Born in Kerala, South India, Sister Joan Chunkapura entered the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) in 1963. Sister reflects, “My journey as an MMS in South India has been a meaningful, pleasant and fulfilling experience mainly because I found mission as the very essence of my life.” In 2015, she celebrated her Golden Jubilee.
After earning her B.Sc. in Nursing, Sister Joan was assigned to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital School of Nursing in Kerala, then went to Nangina Hospital, Kenya, where she served as Assistant Matron. She also was Nursing Supervisor at St. Thomas Hospital School of Nursing, Chethipuzha. Sister received her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Psychology in New Delhi in 1980.
Trained in de-addiction and family therapy in the United States, Sister Joan became a pioneer in the treatment of addicts by opening de-addiction centers in Kerala. Currently, she serves as director/principal of Total Response to Drug and Alcohol Abuse (TRADA) Institute in Kottayam. TRADA works at the grassroots level offering leadership training for dalit and tribal women; reproductive and child health programs; education for children in schools and colleges; information and guidance clinics on HIV/AIDS; and training programs in counseling, pastoral care and Alzheimer’s-related disorders.
Medical Mission Sisters in North America celebrated the Diamond and Golden Jubilees of eight of our Sisters on August 15 at our Community’s North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of their First Vows were Sisters Joan Foley, Maria Hornung, Patrice McSweeney, Joan Marie Doud and Phyllis Backer. Sisters Judy MacDonell, Rosemary Ryan and Mary Kirkhoff celebrated their 50th anniversaries. Together, these Sisters have served 450 years among the sick and poor in Pakistan, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi, Venezuela, England, Kenya and the United States.
Caption: Congratulations to our eight North American Jubilarians!
Associate Mary Taylor first came to know the Medical Mission Sisters through her relationship with Associate Ray Mattern. “The first time I attended liturgy, I sensed a gentle nurturing presence,” she says.
After years of struggling with alcohol addiction, Mary’s wake-up call came after she was arrested for drunk driving. “I was so scared, and felt hopeless. I knew I needed help, so I asked for it, and found help in a twelve-step program.” After 12 years of continuous sobriety, the New Jersey native reflects, “The worst thing that happened to me turned into the best thing that happened to me. I have a personal relationship with a higher power. My spirituality is essential to my recovery.”
A customer service representative at FedEx, Mary spends much of her free time helping others. She mentors women in prison, many of whom are in jail because of drugs or alcohol. Mary also works as an interfaith minister and serves on the advisory board at the School of Sacred Ministries in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Twice a month she leads an interfaith service on Sunday mornings at a drug and alcohol rehab. In 2016, Mary made her first Associate commitment, and says she hopes to grow spiritually and learn more about herself and others by stretching beyond her comfort zone. She shares, “I want to deepen my relationship with God.”
Medical Mission Sister Maigualida Riera reports from Venezuela that “the heart of life keeps beating in the midst of the tensions and uncertainties.” Our Sisters and Associates continue to promote life and peace by supporting families to plant vegetable gardens, offering space for reflection and community prayer, painting murals of hope and respect, and guiding the youth through music, art and dance, giving them the opportunity to cleanse themselves of the recent violence, and to recover their own peace, joy and life.
Caption: A man who observed the boys and girls shared, “Sister, thank you for this activity. I have felt very traumatized by the tragedy that happened in our market, and today, I felt liberated by the energy of the children. I know now that it is worth it to stand up and continue living.”
Medical Mission Sisters share the wonderful news of Sister-Doctor Stella Theruvil’s recent award. Sister was honored by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for her lifelong service and as a best physician. When receiving her award, Sister Stella thanked all, especially our Foundress Mother Anna Dengel and the Medical Mission Sisters. Born in 1937 in Kerala, India, she made her First Profession of Vows in 1960, and then studied medicine at Lady Harding Medical College in New Delhi. Sister Stella currently works at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, Bharananganam, as a physician and alternate therapist. Congratulations on your award, Sister Stella!
Born in Potsdam in the former East Germany, Sister Monika Ballani was a Medical Mission Sister Associate member from 2003-2004. She then became a Canonical member of our Society, and in 2006 made her First Profession of Vows. Sister Monika made her Final Vows in March 2013.
