Jackie Webb’s Letter

How CARE Came to Be

This letter was written by the founder of CARE who is now retired. Addressed to the CARE President, Michael A Png, she explains the raison d’etre and how the society came to be.
Monday 29 March 2004, 6:05 am
Dear Michael

My mother used to attend a weekly prayer meeting. A Catholic Nurse who worked in the AIDS Ward at the Communicable Disease Centre, also attended the same meeting.

One day, this Nurse asked my mother if she would visit a man dying of AIDS. He had recently been baptized; he was blind and was always calling out for someone to pray with him. The Catholic and Christian Nurses would pop in and say a short prayer, but this gentleman wanted more, and they couldn’t give him the time because of their work schedule.

The Nurse asked my mother if she would visit the patient a couple of times in the week to pray with him, if the patient gave his permission. As my mother had now retired, she had time on her hands and she said she would be happy to do so.

Except for one sister, no one else in the man’s family were Christian or Catholic. His Catholic sister felt shy about praying aloud with her brother, so it was a relief for her to know that an elderly lady would be happy to do so. *Justin was happy too that he now had a prayer partner. There were a couple of nights when *Justin did not want to be left alone, so my mother stayed with him, sending his family home for a good night’s rest.

After a couple of weeks, my mother had a bad sore throat and went to see her doctor. He advised bed rest along with a cough mixture. She said she couldn’t be in bed because of her promise to *Justin to pray with him in the mornings. Her doctor was alarmed that she was visiting an AIDS patient. Did she not know that she could pass on to *Justin a nasty bug? … his immune system was so low, that a cough in his presence could be detrimental to him.

My mother told me she had to stop because of what she could do to *Justin. I said to her that no matter how good the excuse was, *Justin would not see it that way. He would probably think that it had suddenly dawned on my mother what he had. She had now gotten scared and did not want to see him anymore.

It was then that my mother asked me if I would go in her place. I did, with the permission of *Justin and his family. From then on, it was a case of meeting the next patient who got warded after *Justin ~ and so it carried on.

I wrote an article in the CATHOLIC NEWS of a dream of being able to have a Catholic group who would not be afraid to approach people having to live with AIDS.

Twelve people who had read the article, responded, and so Catholic Aids Response Effort was born. We asked to be part of FAMILY LIFE SOCIETY as AIDS happens in a family. We were accepted. We had a Coordinator and an Assistant Coordinator to oversee the day-to-day running of the group. We had a treasurer to handle the little donations that had begun to trickle in from good wishers.

We also had a Catholic Priest as our Spiritual Director, to help us adhere to the teachings of the Church in the matter of so called “safe-sex”. Later, we reached out to people who were just H.I.V. with no fullblown AIDS. We found ourselves reaching out to their families as well.

There were two Scripture quotations that were beacons for us. The first quotation was for those we reached out to: They are the words of Jesus:

I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

The second Scripture quote was for us, the “Carers” to live by. It is from St Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25:31-40 …

I was hungry… thirsty… a stranger… naked… sick or in prison…… insofar as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to ME.”

My mother started the AIDS Ministry in her quiet way in 1990. CARE was officially launched on Pentecost of 1991.

This is the history of CARE in a nutshell, dear Michael. Hope it helps.

All The Very Best
Jacqueline Webb
*Justin (not his real name)