Born in Clarkson, New York, Associate Bonnie Buongiorne’s special bond with horses led her to found Ray of Light Farm in 2000. Ray of Light serves as a special animal-assisted therapy center and large animal rescue farm in East Haddam, Connecticut. “I didn’t know what it was about horses; I simply knew that I felt good when I was in their presence,” Bonnie shares.
The idea for the farm came when Bonnie was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer at the age of 39. “I made a promise to the universe, that if I survived, I’d do something good with the rest of my life.” Bonnie’s connection to Medical Mission Sisters began when she was taught by our Sister Miriam Therese (MT) Winter while attending Hartford Seminary’s Women’s Leadership Institute in 2001. Bonnie lovingly reflects, “The day I learned of the MMS charism of healing presence, I bought the farm!”
An Associate member since 2004, Bonnie continues her work at the farm and is also a licensed massage therapist. She says, “I hope that my hands will be instruments of healing.”
Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) have long been passionate about improving the lives of women and advocating for their well-being. On March 8, we stand with others around the world in observing International Women’s Day. Since the early 1900s this day is considered a national holiday in many countries. Thousands of events occur throughout the month of March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. For 92 years, MMS have advocated equality and opportunities for women on the five continents in which we serve.
Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations join others around the world in observing “World Day of Prayer” on March 3. Begun by Christian laywomen, it is now observed by people of many faiths on the first Friday of March. All are invited to join in prayer and action for peace and justice. Its 2017 theme — “Am I Being Unfair to You?” — is a call to open our minds, hearts and hands in response to the violence and injustice in our world.
Caption: Women of different nations take turns preparing the Prayer Service distributed each “World Day of Prayer.” In 2017 the women of the Philippines have the honor.
Medical Mission Sisters join many others in strongly objecting to President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive orders barring refugees and banning nationals of seven nations from entry into the United States. As an international Community of 500 Sisters and 100 Associates of 23 different nationalities we see justice as integral to our mission of healing. We treasure the dignity and potential of those who are made poor and are denied justice. They are the ones who will be most affected by these executive orders. We echo the words of Pope Francis, “We are all children of God.”
Photo credit: Melanie Lidman at GlobalSisters.Report.org
Our Society Coordinator, Sister Irene Fernandez, has been involved in a variety of healing ministries since she became a Medical Mission Sister (MMS). Born in Kerala, India, she grew up in Singapore, and learned about MMS through a vocation leaflet her sister was using as a bookmark in an Agatha Christie novel. She entered our Community in India in 1972, and made her First Vows in 1974. She first worked in the community health department in Mandar, India, and in various positions at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar. Sister Irene shares, “Healing as a way of life, a way to wholeness and fullness of life, was from the depths of my heart a personal call and a commission.”
Upon moving to Germany in 1980, she worked with youth and refugees, and was also responsible for our district finances for seven years. Sister Irene then studied pastoral counseling in Chicago, Illinois, where she earned a Master’s degree. She returned to North India and became involved in formation and finance work. Additionally, she served in several leadership positions for our Community in North India, and also as our Sector Coordinator for Asia.
Sister Irene was Coordinator of our Holistic Health Center in Pune for several years, a valuable ministry that helps people of little or no financial means experience what health and wholeness can mean. In her passion for making a difference in the lives of others, she initiated the partnership venture at Kurji Holy Family Hospital Patna in which Medical Mission Sisters and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth together oversee health care services. The Archbishop of Patna applauded this partnership as a “first of its kind” which many other Congregations are now following. Sister Irene lives at our International Headquarters in London.
Sister Carol Reed recently celebrated 25 years as a Medical Mission Sister in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she has been in mission since 2002. She describes her Silver Jubilee celebration there as a very joyful day of poetry, singing and dancing.
Born in 1946 in Massachusetts, Sister Carol has her BA in American Studies from Smith College, a certificate in Elementary Education from the University of Alabama, and a Master’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. She entered the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) in 1988, made First Vows in 1991 and Final Profession of Vows in 1998.
