Bangladeshi nun on mission to heal hearts
Sister Lipy Gloria Rozario Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows is seen with some of her fellow counselors in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this year. (Supplied by the Healing Heart Counseling Center
Lipy Gloria Rozario was born to a Catholic family of refugees on Nov. 31, 1971, just weeks before Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan on Dec. 16. Fast-forward 47 years and Gloria, the sixth of nine children, has dedicated her life to serving God and healing the hearts of people suffering various forms of psychological distress in this Muslim-majority South Asian nation.
Since 2010, Sister Gloria has served as director of the Healing Heart Counseling Unit in Dhaka, funded by the Our Lady of Sorrows (OLS) religious order.
She is one of a number of Catholic nuns including Salesian Sister Zita Rema who provide spiritual aid and other services to the destitute in Bangladesh. Other nuns in the country help patients struck by leprosy, tuberculosis and related social stigmas, or focus on helping children born with disabilities rebuild their lives.
In addition to offering counseling services to individuals, couples and families, Sister Gloria hones the skills of students, academics and professionals by arranging seminars and workshops both inside and outside the center.
When she's not at the center, or teaching at a local university, the nun finds time to visit Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in eastern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, where she offers counseling services through BRAC, one of the country's leading development organizations.
"We are a charity, so most people come to us though word of mouth because we are not allowed to advertise. Sometimes people mistake us for a profit-making organization as we have many foreigners on staff who are volunteers," she added.
"Many people struggle to grasp how a charity can offer professional services without making money. Our mission is to prove them wrong."
The Healing Heart Center now has two full-time and four part-time counselors treating around 30 people a week on average, mostly Muslims.
The center charges 1,200-2,500 Bangladeshi taka (US$14-30) per session but people living on the breadline need only pay a token fee of US$2.40.
This covers staff salaries, maintenance costs and donations to charities run by the religious order.
The center has one school and a day care center for 40 slum children. It also funds for two more day care centers in Dhaka serving 62 kids from greatly impoverished families who attend free of charge.
"We never have any money left at the end of each month," the nun said.