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Author Archive for Administrator

Pressing for a Safer Future

 

 In a particularly memorable campaign led by Heeding God’s Call, several MMS, including some of our most elderly Sisters, helped to rally and hang t-shirts depicting victims of gun violence along Pine Road in Fox Chase.

June 13, 2018
 
Only three months had passed since her son’s death, but Associate Marge Sexton felt hopeful when she walked into a Philadelphia gun shop in March 2015. She stood in front of the counter just as her son Ron had three months earlier when he purchased the gun that he later used to take his own life.
 
She thought of this visit as an “unusual ritual,” something she felt in her soul that she needed to do as part of her healing journey. Instead of buying a gun, she read a heartfelt letter explaining how a routine and perfectly legal purchase had nevertheless turned her life upside down.
 
Accompanied by her husband, she read to everyone in earshot: “I am just another weary mom whose life has been upended by the tragic convergence of the easy availability of guns and Ron’s own depression that would cause him to come in here and walk out with a handgun, which is the worst thing imaginable.”
 
After she finished, she and her husband embraced each other in the parking lot and, together, they cried. Sometime later, Marge learned that another young man visited that same gun shop, purchased a gun just as her son had, and then walked out back to the shooting range and took his own life.
 
Tragic stories like these are what drive Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) and Associates to do their part in our nation’s battle to stop the epidemic of gun-related deaths and injuries. Of the 96 Americans who are shot and killed each day, seven are children and teens. Sister Vera Sheenan knows all too well the pain those children’s deaths inflict on families. In 1993, she was assigned to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Germantown, Philadelphia, where visiting mothers who lost children to stray bullets became a routine part of her mission. At one point, a ceremony was held in Center of the Park, where a tree was planted in honor of children who had died.
 
She recalls one experience that especially unnerved her: Meeting a mother who had already lost a son and Iater watched her four-year-old daughter suffer after a gunshot wound to the leg.
 
“Four-year-olds have these skinny little legs,” Sister Vera said, placing her thumb and index finger together in the shape of a small circle. “That affected me very deeply.”
 
Sister Vera left Germantown in 2006, but the images of those mothers’ pained faces stayed with her. It wasn’t long before she took action, joining other MMS in calling local lawmakers about safe gun legislation. They also protested with members of Heeding God’s Call, an interfaith grassroots movement to stop gun violence, outside of a local gun shop that was known to sell to “straw buyers” who then sold the purchased guns illegally. The link between this practice and the deaths of children in places like Germantown was not lost on Sister Vera. Eventually the picketing worked and the store stopped the practice, though it remains an all too common occurrence in the U.S. 
 
Medical Mission Sisters and Associates continue their efforts to shed light and raise awareness on the toll of gun violence in our communities.  They are deeply aware that most at risk are the neighborhoods who are particularly vulnerable due to poverty and disempowerment and all its implications.  “This degree of gun violence just doesn’t exist in other parts of the world,” says Sister Barbara Ann Brigham, who served for many years in Peru and India. “[In the U.S.], somehow poverty is just not the same. You can be poor and you can maybe get a gun or get someone to buy it. In other places poor people couldn’t dream of getting a gun.”
 
Understanding that gun legislation is a complicated, complex issue, MMS act with passion and compassion, in a living hopefulness that the world can be a different place, more whole, more loving.

Sister Immaculate Tusingwire

Attending the United Nations 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018 led Sister Immaculate Tusingwire to reflect on her own experiences with sexism. A native of Uganda, she grew up in a culture where women were expected to be subservient to men.

As an adult, Sister Imma says she wants to be a voice for other women. For four years she lived a quiet life as a member of a society of cloistered Carmelite nuns. Yearning to be a healing presence in the broader world, she later joined the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS). She was assigned to the South West of Uganda, where she helped with collating and editing the Unit Africa newsletter.  Discovering her passion for communication, Sister Immaculate earned a degree in communication from Tangaza University in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013. She is currently on a year-long stay in the United States where she is deepening her knowledge and skills by working in the communication department at the MMS headquarters in Philadelphia.

“Now as a communicator, I find that I can do advocacy,” she said. “There is a lot of healing that can take place with this work. There are so many possibilities that I have in mind.”  