Teaching Spanish literacy to indigenous Triqui women in Oaxaca, Mexico, for two years, was Sister Carol’s first mission. She then moved to San Diego, California, where she taught English as a Second Language at the American Language Institute for International Students. Sister also served as vocation promoter in our Western District and spent some time in prison ministry.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is Sister Carol’s current home; she teaches English in Cathedral High School, produces textbooks for grades one-to-four and supervises the English teachers. Sister greatly enjoys teaching English and writing to the seminarians at St. Francis Seminary, the major seminary for the country. She also teaches academic writing to second-year philosophy students. Sister Carol is the first contact person for women interested in MMS in Ethiopia, and is active in vocation promotion activities. She shares, “I try to approach others with non-judgmental compassion and be the healing presence of Christ in whatever way that is possible.”
Medical Mission Sisters, Associates and partners in mission joined hundreds of thousands of women, men and children at the Women’s Marches in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City on January 21. A deep concern for the rights, health and welfare of all women and girl children has always been a primary focus of our mission. We “stand with” women of all races, faiths, ages and nationalities in expressing the importance of treating women with dignity, respect and as equals with men. As the March organizers stressed, there can be no true peace in our nation and our world without justice and equity for all.
Caption: Sister Miriam Therese Winter describes her experiences as a transformative moment – a quantum leap into a renewed and collective commitment to liberty and justice for all.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Associate Yira Infante is an integral part of the Medical Mission Sisters’ life and mission in Barquisimeto. At our Solidarity Kitchen, which serves nutritious lunches six days a week to 150 people, she assesses need, and ensures that the most vulnerable families are included in the lunch program. Yira, who made an Associate commitment in 2010, also works at a school for children with special needs, and lovingly accompanies them and their families through the struggles of daily life.
Yira is a practitioner at the Medical Mission Sisters’ Holistic Health Center in the parish compound of Jesus of Nazareth. She says fondly, “Being an Associate of Medical Mission Sisters has led me over the years to feel healed, as I’m helping others to heal, through my work with children with disabilities, parish youth and alternative therapies.” She adds, “God has given me a very specific calling: ‘To be a healing presence at the heart of a wounded world’ and I try every day to be faithful to this commitment with all my life, giving myself with generosity, offering what I have, serving with my potential and limitations, just being a good Christian.”
Medical Mission Sisters join with the larger Church in marking National Migration Week. Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of ‘encounter’ in the Christian faith saying, “Faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others.” Our Sisters in London are reaching out to the refugees pouring into the UK from Syria and other parts of the world, in addition to caring for their homeless neighbors.
Caption: Sister Jyoti Kujur encourages the outstanding drumming skills of a homeless man, whom she brought to play for the St Mungo’s Diwali celebration in one of London’s hostels.
Sister Delipher Magola was born in 1984 in Malawi. The fifth-born of eight children, she has three sisters and four brothers. Attracted to the Medical Mission Sisters’ charism, Sister Delipher began her formation in 2005. She shares, “I wanted to touch other people`s lives and be happy like the Sisters. When I visited the places our Sisters were in mission working with women and children here in Malawi, I was inspired to do the same.”
At Malawi College of Accountancy, Sister Delipher obtained a certificate in Financial Accounting (CFA). She also completed her BA in Sociology. In 2009, Sister Delipher made her First Vows and was missioned to our Primary Health Care Center in Rubanda, Uganda. In Rubanda, she helped dispense medicines and oversaw maintenance of the health unit and its repairs. She also assisted with bookkeeping and vocation promotion efforts for our Community.
In 2014, Sister Delipher studied social work and administration in Kenya. After receiving her degree and then taking time for home leave, she joined the group of Medical Mission Sisters who re-opened our mission in Malawi. Today, she works as an Assistant Lecturer in the Social Work Department at the Catholic University of Malawi. She also is on the team for Student Integrated Support, which helps students realize their goals and empowers them with the necessary skills to solve problems and manage the learning process. Sister shares that she enjoys her work and is happy to be serving others according to her ability and professional skills.