Archive for ARCHIVES/Healing Presence

Sister Dolores Kannampuzha

In the early 1970’s, Sister Dolores Kannampuzha came upon a group of police officers in the town of Kottayam in Kerala, South India. Their batons raised, they were clearly intent on beating several local women engaged in prostitution. When Sister Dolores stepped in the way and asked them to beat her instead, the officers walked away.

“The war ended for the time being,” Sister Dolores said. “At that time what came to my mind was the Gospel story of the adulterous woman. The crowd and all those who came to stone her put down their stones and went back one by one. Jesus and the woman left at the end.”

Since entering the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) in her native Kottayam, in 1952, Sister Dolores has devoted her life to helping the most marginalized members of society, including those incarcerated and those without homes. Since its founding in 1999, she has led the Cancer and AIDS Shelter Society (CASS), helping to spread awareness of AIDS/HIV as well as provide homecare and life-saving treatment. On a recent International Women’s Day, Sister Dolores was honored by the Kottayam YMCA as an outstanding woman in social work. In summer 2018, when South India was hit by a devastating flood, she and other MMS in the community opened their facilities to survivors and helped to distribute food, clean water and other supplies.

Associate Dr. Erika Voss

There was a time when Associate Dr. Erika Voss wrote secret letters to the Medical Mission Sisters. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her parents worried about her moving too far away from home. After attending Marquette University and securing a summer job in the local County Hospital, she realized how strongly she wanted to be involved in the medical field. Eventually Dr. Voss’s parents accepted the idea of her leaving home and she entered MMS on her 21st birthday in 1949. She completed medical studies in 1956 at Georgetown University and afterwards served as a physician and surgeon in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Uganda. In the U.S., Erika joined two other MMS in Rossville, Tennessee, helping the Poor People’s Health Council establish their clinic. In 1974 Erika left the official MMS community and, returning to Wisconsin, she spent six years in a rural community that had been without a doctor for twelve years.  She later worked in an inner-city clinic which served the poor and volunteered at a medical clinic for those without homes. Now retired, Erika Voss has been an MMS Associate since 1984. Her activities center around helping with projects at a homeless clinic, being a medical consultant at a local food pantry, doing water quality testing in the river and gardening. She shares, “The two greatest gifts I have received in life are my two families: The one I was born into and Medical Mission Sisters.”

Sister Angelika Kollacks

As a child, Sister Angelika Kollacks moved from Canada to Austria, and then from Austria to Germany. Music and singing were the only constants in her life and they are still her passion today. After entering the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) in Essen, West Germany, in 1972, she studied music and gestalt-therapy. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1992, Sister Angelika went to Berlin with Sr. Michaela Bank to establish a counselling center to help lower-income people improve their level of wellness. She also worked as a music therapist for local women and, in 1995, she graduated with distinction from the Fritz-Perls Institute in Music and Gestalt Therapy.

Today, Sister Angelika has her own music therapy practice, where clients might experience one of several healing techniques involving the use of sound, like lying down in what looks like a canoe, which has ten strings on each side that are played to elicit the sensation of being held.

“I rely on God being present in every person, and I trust in the healing power inside everyone,” Sister Angelika shares. “Music touches us on a deep level and evokes memories, emotions and different worlds. It helps us to connect with the spiritual ground in ourselves, with the cosmos, with God.”


Sister Evelyne-Mathilde Mballa

A native of Cameroon, Sister Evelyne-Mathilde Mballa was a healing presence long before she became a Medical Mission Sister (MMS). She earned social work degrees in Cameroon and later in France, where she eventually became a citizen. Through her positions with various governmental and nongovernmental agencies Sister Evelyne has worked with marginalized groups including migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, indebted individuals and families and HIV-positive pregnant women. She has also worked in child protection services and with those suffering from physical and mental disabilities.

When she first encountered Medical Mission Sisters in Ghana, their mission of being a healing presence resonated strongly with Sister Evelyne. She reached out to our Community, moved to the United States and joyfully made her First Profession of Vows in 2017. Today, Sister Evelyne is engaged in a “ministry of presence” in Camden, N.J., where she is a healing presence to refugees at Catholic Charities Services, helping them to settle into new apartments, teaching them English, and comforting their children as they adjust to their new environment.

