German-born Sister Kristina Wolf recalls, “[At the age of 13] I was totally clear about working in and for the Church because I was very much attracted to Jesus and our faith.” Before entering our Community in 2002, she earned degrees in nursing, theology and pastoral psychology. She made her Final Profession of Vows in Germany in 2010.
Sister Kristina’s current ministry is at the Center for Christian Meditation and Spirituality in Frankfurt. The center was established both to help those who are very engaged in their parishes reconnect with their spiritual sources, and to provide an opportunity for spiritual exploration to those who are not “insiders” of the Church. Sister Kristina is involved in individual spiritual guidance and a special group that trains people to guide others in meditation and contemplative prayer.
For a few hours a week, Sister Kristina meets with patients at a psychiatric outpatient clinic, helping them learn to cope better with their daily life difficulties through awareness and meditation. In addition to her spirituality ministry, Sister Kristina is the head of the Council of the Religious in the Diocese of Limburg, accompanies our Associate Members in the Frankfurt area, and has been a member of the Germany District Assembly for over ten years. Last year, Sister Kristina was elected the new Unit Coordinator for Medical Mission Sisters and Associates in Germany.
Born in Kerala, India, in 1969, Sister Regy Augustine Peringarappilly, a lawyer by profession, also works part-time as a social worker. She made her First Vows in 1998 and her Final Vows in 2003. In Kottayam, Kerala, South India, Sister Regy had been involved in mediation, especially in family cases, and has held awareness classes for women’s and children’s rights. Noticing the alarming rate of involvement with the crime among the youth, Sister feels compelled to help, believing that “children are a supremely important national asset.” As a lawyer she can offer her expertise when the juveniles are brought into court and accused of “all sorts of crimes.”
Working with another Medical Mission Sister, Sister Regy helped implement a project for HIV- affected people in Idukki and Kottayam. When participants initially were reluctant to connect with one another, the Sisters organized awareness classes and offered counseling to overcome the stigma of the disease. “The participants developed a feeling of oneness in the group and valued the need for coming together to support each other,” shares Sister Regy. She adds, “As we acted as an instrument of God among them, they became physically and mentally more healthy and capable of maintaining their lives with hope and self-esteem.”
Sister Regy is a determined advocate for women’s rights. She has been designated by the Social Welfare Department of Kerala to provide legal service for distressed women. Since 2013 she has been serving as a “Legal Counselor” in one of the service providing centers, helping women affected by domestic violence. Recently Sister was selected by the district hospital and medical office to serve on two committees which investigate and take action on the complaints of women experiencing sexual harassment in their workplace.
Medical Mission Sisters and Associates are celebrating the 125th birthday of our Foundress, Anna Dengel. Born on March 16, 1892, in Steeg, Austria, Anna was the oldest of nine children. Because her own mother died when she was a young girl, she was especially moved by the unmet health, education and development needs of women, wherever they happened to live. Anna continues to be an inspiration to many and has greatly contributed to the health and hope in people’s lives around the world. Following her vision, and with gratitude to her, we continue to be a healing presence to tens of thousands in need in our wounded world today.
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.
Born in Bataan Province in the Philippines, Sister Betty Mathay received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and her CPA at the University of the Philippines. In 1968 she entered our Community, and made her First Vows the following year at age 30.
After serving as District Treasurer in the Philippines, Sister Betty was missioned to the Brayat Minulyo Hospital in Surakarta, Indonesia, where she served until 1992. During those years, she was a member of our Society Finance Team, and also our Coordinator in Sector East Asia.
When Sister Betty returned to her native country, she wanted to work at the grassroots level and had a strong desire to do pastoral care. “From the very beginning of my religious life, I saw my participation in our healing mission doing pastoral care as just being a loving person, giving my smile and having an understanding heart for all,” she says.
Sister Betty ministered in the southern part of the Philippines in several hospitals, and became part of the hospital ministry of the diocese. For four years, she was co-chaplain with a priest in the Zamboanga City Medical Center. After transferring to the northern Philippines, she continued to do pastoral hospital visits, and visited homebound patients, bringing them Holy Communion when needed. She also was involved with formation of Pre-candidates and Sisters in Temporary Vows. Now living in Quezon City in the Philippines, Sister Betty is part of a team helping Medical Mission Sisters become better known and our mission more widely supported.
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.”