Yes, Every Child

Medical Mission Sisters believe every child has a right to feel safe and cared for. Over the past few weeks, our Sisters have been busy making calls to local representatives and writing letters, in addition to packing items from our Thrift Shop to be given as gifts at a local immigration event.  Sister Philo Morris, who works for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on behalf of migrants and refugees, snapped this photo of a girl from Pakistan with her new purse.

Associate Camillia Falotico

She may seem a bit shy at first, but Associate Camillia Falotico is known throughout our Philadelphia headquarters for her warm smile and upbeat spirit. She has been a joyful presence here for 42 years. Working in the ministry of finance, she happily welcomes Sisters into her office, occasionally helping them with paperwork or simply exchanging a heartfelt hello.

From an early age, Camillia has enjoyed offering a helping hand. She credits her family for bestowing her with a good work ethic. Growing up, she frequently heard stories about her grandfather who, after emigrating from Naples, started his own business with a horse and wagon, even delivering the ashes to help build the Empire State Building and Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile, Camillia’s grandmother answered the business’s telephone calls and her mother managed the books and collected payments.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Camillia earned a degree in business administration from Philadelphia University and soon afterwards she replied to Medical Mission Sisters’ ad for a bookkeeping position. Camillia, who made a five-year Associate commitment in October 2017, now divides her time between work and caring for her elderly aunts.

She shares, “Over the years of working with MMS my life has been enriched. In the Sisters, I see the value of caring for people in many ways.”

Mission Changes, But It Never Ends

For a Medical Mission Sister, retirement is a vague concept-even our Sisters in their eighties and nineties can’t sit still for too long. When missions end, they carve out new ways to be a healing presence in the world. Sisters Patrice McSweeney and Patricia Gootee are two Sisters who, after decades of cherished missions in South America, continue to find ways to be fire and flame.

Sister Patrice McSweeney engages playfully with a child of one of her patients in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in 1987.

Sister Patrice McSweeney says she will never forget the day her youth ended. She was 60 years old, give or take a few years. As she drove into the barrio where she was working in Venezuela, the local children came running up yelling “Grandma! Grandma!” She scoffed at the idea but took a quick look in the mirror. “Goodness,” she thought, “Those kids are right!”
“That was my introduction to old age,” she recalls with a chuckle. Sister Patrice is in her 80’s now, and lives at our North American Headquarters, where she volunteers each week in the Mission Development Center. She walks with a cane, and her voice is soft, but it is worth leaning in to listen to what she has to say, often something funny.
Maybe Sister Patrice’s good humor is a natural part of her personality, or perhaps the result of contentment with a life well-lived. Born to American parents in Colombia, Sister Patrice lived in Venezuela as a young girl. Years later, after making her Final Vows as a Medical Mission Sister, Mother Anna Dengel called her aside. She was still trying to decide to which country Sister Patrice would go.
“Is there any reason you would not want to return to Venezuela?” Mother Dengel asked her. Sister Patrice stood as stiff as a board and answered with a simple “no.” On the inside, however, she says, “I was doing cartwheels!”
Sister Patrice would spend nearly 40 years in Venezuela, ministering as a rural health nurse and doing parish work. If she was sad when she left her mission she doesn’t say so. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if she had been.

Sister Patricia Gootee changes the tire on her car in Peru in this photo from 1995.

It took Sister Pat Gootee more than a year to get over the blues she felt after returning to the U.S. from more than 40 years of mission in Peru. Over time, her sadness became overshadowed by a feeling of joy. A trained nurse, Sister Pat’s legacy in Peru includes helping to end a smallpox epidemic that had periodically plagued villages throughout
the Caylloma province since the 17th century, and establishing the Anna Dengel Center, which serves preschool children and empowers local women.  She also co-founded the Community of Families and Comprehensive Rehabilitation (COHARI), which serves primarily low-income children suffering from cerebral palsy. When Sister Pat first arrived in the area, children ran away in horror – the only women with white skin and blue eyes they had ever seen were the witches in their story books. By the time she left, however, she had inherited a multitude of godchildren, many of whom still keep in contact with her.
Currently, Sister Pat lives in Camden, NJ, where she visits elderly people who live alone, all but forgotten by their busy relatives. She hopes to soon join an ongoing project working with Spanish-speaking people, perhaps something related to health.
“In Spanish we don’t say ‘retirement,’ we say ‘jubilación,'” said Sister Pat Gootee. “That means ‘a celebration.’ You have arrived at the point where you’ve been there, done that and you turn over what you have done to the younger people who are going to carry on what you have been doing doing it the same or better than what was done by me. That’s something to be joyful about, not something to be sad about.”

