Abidjan (Ivory Coast) by car and from there we took a plane to Madrid. The journey was so hard and tough… we saw people fighting, dead bodies and people dying… We took a little child that was hugging his dead mum.

Sr Carmen together with four Hospitaller Sisters and the children in the orphanage
Sr Carmen with other Hospitaller Sisters and two Brothers of St John of God
Sr Carmen and other sisters of the Congregation at the new centre in Monrovia

What did you do after?

Then I went to Ireland, where I could rest for a while and was caring for the elderly in a care home for three years. They were very friendly. Since then, I’ve also been to Shenstone and London, where I live now.

I´m very grateful to God for giving me a healthy life, as I can still live a normal life and my mind works perfectly

How is your life in London?

I like it here. At first, I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what to expect from this city. I love going for walks and doing crochet, although my hands sometimes let me down… I usually read and use the tablet and pray in the chapel. I help with meals when the sister in charge is missing. My health is relatively good, I have been always very active, and I’ve walked a lot.

I´m very grateful to God for giving me a healthy life, as I can still live a normal life and my mind works perfectly. I feel very happy to be where I am and be able to do what I want.

I would have loved to go back to Liberia and see what it is like now, but I know I can´t. I always ask the sisters who visit the country how it is going there. Fortunately, I wasn´t there during the Ebola outbreak. Now I pray for them, for the world and for our Congregation´s needs.