The Verbist Care Centre (VCC) stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM Fathers) to alleviate the suffering of abandoned children in Mongolia.
With its doors first opened in 1995 in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, the VCC has provided a safe haven for approximately 46 boys and girls aged 2 to 18. Among them, the older children attend school, while the younger ones receive both education and care at the centre.
Particularly poignant in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is the addition of a psychologist to the centre's staff, reflecting a holistic approach to the children's well-being.
In an interview with Vatican News' Linda Bordoni, Fr. Charles Phukuta, the Superior General of the CICM Congregation, shared his perspective on the VCC's vital role.
"I believe it's a great ministry," he said. "It's a wonderful service to the young children, of course, their families, and in general to the society at large."
He emphasized that the VCC's roots trace back to the very essence of the CICM congregation, with its founder's deep involvement in similar child-centered ministry in Inner Mongolia, China.
Fr. Charles also recounted the historical significance. "Our founder was already involved in this kind of ministry in Inner Mongolia, which is China today, and it was one of the reasons, in fact, he left Belgium to go to China for the care of those same abandoned children there in that time of history."
This commitment to addressing the plight of abandoned children drove the founder to leave his homeland and embark on a mission to Inner Mongolia, establishing a legacy that the VCC proudly continues.
Further than just the capital city
Reflecting on the congregation's ongoing efforts, Fr. Charles expressed his satisfaction that the CICM's journey has come full circle, rekindling their initial ministry focus.
"I'm glad that the CICM, coming to Mongolia, come back to that initial ministry of CICM from the very beginning of our congregation to do this kind of work that we are doing here in Ulaanbaatar."
Moreover, he revealed that the CICM's outreach extends beyond Ulaanbaatar, reaching Erdenet as well, where the congregation operates a kindergarten and engages in social work, cultural initiatives, and education.
Parish life and ministry
Fr. Charles clarified that the congregation's religious and parish activities are distinct, with a different category of confreres serving in each capacity.
"Parish life and religious ministry are separate," he said. "This is the Saint Thomas Aquinas Church." The church, although attended by a relatively small number of locals and diplomats stationed in Mongolia, remains a cohesive community, uniting diverse individuals in their shared faith.
Excitement fills the air as Pope Francis' imminent visit to Mongolia draws closer.
Fr. Charles shared, "All the confreres are excited about the Pope coming to Mongolia to show his closeness... they have been waiting for this very moment."
He highlighted the active preparations by the congregation members, who are deeply engaged in various aspects of the upcoming event, from liturgy to logistics.
Compassion and hope
The Verbist Care Center stands as a beacon of compassion, echoing the CICM's historic commitment to caring for abandoned children.
Through their dedication, the congregation perpetuates their founder's mission and provides a nurturing environment where vulnerable children find solace, education, and hope.
As Pope Francis' visit approaches, the congregation's enthusiasm reflects the profound impact of their ongoing work in the lives of Mongolia's most marginalized youth.