101st German Catholic Convention

Medical Mission Sisters from Germany and the United Kingdom recently attended the 101st German Catholic Convention, or Katholikentag, held in Münster from May 9-13. With tens of thousands in attendance, the convention is the highest representative affiliation of Catholic laypersons in the German Church. About 20 MMS and Associates participated, thanks to the efforts of Associate Petra Schrey. In addition to overseeing an MMS information booth,  they attended activities like meditative prayer, international mass, music concerts, dances, talks and forums.

Reflecting on the convention, Associate Linda Maog shares: “Together, we are invited to make some rippled-effect efforts for our world to be a better place to live in.”

Sister Christianne Gadiot

When a young boy named Michel entered the Casa de la Juventad in Lima, Peru, for therapy, Sister Christianne Gadiot was almost certain he would never talk. He was so spastic, his moves were “like jelly.” He couldn’t even look a person in the eye. Yet a day finally came when, after some therapy, he gave Sister Christianne a joyful surprise by uttering the words “mi mama.”

With each child that Sister Christianne helped to overcome their challenges, she saw more clearly that “these children understand more than they can speak themselves.”

A trained nurse from the Netherlands, Sister Christianne made her First Vows in 1995 when, while working as a district-nurse in Amsterdam, she was drawn to the combination of spirituality and health care she saw in our Community. After first serving as a nurse in a center for refugees, she was assigned to mission in Lima, Peru, working with persons living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to offering monthly retreats for people with the virus, she continues her work at the Casa de la Juventad and has been in charge of MMS integration process for pre-candidacy, novitiate and temporary vows in Peru since 2004.

Reflecting on her work with children with disabilities, Sister Christine shared: “I thank God for helping me see that my work with these children was a great need and I had something valuable to contribute.”

Sister Marie Ego

Marie Ego, a Medical Mission Sisters Associate and Sister of Loretto, didn’t have to think about her response when the late Sister Ellen Hummel, MMS, suggested she should go to Ghana to work at the Centre for Spiritual Renewal in the Kumasi Diocese.

“Oh no, not me,” she quickly replied.

The Holy Spirit must have moved her because, before she knew it, she and Sister Cathy Mueller, SL, were on their way to Ghana in 1986, where they gave six-week workshops on counseling skills, leadership development, management skills in personnel development and communication skills. Sister Marie returned several times and, in 1989, decided to make Ghana a more permanent home, living with our Sisters in Berekum for 18 years. 

After repatriating to the United States in the mid 2000’s she made her first trip back to Ghana in 2012 to conduct workshops on “Counseling the Victims of Sexual Abuse” for caregivers. Currently, Sister Marie lives in Kentucky and is a part-time pastoral care worker in the infirmary where Sisters and lay people receive care. She has self-published two books of original poetry. 

In 2015, Sister Marie made her life commitment as an MMS Associate, and shares, “I feel that I have grown a great deal in my understanding of health from my association with MMS…I value the focus on healing that is so much a part of the charism.”

Sister Ann Louise Smith

Deeply sensitive to the needs of others, Sister Ann Louise Smith has found fulfillment in a life of service as a Medical Mission Sister. Working as a home health aide for more than 20 years, she became trained as a cosmetologist so that she could better assist elderly women who could no longer care for themselves. Now retired, she remains the resident stylist for our elderly sisters in Fox Chase.  

 “… meeting the needs of other people, being of service, giving support, caring and listening are all part of our call to healing mission,” Sister Ann reflected. It was her call to religious life, she said, that allowed her the chance to develop meaningful relationships with the people in her care.

A native of McSherrytown, Pennsylvania, Sister Ann joined the Medical Mission Sisters in 1951. Before becoming a home health aide in 1979, she served for more than a decade in Pakistan and Venezuela, working as a housekeeping supervisor for three years at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, and later as a kitchen supervisor in Judibana.

Sister Ann shares with us: “It is in giving that I have received so very much. All of these women whose lives have touched mine have helped me to grow more deeply in my own spiritual life.”

