Missionaries of Charity home

Missionaries of Charity: Serving the Poorest in Ethiopia

Photo by David Snyder/CRS

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The entrance to the Missionaries of Charity compound in Dira Dawa, Ethiopia, sits on a quiet side street. It would be easy to miss. But for those in need, it is a beacon of hope.

preparing a meal at a Missionaries of Charity home

Staff and volunteers at each of Ethiopia’s 18 Missionaries of Charity centers prepare meals daily for patients and staff using staples provided by Catholic Relief Services. Photo by David Snyder/CRS

Since 1977, the center has provided care to the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Dira Dawa. Serving as both a hospital and the only facility for mental illness in the region, the home draws patients from as far as 185 miles away. Each day, 10 sisters and 150 staff treat ailments from tuberculosis and malnutrition to acute mental illness for 600 in-patient residents.

“If they are poor, we take them,” Sister Marta, one of the Missionaries of Charity sisters serving at the home, says. “We work with simple means and provide simple means helping those in the greatest poverty rise up.”

Like all of the 18 Missionaries of Charity houses across Ethiopia, the Dira Dawa home is a hive of activity. The site provides three meals daily to the 750 residents and staff using wheat, cooking oil, fortified corn-soy blend and other essentials provided by Catholic Relief Services and prepared on site. Once each month, the sisters also provide leftover food to the poor in the surrounding communities.

“CRS is so cooperative with the Missionaries of Charity,” Sister Marta says. “Most of the houses in Ethiopia receive help from CRS.”

As one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia is ill-equipped to handle the many needs of its most vulnerable residents. If not for the Missionaries of Charity and the work of the Church, most of the sick in this area would simply go without care.

“Without Church support, there would be no good schools, hospitals or clinics, kindergartens, women’s programs, support for farmers, clean drinking water systems or assistance for people with disabilities and the elderly,” Sister Marta says. “The Church cares for the most vulnerable in society.”

Having committed their lives to serving the poor through the Missionaries of Charity,  Sister Marta and the other sisters live a strict communal life, rotating every three years to work in other homes around the country. Many have lived in Ethiopia for decades, far from their own countries and families. Days start at 5 a.m. and can go late into the evening six days each week. Yet despite the challenges, Sister Marta says that she and the other sisters are privileged to work with those most in need and are fulfilled by their calling.

“The Missionaries of Charity are carriers of God’s light,” she says. “Jesus is shining through us in ways that we are not always aware. It may not bear fruits today, but will bear fruits for eternity.”


By supporting Catholic Relief Services, either through an unrestricted donation or CRS support for the Missionaries of Charity in Ethiopia, your generosity allows us to continue providing critical food aid to the  poor.