Sister Elona is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.
A native of Middlefield, Ohio, Sister Elona joined our Community shortly after graduating from Villa Angela Academy in Cleveland in 1952. She remembers,“I had an interest from about the eighth grade or so where I wanted to help people, go into nursing, and make some contribution as a missionary.”
Sister Elona and her good friend, Sister Celine Bernier, both became R.N.s at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J., and were missioned to Pakistan in 1959. She says, “We didn’t really know what to expect…we were just asked to go where the need was greatest.” She worked for a year at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi as a nursing supervisor, then became certified as a midwife and served for four years at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi. She returned to Rawalpindi for several years as Director of Nursing Services.
In 1968, Sister Elona came back to the U.S. and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Duquesne University. She returned to Holy Family Hospital in Karachi as Director of Nursing Services. In 1978 she became Administrator of the 225-bed hospital – a position she held for 21 years.
“It wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of support from the staff and the doctors…the Christians, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Farsi, we always had that spirit that we would work together as one,” she shares. “We received so much from the people, who are such a happy people with great faith, in spite of their poverty and the simplicity of their lives. They, even the government, respected us and supported our work.”
Sister Elona repatriated to the U.S. in 2009, and is currently living near our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, where she volunteers at our Thrift Shop. Looking back on her missionary life, she says, “Being compassionate, caring, open to people and their needs is being a healing presence…if I had to do it again, I think I would be ready to do it. I think we have gained more than we have given from our experience. It’s been very enriching.”
December 15, 2011