A Call for Action to End Gun Violence

Medical Mission Sisters are women of peace, and women of action.  Fueled with the same fire and flame as our Founder, Mother Anna Dengel, MD, our Sisters today call for action on gun control, especially in light of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  The epidemic of gun violence sweeping our country is a public health emergency.  We join with thousands of others in the nation who are marching, boycotting and calling on their legislators for change!

Caption:  Medical Mission Sisters hosted the Memorial to the Lost installation which commemorated the 288 lives lost to gun violence in Philadelphia in 2014.

Sister Carmel Petonyak

Medical Mission Sister, Carmel Petonyak celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this month; she entered our Society in February, 70 years ago!  Sister Carmel was in mission in India for over 30 years, working as a floor supervisor at Holy Family Hospital, Bombay, as staff nurse and instructor at the School of Nursing at Holy Family Hospital, Patna, and as an English instructor and assistant to the novice mistress in Pune.  She currently lives at our North American headquarters in Philadelphia and assists in the Archives Department.

Sister Peninah Lilian Mukabwa

A cherished part of Sister Peninah Lilian Mukabwa’s routine is stepping out into her garden in the early morning hours, after it rains, and reflecting on the interconnectedness of the life forms she sees.  A Native of Kenya, Sister entered the Medical Mission Sisters in East Africa’s Umoja parish in 2011, eventually joining the Sunyani Community in Ghana, West Africa. Now back in West Africa after a six-month inter-Unit exposure in the Philippines, she is considering returning to East Africa to continue exploring her passion for organic farming. In 2013, Sister had started a farmers group to share the methods she had learned, along with the message of our interconnectedness with the Earth.  She had been troubled by how many local farmers were relying on less labor-intensive, inorganic methods, and by the easy availability of harmful chemicals. She recalls going to the market and seeing tomatoes with clear fungicide residue (likely the result of the farmer’s illiteracy) being sold to customers who had no option to buy healthy, organic produce. 

Sister Lilian reflects: “We totally depend upon the rest of the universe… We forget the real truth that we can’t take a breath without the trees and all the green growing things. We would have nothing to eat or drink without the cycle of water and rain.”

Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier

Medical Mission Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier was awarded by the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) for her “historic and immense contributions to Christian health service delivery in Ghana.” After being missioned to Ghana in 1961, Sister Fernande was instrumental in establishing clinics in multiple villages, often under difficult conditions. She continued her service to CHAG long after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 60.

Caption: A photo of Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier taken before she retired in 2016 at age 84. 

 

Associate Marie Conti

After graduating from Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia, Associate Marie Conti was convinced she should become a nun. The Mother Superior from the Dominican Order who interviewed Marie told her to take one year off to “explore life.”  Marie moved to Miami and after getting pregnant, returned for Philadelphia and made an adoption plan for her baby.

Over the next few decades Marie struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. During this time, she earned a degree from Wharton School of Business at University of Penn, got married, had a child, and got divorced five years later.   For 30 years she worked in healthcare and in risk management/patient safety.

In 1992, Marie entered a twelve-step program and learned about the MMS Peace Hermitages. For the next seven years she came to stay in the hermitages as often as six times a year, a key part of maintaining her sobriety. Through our Sister Jane Burns she learned about MMS Associates and made her first Associate commitment in 2011. Now retired, she devotes her time to ministries like the “Radical Hospitality” programs at Broad Street Ministry.

Marie shares: “The focus of my life has become service, as opposed to material gain. I desire to bring succor to a suffering world. To comfort God’s broken creatures, of which I am one.”

Associate Sister Selena Wilson, OP

Sister Selena Wilson, OP, describes 2016 as grace-filled and blessed.  This was the year she made her first commitment as a Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) Associate, and had surgery to remove her right kidney and a cancerous tumor.  Sister Selena shares that even though she had feared the worse, God’s grace showed her how to pour herself into her ministries at Holy Cross School, in the Heart-to-Heart program and Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP), easing her worried focus on her fate. 

A Richmond, Virginia native, Sister Selena served in the Army Medical Service Corps, earned a Temple University degree in Creative Arts/Recreation Therapy in 1984, and joined the Dominican Congregation. While caring for her ailing mother in 2010, Sister Selena had searched for a religious community nearby with whom to live.  After meeting with Sister Jean Mouch, MMS, she knew she would be happy living with the MMS Community.  She now lives with Sister Lucy Klein-Gebbinck, MMS, in Camden, NJ.