“My heart is joyful and refreshed whenever I meet those kids,” Sister Evelyne reflects. “I am also filled with hope knowing that I am beholding the next American generation, because the integration of newcomers in America has been the soul of America and has built the American dream for centuries.”


Sister Emily Kottaram

A native of Kerala, South India, Sister Emily Kottaram was deeply affected by her parents’ compassion for those on the bottom of the country’s caste system. Her parents “planted the first seeds” of her desire to become a world citizen, eventually leading her to join the Medical Mission Sisters in 1966. After earning a degree in nursing, Sister Emily was inspired by Mother Anna Dengel’s call to “go to places where no one wants to go.” She spent nine years volunteering for a pioneering Primary Health Care ministry in Abease, a remote village in Ghana.

Sister Emily reflects: “Those years have a very special place in my heart. They are stories of growth, mutuality, letting go, conversion, empowering others, entering lives of people, and learning the richness of their culture, being loved and accepted.”

She came to the U.S., she earned a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. She later served in the ministry of initial and ongoing formation and in district administration in South India, and today she is formation coordinator for the Cochin community in South India. She cherishes her experiences, reflecting that the people she has journeyed with enriched her life, helping her fulfill her dream of becoming a “global citizen.”

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.”  

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”


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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)

Helping others express themselves in a non-violent way is one of the hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to those in need today.

Sister Barbara Ann Brigham believes very much in the importance of living in a non-violent way. To enable others to do so, she has become very active in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).

Started in prisons in the United States in 1975, the Alternatives to Violence Project is dedicated to reducing the level of violence in our society. It introduces persons to ways of resolving conflict that do not resort to physical, mental or emotional retaliation as the only solution.

AVP is an association of community-based groups and prison-based groups. They offer experiential workshops in conflict management, responses to violence and personal growth. The national organization provides support for the work of these local groups and keeps them updated on resources that have been proven to help others in especially stressful situations.

Sister Barbara Ann, who is fluent in Spanish, began her AVP work when she was in mission in Peru. Today she is a trainer for the Alternatives to Violence project and conducts workshops with prison inmates; with a team at New Jerusalem Now, a residential recovery program founded by our Sister Margaret McKenna; and with residents of Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, where Sister Barbara Ann lives.

The workshops use the shared experience of participants, interactive exercises, games and role-plays to examine the ways in which we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behavior and violence. It helps participants learn to understand why they feel the way they do when confronted with these realities. An AVP workshop then teaches participants how to manage anger and fear; how to deal effectively with risk and danger; how to communicate well in difficult situations; how to understand why conflicts happen, and more.

Sister Barbara Ann says, “Our society has so much violence in it, anything we can do to stop it is good.”

March 1, 2013

Philadelphia Thrift Shop

Serving our neighbors through a local thrift shop is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Our Philadelphia Thrift Shop, located at our North American Headquarters at 8400 Pine Road, plans a grand re-opening on Monday, May 17, 2010. The store hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Sisters invite everyone to the “Same Place, New Face.”

Sister Joan Foley will have overall responsibility for the Thrift Shop. Sister Joan founded and directed the Connections employment assistance program and also started its thrift shop in New Port Richey, Florida. Sisters Helen Marie McGrath, Elona Stanchak, and Silva Zuzek are all involved with the Thrift Shop. Two men from the neighborhood, Bob Perry and Dennis Fisher, have been volunteering their time and help.

The Thrift Shop is selling a variety of items at low prices – new and gently used clothing, bric-a-brac, jewelry, children’s toys, books and CDs, shoes, and some electronics. Eventually we hope to sell items made by people in the areas around the world where our Sisters are in mission.

Sister Joan says, “A significant area in the Shop is devoted to the life and work of Medical Mission Sisters. It’s another way to inform people about what we do in the world, the people we serve, and who they are.”

The Thrift Shop gives people the opportunity to recycle old or unused items. Donations of new or “gently used” items from our neighbors and friends are always welcome. Proceeds help to raise money for our healing mission in 17 nations, including the U.S.

