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Sister Helen Marie McGrath

Sister Helen Marie is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Sister Helen Marie graduated from Holy Name High School. In Cincinnati, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Mount St. Joseph College, became certified as a medical technologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, and worked at Charity Hospital for eight years. She remembers, “I thought I was being called, summoned, I wasn’t quite sure where… when I came to visit the Medical Mission Sisters, their simplicity of life and joy attracted me.”

Sister was assigned to Holy Family Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, where she served for 43 years. She worked in the lab for about 20 years, then turned over her position to two professionals she had helped to train. She was already teaching microbiology in the School of Nursing; in the mid-1980s, she began teaching full-time. She recalls, “I taught physics, chemistry, microbiology and human development and I was consulate for the students also, lots of 17-year-olds!”

She adds, “Our time with the students would go so fast. But when I would see the girls walking up on graduation, I could not believe the happiness. Not only had they grown, but they had matured and really become professional women.”

The people of Pakistan are mostly Muslim, and Sister Helen Marie remembers that, at Holy Family Hospital, “We were always known for taking everybody, whether they were Muslim or Catholic or Protestant or on the staff, it was all the same. We all worked together.” She was also involved with the St. Joseph Association, a mostly Christian group that provided burials for people from low-income families.

Even though she lived through times of political instability in Pakistan, Sister Helen Marie said she never felt really afraid. “The people were very kind to us. And we never, ever felt anything like the people were against us.”

She adds, “Healing presence isn’t just a one-way street. Sometimes people are there when you need them, and you try to be there when they need you.”

Sister Helen Marie repatriated to the U.S. in 2009. After completing a period of renewal, she has been volunteering at our Thrift Shop in Philadelphia.

August 15, 2010