Sister Selena shares: “I believe we take our ‘healing presence’ with us or rather, it’s just a natural part of who we are. God had a plan all along and I’m so glad he chose me to experience such a glorious and strong healing presence in the spirit of Anna Dengel and the Medical Mission Sisters.”

 

NEWS

Medical Mission Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier was awarded by the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) for her “historic and immense contributions to Christian health service delivery in Ghana.” After being missioned to Ghana in 1961, Sister Fernande was instrumental in establishing clinics in multiple villages, often under difficult conditions. She continued her service to CHAG long after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 60.

Caption: A photo of Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier taken before she retired in 2016 at age 84. 

Sister Lorraine Ryan Receives Golden Rule Award

Medical Mission Sisters congratulate Sister Lorraine Ryan, who recently received the Golden Rule Award from the Catholic Realtors & Real Estate Professionals of Boca Raton, Florida.  The award was given in recognition of her work against poverty. After serving 15 years in India, Sister Lorraine founded Women’s Circle, which offers classes and job development services to almost 300 immigrant women each year.

Caption: Sister Lorraine Ryan poses with Bishop Barbarito at the award ceremony.

Entering a New Year

Medical Mission Sisters enter 2018 with faith and hope.  In this coming year, may we all move even more deeply into the love of God, with joyful expectation of healing and transformation!

 

Sister Christiana Hanssen

Medical Mission Sister Christiana Hanssen has found a special way to combine her two passions: being a healing presence and dance. Born in Essen, Germany, Sister Christiana studied dance therapy after entering our Community in 1981. She describes feeling attracted to “how ’normal’ [the Sisters] lived religious life.” During her 18 years participating in the healing mission with the Sisters in Frankfurt, Sister Christiana worked with people in dance and movement. It was during that time that she became aware of how life is mirrored in the physical body of people in brokenness, pain and disabilities, so she opened a space for sacred, meditative dance. Her goal was to help her students “experience themselves and also find new ways to live their relationship with God.“

Sister Christiana shares: “I learned more of how the ‘soul’ or life circumstances also find an expression in the body and I felt the desire to help people more on the bodily level and to accompany them on their way towards healing.”

In 2004, Sister moved to our Community in the Bottrop/Ruhr area and began working as a part of a mobile physiotherapist team, mostly with home-bound people.  She now works in private practice, primarily treating those suffering with chronic illnesses including cancer.

 

Resilience in Venezuela

Medical Mission Sisters continue praying for the people of Venezuela who are experiencing economic crisis. Our Sister Maigualida Riera helps to run a Solidarity Kitchen in Barquisimeto and recently reported that the inflation rate has risen above 1,000 percent. For one month’s food supply, she now spends as much as she previously would have spent in a year.  Sister Maigualida describes “an economic catastrophe, which threatens the life, health and dignity of our people, especially the poorest.” 

 

Associate Kristyn Malek

A graduate of Sister Miriam Therese Winter’s Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary, Kristyn Malek was committed to being a healing presence even before making her first Associate commitment in October 2017. Her faith in something greater than herself, in the omnipresence of the human spirit, saw her through tragedies she encountered and guided her through a life of being a healing presence to others who are in pain.

Kristyn works as a hospice aide, helping those leaving behind the life they have known look forward to the life their spirit will become. When her daughter recently lost her partner, Ben, to addiction, Kristyn launched a new ministry through painted stones. On the stones, she transcribes words of hope: “you are not alone,” “you’re a rock-star,” “keep on swimming.” She places them in a pouch to give to people like the woman struggling with guilt over her addiction who read her blog, SOS-Stones of Support, and found a message of healing. 

Kristyn shares: “My life’s work is comfort and dignity. I try to remind people that all that matters is that you were loved and cared about, no matter if you fell short, because we all fall short sometimes.”

Kristyn Malek

A graduate of Sister Miriam Therese Winter’s Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary, Kristyn Malek was committed to being a healing presence even before making her first Associate commitment in October 2017. Her faith in something greater than herself, in the omnipresence of the human spirit, saw her through tragedies she encountered and guided her through a life of being a healing presence to others who are in pain.

Kristyn works as a hospice aide, helping those leaving behind the life they have known look forward to the life their spirit will become. When her daughter recently lost her partner, Ben, to addiction, Kristyn launched a new ministry through painted stones. On the stones, she transcribes words of hope: “you are not alone,” “you’re a rock-star,” “keep on swimming.” She places them in a pouch to give to people like the woman struggling with guilt over her addiction who read her blog, SOS-Stones of Support, and found a message of healing. 