Sister Monika works in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany, where she is a social manager, coordinating and organizing pastoral care activities for persons with disabilities, especially those who are deaf, and with women in the center for counseling. Sister shares lovingly, “I learned Sign Language 18 years ago, which gave me the opportunity to communicate directly with my deaf aunt in the last decades of her life.”
Working with those with special needs, Sister Monika and her team invite handicapped persons to retreats, travels and projects. She says, “We sing, pray, dance, do handicrafts, and do group work. Everyone can become involved using the abilities they have. The disabilities are still there, but the pooling of different potentials weaves a web of support in which everyone can contribute.” She warmly adds, “For me, it is worthwhile to live this mission to make visible how special and wonderful God has created everyone, and to celebrate the gifts and talents of all.”
Sister Aquinas Hamilton is a fervent advocate of justice for the poor. After 42 years of mission in India, she began working with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, traveling to the state capital to successfully promote increasing the state minimum wage. A member of our Justice Co-mission, she says, “Real health is not possible without justice. Justice and health go hand in hand.”
Born in New York City in 1927, Sister Aquinas entered our Community in 1946 and made her Final Vows in 1954. An R.N., Sister was missioned to Holy Family Hospital in Patna in 1953, where she became a registered nurse-midwife and served on the nursing staff. In India, she worked in various hospitals as outpatient supervisor, the supervisor of public health in the villages and as Acting Director of the Nursing School at Holy Family Hospital (HFH) Mandar. After returning to the U.S. to earn B.S.N and M.S.N. degrees, she returned to HFH in New Delhi in 1970 as the Director of the Nursing School for six years. She then taught at the HFH School of Nursing in Mandar until 1995.
More recently, Sister Aquinas expresses her passion for peace and justice by participating with Heeding God’s Call, a multi-faith movement committed to decreasing the flow of handguns from legal gun shops to the illegal market. She has demonstrated at a local gun shop to deter potential buyers. Sister makes phone calls and sends letters to local representatives who may be able to influence gun control and lets the politicians know she is praying for them every day.
Medical Mission Sisters were thrilled to celebrate with Sister Evelyne-Mathilde Mballa her First Vows made on June 18, 2017 in Philadelphia. Fulfilling a childhood desire to be a missionary, Sister, who was born in Cameroon, Africa, made her commitment in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by family, friends, Sisters and Associates. Energetic and enthusiastic, with a desire to improve the lives of those made poor, she has registered degrees in social work and is currently volunteering at Catholic Charities in Camden, New Jersey.
Passionate about teaching and helping women, Sister Colette Beru started a women’s group in the town of Sunyani, Ghana, where she has been living for several years. While attending Mass one day last year, she noticed the women sitting in a separate section from the youth and the men, not interacting. She approached the women with the suggestion of coming together to form a women’s group.
This now vibrant group holds sessions on personal hygiene and cleanliness, family life, and the importance of education for the children. They are learning how to make soap and other household items for their own use and to sell in the market. Sister Colette warmly reflects, “It is amazing what God can do when two or three are gathered with a common purpose.”
Born in the Upper West region of Ghana, Sister Colette entered our Community in 1998. After making Final Vows in 2002, she was assigned to Techiman where she taught and also was a vocation promoter. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Religious Studies and Education from the Catholic University College Fiapre, Sunyani, in 2008. She later studied Educational Administration and Management at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
In addition to her women’s group work, Sister Colette continues teaching and assisting in the local parish. She also serves as the Pre-candidate Formation Coordinator of Medical Mission Sisters in Unit West Africa.
Medical Mission Sisters believe all of nature is sacred, connecting us to the holy, and connecting us to God. In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, our United Nations Representative, Sister Celine Paramundayil, spoke to “Global Sisters Report.” She shared, “Let this challenge unite the world to do more for a better world. The good news is that there are more good people in the world who care for the common good — our Mother Earth.”
Caption: To read Sister Celine’s full interview with “Global Sisters Report,” visit: http://globalsistersreport.org/news/environment/sisters-join-chorus-denouncing-trumps-climate-move-47101