When violent patients high on the drug ice see Sr Jacinta Fong at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, they often visibly relax. Source: ABC News.
Sr Jacinta is well known at the hospital for her kindness and ability to defuse situations. She puts it down to a deep-seated response to seeing her habit.
“Even in the state they are in, they seem to recognise it. Some people are respectful in spite of how aggressive they are when they come in.”
Now serving in a support role, Sr Jacinta has been a part of the hospital’s emergency department for 24 years.
Seeing patients’ transformation away from drug abuse into health motivates Sr Jacinta’s work. But as a nun of the Sisters of Charity, she is part of a tradition at the hospital that stretches back to before she was born.
Sr Jacinta was born in Papua New Guinea in 1935, after her family emigrated from south-east China to escape war with Japan. The youngest of seven children, she says she knew at the age of three that she wanted to be a nun. Her two brothers went to a Catholic boarding school and they would tell her about their teachers, and their stories of kindness captured her imagination.
“They were obviously very caring types of people ... so I said: ‘When I grow up, can I become a nun?’“
She was 13 when she converted to Catholicism and moved to Australia in 1951 with hopes of becoming a Carmelite nun. However, she found the tradition was “very closed”.
Friends put Sr Jacinta in touch with a nun from another order. “She said: ‘Why not join the Sisters of Charity?’ So here I am, more than 60 years later!”
The Sisters of Charity opened St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney in 1857. Sr Jacinta’s ongoing work maintains this connection. The order’s history in Australia has been recognised with a new heritage centre, which opened last week in Potts Point, Sydney.
Sisters of Charity go from ladies in black to sisters in streetwear (Sydney Morning Herald)