Kristyn shares: “My life’s work is comfort and dignity. I try to remind people that all that matters is that you were loved and cared about, no matter if you fell short, because we all fall short sometimes.”

Associate Kathy Powers

It was perhaps by chance that Associate Kathy Powers noticed the small ad for a housekeeper tucked away on the bulletin board at St. Timothy’s Church, nearly covered by other notices. Her eyes zeroed in on the words “Medical Mission Sisters (MMS).” For Kathy, the ad couldn’t have come at a better time. In addition to working full time at ACME, she had cared for her father as he battled cardiovascular disease from 1987 until his death in 1999. When he died, she wondered what was next.

Arriving for her interview, Kathy watched as the Sisters made their way out of Mass – she knew in her heart that she was in the right place. The next 14 years would be transformative.  “Through the years of my coming to know the Sisters personally, the ‘fire and flame’ in them has been ignited in me as well,” she said. Kathy, who now also serves in the post office in our administration building, made her first Associate commitment in October 2017 . She also is a healing presence to Sisters and other residents at Immaculate Mary Home.

Kathy shares, “Because of MMS, I’m more open-minded and approachable. I’ve learned to listen without judging, to not give advice when it’s not needed. MMS has given me purpose.”

New Leadership in North America

Medical Mission Sisters are pleased to introduce our new leadership in North America! The team of five Sisters was elected on November 19, 2017. Pictured from left to right are Sisters Sue Sopczynski, Mary Kirkhoff, Unit Coordinator Frankie Vaughan, Margaret Moran, and Katherine Baltazar. They will begin their new roles on February 1, 2018. We are deeply grateful to our outgoing team, Sisters Maria Hornung, Patricia Lowery and Helen Lembeck for their tireless guidance and support the past three years.

A Message of “PAZ”

Medical Mission Sisters are pleased to announce the release of our 2018 Calendar! This year’s cover features a sweet little boy from Venezuela holding a colorful, hand-made sign with a hopeful message: “PAZ” (“peace” in English). We’re so honored to share our Sisters’ and Associates’ missions and ministries with you! To request your free copy, contact the Medical Mission Sisters through the link on our website.

Associate Lucia Kehr

Sometimes Medical Mission Sisters Associate Lucia Kehr, born in Germany, reminisces about how alien she felt when she moved to Argentina years ago.  The difficulties of acclimating to a new language and culture were overwhelming at first. Fortunately, she knew people who helped her start her new life.

Now Lucia is returning the favor. A pastoral assistant in Darmstadt, Germany, since 2011, she works with a church group to help newly arrived migrant women find their way in Germany, just as her friends did for her in Argentina. Lucia shares: “Many of [the migrants] are now enriching our community. My goal is to integrate people into this work as ‘bridgebuilders’ to overcome strangeness and distrust and to build up an attitude of good neighborliness.”

Recently, Lucia worked on a project called “Religions for Peace” to foster interfaith dialogue. She is thankful for the “spirituality of the Medical Mission Sisters” for helping her to become a healing presence for others.

“As an MMS associate I try to encounter people with all their riches and their wounds as I accompany them in their life journey,” Lucia said. “Yes, I am wounded and also healed. As I walk through life now I feel I am becoming the woman God wants me to be and loves.”

A New Day Dawns

 

Medical Mission Sisters are pleased to announce the release of the third CD of the five-volume Sacred Folk Music Project, a collection of Sister Miriam Therese’s songs.  Artists include Melba Moore, Janis Ian, and Medical Mission Sisters, and others, interpreting these beautiful, poetic songs that comfort us, challenge us, and always lead us to God.

Associate Marge Sexton

 

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.”

Global Mission Sunday

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.

25 Years of Healing Presence in Uganda

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.

Sister Eunice Cudzewicz

A Chicago native, Sister Eunice Cudzewicz entered the Medical Mission Sisters in 1962. She earned a B.A. Degree in Biology from the College of Notre Dame and went on to serve as a project director and team member for Management Design Inc., while remaining active in communications and formation work for our Community.

