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From bank worker to nurse ...now I’m becoming a nun
10:00pm Wednesday 18th September 2013 in Echo News
FOR most, January 7, 2011 would have been an uneventful winter’s day. But for Lynn Del Bianco, it will always be unforgettable – because it was the day she received her calling from God.
Lynn, 57, admits there was no “bolt of thunder” telling her she must dedicate her life to serving God. Yet somehow she knew what path she needed to take – and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I woke up in the morning in my bed at home and I just knew. It was my calling. There was no doubt in my mind,” said Lynn.
Lynn, who has lived on Canvey for most of her life, is now a Candid-ate Postulant for the Domin-ican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
She is beginning her formation (training) to become a nun, which will take about five years and will see her ultimately take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The Dominican Missionary Sisters are known for their selfless work across the world, helping the poverty-stricken and the infirm. They run schools, health centres and hospitals on three continents, including the most deprived parts of Africa.
It was while in Zambia, working as a student nurse, that Lynn first became aware of the Sisters’ work.
Lynn had travelled to the landlocked Afri-can country, after calling time on her career in banking to become a nurse. It took her three years of study at the Anglian Ruskin University, but Lynn, who has never married and has no children, excelled at being a mature nursing student.
Upon graduating, she negotiated a placement at the Kavu Health Centre, on the outskirts of Ndola – Zambia’s third largest city. The Dominican Missionary Sisters run the clinic, which provides basic antenatal, maternity and healthcare for locals.
She said: “The Sisters impressed me with the way they care for everyone. They are amazing women. “I have always been religious. I was brought up as a Catholic and while I was in Africa, my faith in God and wanting to do his work just grew and grew.”
But a life of selfless obedience and prayer, which awaits Lynn as a nun, is a world away from how she started out.
She worked in a bank in London for more than 20 years, but became increasingly keen to do something more meaningful.
Lynn said: “I was on good money and enjoyed my job, but deep down it wasn’t fulfilling me. I wanted to care for others. I took a job in care home on Canvey and worked there for four years.” Although she cared for many elderly people nearing the end of their lives at the home, it was nothing compared to what she would face in Africa. In Zambia, where 65 per cent of people live in poverty, she found herself tending to men, women and children with diseases such as malaria, Aids, hepatitis and tuberculosis, who had no way of getting to Ndola for treatment at a main hospital.
Despite her stoic passion to care for patients, her placement in Africa wasn’t easy.
The story of one little girl who was brought into the clinic one afternoon is uncomfortable to hear.
“This little girl was brought in by her grandmother. She was very poorly. She had Rickets – a bone disease, was malnourished and close to death,” said Lynn.
“Her family were so poor, she had a black bin liner on as a nappy.
“We couldn’t give her pain relief, so this poor little girl was screaming in agony all night. I held her in my arms and she died at 6am.
“As I washed her body to get it ready for burial, part of her leg came off the bone. Her leg literally came off in my hand. That’s the reality. That’s how weak this little girl had become.
“If we’d had an ambulance to get her to the hospital, it could have been different. She certainly wouldn’t have had to endure so much pain and suffering.”
When Lynn returned to the UK in 2011 she began a fundraising campaign to secure an ambulance for the medical centre.
Her efforts ended with a second-hand vehicle, known as “Flossie”, being donated by the Canvey-based Thames Ambulance Service and being shipped out to the clinic.
Undoubtedly the vehicle has saved hundreds of lives, since it began transporting patients in Kavu to the main city hospital, but unfortunately the ambulance, which must negotiate miles of tough terrain every day, is now on its last legs.
“They desperately need another one out there. I’ve been working to try to find a business who will perhaps sponsor one, but no luck yet,” said Lynn.
Lynn is now preparing to enter the Domincian Missionary Sisters’ convent in Greenwich to begin her formation. After six months, she will become a novice and will be officially initiated into the life of the Dominican congregation.
Lynn hopes to one day return to her beloved Africa. Her eyes well up with tears as she reflects on her time so far from her Canvey home.
“I just miss Africa so much,” she said. It’s not often you meet someone so determined or sure about where they are in life as Lynn.
She says: “I suppose I’d say to others, do what your heart tells you to do. Listen to yourself and listen to God.”
If you have been inspired by Lynn’s story and would like to help get a replacement ambulance for Kavu, e-mail Lynn at email@example.com
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