When Marge Sexton’s sister died from breast cancer, not much younger than their mother who had died from a heart attack at 42, she listened to Sister MT Winter’s song “Come down, Lord” more times than she could count. Decades later, when her son died by suicide on Christmas in 2015, the Medical Mission Sisters and Associates were there to try to soothe even a small portion of the ache in her heart.
An activist by nature, Marge felt determined to channel her own pain, no matter how overwhelming, into meaningful action. By starting a support group called Moms Rising Together, she is able to engage with other mothers struggling with the same grief. Going a step further, she started The Ron S! Charitable Fund to honor her son by raising money for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Given her innate instinct to be a healing presence for others, Marge recently made her first Associate commitment on Sunday, October 22.
“I was extremely attached to my son; I’ll never get over it. But I want to be healthy and I want to be happy,” Marge said. “Using my grief, turning it to a healing presence, makes me more aware of the pain of the world. Being with others in their pain is what I can do now.”
Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) have a deep resonance with Global Mission Sunday, occurring this year on October 22. Our Foundress, Anna Dengel prayed that “the needs and sufferings of humanity must find an echo in our hearts…” Core to our MMS life is a daring loyalty to respond to the needs of people of our time; our approach to global mission comes from a heart sense of presence to the whole world. As Sisters and Associates we stay engaged in the brokenness of our world, with profound listening to the Spirit within us, within those whom we are called to serve and within the whole of creation.
Medical Mission Sisters note with joy the 25 years of service of our Sister Janet Harbauer at Uganda Martyrs Hospital in Lubaga, Uganda. As a key administrative staff person, she is on call 24-7, helping with all aspects of building needs for the hospital, school, staff and guest quarters. Sister Janet, a native of Perrysburg, Ohio, also helps secure and administer school fees for needy students and mentors several of them to help them get the most from their education.
Born in San Jose, Costa Rica, North American Associate Karol Feld shares, “I love the idea of being a healing presence. Inspiring others is great.” In 2015, Karol attended one of our The Way of The Healer workshops in Philadelphia, led by Sister Miriam Therese (MT) Winter. Remembering she had sung the songs of MT in grade school, she believed she was meant to connect with our Community.
After graduating from high school in 1974, Karol attended college in San Jose, studying business with an emphasis in marketing. She met her husband-to-be while he was in Costa Rica on vacation. Married in 1985, the couple has two daughters and lives in Philadelphia.
While working for a counseling agency as an authorization manager, Karol developed a knack for computers. Her husband encouraged her to use her computer skills to teach. When an opportunity opened up at a local Catholic high school, Karol happily accepted the position. In addition to 11 years of teaching digital and computer applications, Karol also taught Spanish for two years and was the activities coordinator for nine. She now works at Sr. Hubert’s High School teaching graphic design part-time and also works in the school’s office.
Medical Mission Sisters recently celebrated 50 years of healing presence in Ethiopia. Our Sisters began their mission in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa with a small medical clinic. Attat Hospital in Attat, a little over 100 miles away, was built two years later and has grown to include departments for women with at-risk pregnancies, and malnourished children in addition to general medical and surgical services. Approximately 300 patients also are treated daily at the outpatient clinic. German Sisters Erna Stocker-Waldhuber and Walburga Kupper, who spent many years in Ethiopia, were among those who enjoyed the celebration.
Caption: Sisters Walburga (left) and Erna (right) share, “To see the development of the hospital from the initial small emergency room to today’s clinic with integrated health care, to meet an enlightened population, for which healthy life is a high value, fills us with much gratitude and joy.”
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!