In 1974, Sister Eunice moved to Savannah, Georgia, to become a public health worker. After earning a nursing degree from Armstrong State College, she spent seven years as a staff nurse for a primary health care clinic in rural Lumpkin, Georgia, leaving temporarily to help in the refugee camps in Thailand during the Cambodian refugee crisis.  From 1985 to 1994, she was the Membership Promotion Coordinator at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia and she now serves as our Society Communications Coordinator.  A gifted artist and musician, she participated in the redesign of our Chapel and is active in liturgy preparation and liturgical dance.

Sister shares: “…let us be bold dreamers and dream a world filled with compassion, dream an end to violence and war, dream our Earth renewed and cherished. Let us love with the love that believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Let us be filled with the very power of God to be a healing presence in the heart of our wounded world.”

Associate Karol Feld

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.

50 Years of Healing Presence in Ethiopia

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.” 

Sister Gaudencia Nafula Wanyonyi

Born in a small village in Kenya, Sister Gaudencia Nafula Wanyonyi is the second of eight children. A nurse-midwife, she made her First Vows in 1990 in Malawi where she completed her formation as a Medical Mission Sister. As a young nurse, Sister Gaudencia reflected, “Mission means being an active presence of Christ the Healer to those the Lord has put in my way, mostly those who suffer…it means being compassionate and kind, and showing that you really care.”

Sister has served in Nangina Hospital, Kenya, and in Techiman Hospital, Ghana. In 2006, she began working in Ang’iya, Kenya, as one of the pioneers of the Primary Health Care Program at the Good Shepherd Dispensary, a new mission in Kenya. Located near Lake Victoria, of the 350,000 people in the clinic’s service area 54% live below the poverty line.  The residents are grateful for the services provided at the clinic, including the 70 plus women who participate in the support group run by Sister Gaudencia. Sister also leads the Kids Club support group for children who are HIV-positive and in treatment at the health center. She was elected District Coordinator for East Africa in 2011.

Sister Gaudencia recently celebrated her silver jubilee and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Community Health and Development.

Sister Joan Chunkapura

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.

2017 North American Jubilarians

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

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.”

Update from Our Sisters in Venezuela

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.”

Sister-Doctor Stella Theruvil Honored by the Indian Medical Association

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!

Sister Monika Ballani

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

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.

Sister Evelyne-Mathilde Mballa’s First Vows


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.

 

Sister Colette Beru

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.

 

MMS On President’s Decision to Withdraw from the Paris Agreement

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

Associate Maureen Pryjma

Associate Maureen Pryjma’s journey with Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) began when she joined our Society right after high school.  Although the New Jersey native “loved the spirituality of the Community,” Maureen left before making Vows.  She says, “After almost 50 years, I still miss those two years with MMS that continue to center my spirituality and belief in the goodness of people, and the need to make a difference in their lives and my own.” 

After graduating from Cornell University in New York with her BSN, Maureen worked in coronary care.  In 1970, Maureen married Phil Pryjma, who recently also became an MMS Associate.  The couple has seven children—four biological and three adopted from Vietnam, Korea and Peru. 

During the 1980s, Maureen earned her Master’s degree in social work and became the Clinical Director for Eagleton School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, an all-boys psychotherapeutic residential school.  Maureen remained with the school until it closed in 2016.

A life-long commitment to enrich her spirituality led Maureen back to MMS.  She attended the Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, taught by our Sister Miriam Therese Winter.  In 2015, she made her first Associate commitment.  Maureen reflects, “I have always been about compassion, but now I see that I am taking the time to nurture my own spirituality and healing.”

Sister Edith Dug-yi

Born in Ghana, West Africa, in 1956, Sister Edith Dug-yi was the sixth of 10 children.  Before entering the Medical Mission Sisters in 1991, she worked as a public health nurse for 10 years.  For 20 years, Sister was in mission in Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya.  She served in formation ministry in Kenya for seven years.

In 2010, Sister Edith returned to Ghana and joined the staff at the Center for Spiritual Renewal in Kumasi.  Begun by Medical Mission Sisters Ellen Hummel and Jean Salgot, and a Missionary of Africa priest, the Center has had a pivotal role in the formation of African Christians since the early 1970s.  Sister Edith shares, “As a community member, I have grown in a deeper sense of belonging, not only to my immediate community, but to the Society as a whole. More and more, I also see myself as a child of the world, and not just to my family or a particular nationality, and so what affects the world affects me.”

