Sala Sentle: The suffering find a place of love and care

Posted by Spalding Hurst

December 14, 2017

Sala Sentle

The suffering find a place of love and care

In Metsimotlhabe, a village north of the capital of Gaborone, Botswana, Sisters Sunila Erumangalathu and Vinaya Chalil administer a one-of-kind hospice for the sick called Pabalelong. It means a place of love and care.

Counseling, physical, spiritual, respite, and terminal care are what the hospice provides.

A short walk from the Sisters’ home, leads down a dirt road where a few street vendors sell snacks to passing school children. A man makes beautiful furniture from discarded wood pallets. This path brings you to the doorsteps of Pabalelong.

Inside the hospice, SCNs make sure patients receive the love and care they need to regain their strength. The Sisters are present everyday at 7 a.m. to the staff and hospice patients. They never miss a day. They hold hands with patients, share laughs, and exchange smiles as they walk the floor. Spirits are high among the patients and staff.

SCNs Vinaya Chalil and Sunila Erumangalathu, pictured front and center, stand with the staff of Pabalelong Hospice in Botswana, Africa.

Outside of the room for prayer and meditation, the daughter of a former patient recalls the care her mother received. “As her health got worse, there was a time that I could barely stand seeing my mother in pain,” she reflects. “With the Sisters and the staff here, I was relieved. She died a dignified death because of the support here.”

A daughter of a former patient talks with Sunila Erumangalathu, SCN, about the loving care her mother received.

“Right now I am able to be at home because of the Sisters, and because of the hospice.”

Sister Vinaya meets with an elderly woman receiving outpatient care at her home.

Sister Vinaya drives down a dirt road to check on one of her patients that is recovering. The patient, Setshego, is working in her garden amongst the roaming chickens, her return to health a miracle of sorts. Setshego smiles when she sees Sister Vinaya.

When she first became ill, Setshego didn’t know what was wrong and she had a hard time getting answers, doctors finally diagnosed her with TB meningitis of the spine. Completely paralyzed, she developed a large pressure sore on her sacral region. Doctors referred her to Pabalelong for terminal care.

The situation was dire. Setshego was weak, and needed intensive care. “Everything was painful, I didn’t know where it was coming from. I was just lost,” says Setshego.

At first she didn’t want to see the Sisters. In a state of pain and out of her mind, she didn’t recognize the help and support they were giving her. “I thought they wanted to kill me or something,” she recalls.

The medication would make her nauseous. The Sisters were very patient with her, they crushed her tablets to make it easier for her to swallow. They checked in on her family to make sure everyone at home was doing well.

Setshego’s son, Kabombosoa, took care of the family. He spoke of how he would hold his mother in his arms to try to comfort her. “I was doing everything I could for her, cooking for her, and washing her clothes,” he says.

During her six-month stay at the hospice, Setshego began to heal. She opened herself up to Sisters Vinaya and Sunila. “I realized all these Sisters want for me is to get better. All they wanted is life for me, the love they have given – I am so appreciative of it,” she shares. “Right now I am able to be at home because of the Sisters, and because of the hospice.”

Setshego and Vinaya Chalil, SCN, talk about the progress she has made in her recovery.

Setshego’s son speaks about his mother during her time of suffering, and how the family managed through the toughest times.

Gradually there was improvement, and when she was finally discharged, she was able to walk with a cane. “Right now I am very happy she is healed. She can even walk again. You can see her strength is increasing bit by bit. The hospice was taking care of us. They were even calling me, to make sure she was taken care of, and we had what she needed,” notes Kabombosoa.

As Setshego continues to grow stronger, Sister Vinaya checks on her, “Now she is back on her feet, gardening, working in the field, and she is getting back to a normal life.”

Walking down the halls of the hospice you can see the profound love and support the Sisters and staff are providing to those in need in Botswana. “It has been a great ministry, by the blessing of God,” says Sister Sunila.

Back at Setshego’s home, Sister Vinaya readies herself for her next home visit and says goodbye to the family. Sethshego holds Sister Vinaya’s hand and tells her in Setswana, “sala sentle.” Fitting words from a woman, who through God’s compassionate grace, has come far in her recovery. The saying, an endearing one, means “stay well.”

Want new articles sent to your inbox?
Subscribe to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth newsletter.
More news from
the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

A Sight to See: Sisters View 2024 Solar Eclipse

Gathered together on the front lawn of the Motherhouse Monday afternoon, the Sisters were treated to a special sight: the 2024 solar eclipse.

Lending a Hand in Maryland

Join us for an immersion experience in Maryland from May 13-17 for a unique volunteer event. In collaboration with St. Mary’s Ryken High School, we’re offering the chance to help families in need with home repairs while staying at the beautiful Camp Maria Retreat Center. Don’t miss this fulfilling experience!

SCN Volunteers Bring Joy and Accessibility to Willisburg Home

A collaborative effort between local SCN volunteers and visiting parishioners from St. John’s Parish in Hollywood, Maryland, helped improve the accessibility of a home in Willisburg, Kentucky.

Crowd Returns for Easter Egg Hunt

Despite the early spring chill, this year’s Easter Egg Hunt brought hundreds of children and their families to Nazareth Motherhouse Campus for an afternoon of excitement and community fun.

Serving Our ‘Gate Guests’

At the SCN Center Belize, a less highlighted yet significant ministry involves the feeding of “gate guests” – individuals facing homelessness or difficulty securing meals.

109-year-old Sister Evelyn Hurley reflects on her South Boston upbringing, ministry

When Sister of Charity of Nazareth Evelyn Hurley was born in South Boston on March 7, 1915, Woodrow Wilson had been president of the United States for four days. Benedict XV was pope. World War I had been raging in Europe for less than a year. Women in Massachusetts were not allowed to vote in most elections.

International Women’s Day Celebrated in Haverhill

The Massachusetts North Shore Italian Women’s Lodge hosted a special event to mark International Women’s Day, featuring speakers Anne Marie O’Shea, SCN, and Ann Whittaker, SCN. The celebration, attended by over 100 participants, highlighted the Italian tradition of La Festa Della Donna, a practice initiated in 1946 by activists Rita Montagna and Teresa Mattei to honor women’s resilience and strength, symbolized by the mimosa flower.

Empowering Women in Punta Gorda

Sister Higinia Bol serves as a Pastoral Associate at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, overseeing a ministry that extends to 32 remote villages in the Toledo District. Her focus is clear: empowering women to take on leadership roles within the church.

A Miracle Named Angel

The story of Angel serves as a reminder of the everyday miracles that unfold around us, prompting gratitude for the opportunity to serve those in need at Kurji Holy Family Hospital.

Outreach in Mokama

Nazareth Hospital in Mokama, India, led by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth since 1947, seeks support for community health and outreach programs – where every contribution goes towards saving lives and empowering communities, connecting us more deeply to God during this sacred period of Lent.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like…

Lending a Hand in Maryland

Lending a Hand in Maryland

Join us for an immersion experience in Maryland from May 13-17 for a unique volunteer event. In collaboration with St. Mary’s Ryken High School, we’re offering the chance to help families in need with home repairs while staying at the beautiful Camp Maria Retreat Center. Don’t miss this fulfilling experience!

We Are the Easter People – Associate Reflection

We Are the Easter People – Associate Reflection

On the bright Easter Monday morning April 2, 2024, in central Kathmandu city, half a dozen SCNAs (including two couples) gathered to celebrate their first Easter together in a deep spiritual way.