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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Medical Mission Sisters celebrate with Sister Miriam Paul Klaus upon her receipt of the Anton Neuwirth prize in Slovakia in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Sister Miriam Paul’s model for teen sexuality, Teen STAR (Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility) in Slovakia. Sister Miriam Paul has shared her approach to healthy and safe teen sexuality in over 30 countries around the world.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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!
Many years ago, Mother Anna Dengel caught a glimpse of Sister Patrice McSweeney walking past her office and called her aside. Was there any reason, Mother Dengel wanted to know, that Sister Patrice wouldn’t want to return to Venezuela, where she had lived as a young girl, for her first mission assignment?
Sister Patrice recalls: “I just stood there like a poker and said ‘no, there’s no reason at all.’ On the inside, I was doing cartwheels!”
She would go on to spend nearly 40 wonderful years in Venezuela. She first went to Maracaibo, then to Caripito, where she served as a nurse. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Puerto Rico. Afterwards, she went back to Venezuela, this time working in Barquisimeto, helping deaf and handicapped children in Barrio La Paz to receive an education. In 1999, Sister Patrice repatriated to the United States after she “came down with a bug.”
“The Lord knew that was the only way to get me back here. I loved everything about Venezuela,” Sister Patrice theorizes. It took her about six months to recover and, afterwards, she became active in pastoral ministry, visiting the sick, and working as an office aide for a literacy center. Sister Patrice now volunteers part-time in our Community’s Mission Development Center.
At an early age, Sister Pauline Sadiq’s father showed her the importance of being interconnected with the Earth. The eldest of seven children raised in Sindh, Pakistan, she spent her early childhood crawling around in clay, playing with it and using it to make toys. Her father was a farmer, and he brought home fresh vegetables for supper each day. She loved the way that he always walked barefoot across the Earth, soaking up its positive energy.
“This energy made him gracious and a peaceful person,” Sister Pauline recalls. “I am proud to be the daughter of a farmer.”
Entering the Medical Mission Sisters in 1992, Sister Pauline made her Final Profession of Vows in 2002 after training as a nurse-midwife at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi. For ten years, she served in our dispensary in Faisalabad and helped to found the Lahore Community in Pakistan. In addition to serving as formation director, she regularly visits the “bonded” workers forced to work in the brick kiln to pay off family debts.
Sister Pauline shares: “I am challenged to be a voice of the voiceless. I need to trust myself and believe that I am God’s beautiful daughter. God is dwelling in me and is my co-journeyer. Then I will become the voice of the voiceless.”