Sister Edith recently served as our Community’s District Coordinator for West Africa.  She combined this important internal ministry with her special spiritual formation ministry at the Center for Spiritual Renewal.  In 2015, she was elected to our new Society Leadership Team in London.

Sister Abhaya Thekkan Earns her MSN/Nurse Practitioner degree

Medical Mission Sisters in North America congratulate our Sister Abhaya Thekkan on her recent graduation from Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Sister, who earned her MSN/Nurse Practitioner degree, made her Final Vows as a Medical Mission Sister in 2012.  A former Carmelite Sister, she received her BSN Degree, also from Jefferson University, in 2015.  Sister Abhaya asks for continued prayers so that she may be a healing presence to those whom she meets in her onward journey.

Caption: Congratulations, Sister Abhaya on your MSN/Nurse Practitioner degree!

Sister Eugine Mary Simon

Born in a coastal village in Tamil Nadu, India, Sister Eugine Mary Simon, who entered our Community in 2000, says being a healing presence comes from looking within.  “One thing is to realize my own woundedness.  When I am able to do this I am able to recognize the need for healing,” she shares. 

Sister Eugine Mary was a part of our Chapter Communications Team and has also edited our South Indian newsletter, Spandan. She is currently in Philadelphia preparing to become our next Society Communications Coordinator.   When she completes her training, she will return to India for a few months, and then move to London, England.

Prior to coming to Philadelphia in January, 2017, Sister Eugine Mary worked for seven years in South India, among the dalit women and children.  The people in this area are migrants; they do not own land and are always looking for work.  A social worker by profession, she helped identify the needs of the villagers, providing social and pastoral support in her desire to help build a healthy community.  She focused on the youth and children, working through education, leadership development programs, catechism and the “Youth and Children’s Parliament.” She warmly shares that some of the people she helped are still in contact with her today. 

Spring 2017 Associate Commitments

Medical Mission Sisters in North America joyfully celebrate the recent commitments of seven Associate members.  Making first commitments were Karol Feld, Phil Pryjma, Fran Pelham and Loretta Cody.  Carole Roberti, Mary Taylor and Selena Wilson, OP, made commitments for five years.  We warmly welcome our new and re-committed Associates who share our Community values and commit themselves to live as a healing presence wherever they live and work.

Caption: Associate Fran Pelham and Sister Joan Foley on the eve of the commitment ceremony.

Newsletter: A Further Step Towards Transforming Our World

Click here to read A Further Step Towards Transforming Our World

Associate Helen Hryniuk

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Associate Helen Hyrniuk has always had a desire to help people.  “Throughout my life,” she says, “there is a thread of service to others.”  After attending an open house at the Philadelphia Police Headquarters in 1971, she developed an interest in the Philadelphia Police Department and worked as a dispatcher from 1973 to 1989.

In 1989, Helen earned a spot in the Philadelphia Police Academy at the age of 34. After four years as an officer, she was promoted to Detective.  In 2008, Helen retired from the Philadelphia Police Department, and fondly reminisces, “I was blessed to work with some extraordinary people and formed friendships that would last a lifetime.”  After 35 years in various positions with the Police Department, she was ready to embark on the next chapter of her life.

Participating in a faith-sharing group in 2000 had opened Helen’s ears and heart to hear the “whisper of God.”  This experience encouraged her to explore her faith further.  Reading books and engaging in retreats and various programs were a turning point in deepening her spirituality.  Helen, who now works part-time at the Medical Mission Sisters’ Thrift Shop shares, “Working with the Sisters, I am constantly impressed by their dedication and spirit.”  A member of our on-campus choir, Helen became an Associate member in 2013.  She says, “God has been so good to me throughout my entire life; I cannot forget to thank Him for all the blessings He has given me.”

Sister Gabriela Ehrlich Turns 101

Medical Mission Sisters in Essen, Germany, recently celebrated the 101st birthday of Sister Gabriela Ehrlich.  Born in 1916 in Klagenfurt, Austria, Sister Gabriela completed her medical training in Slovenia and Italy, and before joining the Medical Mission Sisters in 1954, specialized in pediatrics in Bologna, Italy.  Sister worked at our Holy Family Hospitals in Mandar, India, and Techiman, Ghana, and helped to facilitate the founding of Attat Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1967.  Congratulations to Sister Gabriela, who is our oldest Medical Mission Sister!