Sister Ruth Lewis passed away in Karachi on the 20th of July, 2020. With her passing, the children of Karachi – especially those faced with the challenge of mental and physical disabilities – have lost a kind and loving source of support.
A nun of the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King, Sister Ruth worked for over 51 years, taking care of children with disabilities who had been abandoned by their families.
It was no surprise that she became known as Pakistan’s “Mother of the Forgotten”. In February 1969, she helped with founding the Dar-ul-Sukun: a home for those facing mental and physical disabilities.
The home was founded by a Dutch nun, Sr. Gertrude Lemmen: “Visiting Pakistan in her young days, she was deeply moved by the plight of children with disabilities who were found deserted on street corners or in/around garbage pits in the city.”
When Sr. Gertrude passed away in 2000, it was Sr. Ruth who stepped in to continue her work and oversee the Dar-ul-Sukun. The organization describes its growth:
“From a single home for children with disabilities, Dar ul Sukun has grown phenomenally over the years. The initial expansion was natural and demand driven – special cases presenting at Dar Ul Sukun needed a separate place and could not be merged together in one place as needs and care requirement of each individual resident were different. Thus, a network of homes developed in Karachi and then expanded to other cities as well. In Karachi, a home for socially displaced girls and women as well as a home for senior citizens was established. A home for orphaned and displaced boys was also established in Quetta, which began operations by the end of 2007.”
It was under Sr. Ruth’s leadership that the construction of a new modern building for children with disabilities was completed in 2004 at Dar-ul-Sukun.
As the Coronavirus pandemic spread across Pakistan, Sr. Ruth continued to lead from the front – even with 21 children having tested positive for Covid-19. She continued to care for the 150 people at the home but on the 8th of July, she had to be hospitalized. Placed on a ventilator, she passed away on the 20th.
The Dar-ul-Sukun home expressed their grief on Facebook:
“All our children, nuns and staff are heartbroken, as we have lost a huge part of us. Please pray for the children to whom she has been a mother, for the nuns for whom she was a sister and a true inspiration, and for all the staff who love her and will each day try to walk in her footsteps.”
Figures from all walks of life have paid tribute to her life of faith and service.
Fr. Nasir William, director of the local Commission for Social Communications, conveyed the condolences of the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese to her family and friends. “You will be missed every day,” he said.
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said:“Pakistan has lost a great asset.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail noted:
“Karachi [will] always remember her selfless service for differently abled and socially displaced children and elderly.”