May 1, 2010

Celebrating 200 Years in Mission

The four Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating Golden Jubilees in 2010 represent a combined 200 years in mission.

On June 13th, we are honoring four Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 50th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows in 2010. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks. A Mass and reception is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

Sister Therese Hayes, a native of Norwalk, Connecticut, served in Ghana as an administrative assistant in hospitals and religious organizations in the towns of Berekum, Techiman, and Kumasi. After returning to Philadelphia in 1972, she got involved in prison volunteer work and other human services, including caring for the children of working mothers. In 1976, she became Prison Chaplain and Counselor for Philadelphia County prisons. Twelve years later, she joined ActionAIDS as an “AIDS Buddy,” a ministry she continues today.

Sister-Doctor Miriam Paul (Hanna) Klaus was born in Vienna, Austria, and raised in the U.S. An obstetrician/gynecologist, she served at Holy Family Hospitals in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh. She taught at St. Louis University and George Washington University, and was Ob/Gyn Director for three years at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. For the past 30 years, Sister has been Executive Director of the Natural Family Planning Center in Washington, D.C., and of the international TeenStar (Sexuality Teaching in the Context of Adult Responsibility) education program, which she developed.

Sister Marguerite Papineau, from Holyoke, Massachusetts, is celebrating 50 years of vowed life, 20 as a Medical Mission Sister. As a Daughter of Charity, Sister taught high school in the U.S. and Iran. She also served in Beirut, Lebanon. After receiving her nursing degree and joining our Community, Sister Marguerite was a nurse and teacher in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan. When she returned to the U.S., she coordinated our Samaritan Lay Missioners Program, became very active with our Associates program, and was a volunteer teacher in an impoverished area of Philadelphia. Certified as a chaplain, she was a holistic health practitioner for many years. She currently serves as our Membership Promotion Coordinator.

Sister Sylvia Strahler, a nurse-midwife, will celebrate her jubilee in Faisalabad, Pakistan. A native of Suffield, Ohio, she has spent almost all of her missionary life in Pakistan. She was a nurse and ward supervisor for many years at Holy Family Hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi. In Mirpurkhas, she served as a nurse and taught midwifery, facilitated maternal and child welfare programs, and trained local dhais (lay midwives) in health care. She has been in Faisalabad for 21 years, directing a community health project and serving as our District Coordinator in Pakistan.

June 1, 2010

Healers of Mother Earth

Caring for the earth at a Philippine eco-center is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

The Cagayan Valley in Northern Luzon is one of the hottest, driest areas of the Philippines, with summertime temperatures over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Sister Yolanda Durian is in mission there in an eco-center called HOME (Healers of Mother Earth). The center is a place where people in the valley can learn how to care for their environment. It also has a clinic that offers alternative healing modalities.

HOME is surrounded by the rice fields of poor farmers who formerly depended on rain in order to plant rice. When the rains came, they were able to harvest once a year, but they did not have enough water for the necessities of life. Sister Yolanda explains, “These farmers and their families worked so hard, but were still poor, sickly and undernourished. Their children were not even able to go to school.”

The people working in HOME discovered a free-flowing, underground stream that could be harvested to supply clean water, not only to the eco-center, but also for the farmers and their families. “If the poor farmers are able to plant and harvest more often, they will be able to eat enough to keep them healthy,” Sister Yolanda says.

With the help of a generous donor, our Sisters were able to use wind and solar energy to bring the underground water to the surface and harvest it. This system will permanently supply the water needs of the eco-center and the farmers.

Sister Yolanda adds gratefully, “The eco-center teaches people how to care for and heal the Earth, and make proper use of the bounty of the Earth like water to keep them healthy. It also supplies the farmers with clean water for their daily needs, and for watering their rice fields and gardens. When people are able to harvest from the work of their hands, they are able to eat and maintain their health…a healthy environment makes people healthy, and water is indispensable to a healthy life.”

June 15, 2010

A Decade of Service at the United Nations

Working for justice at the United Nations is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Philo Morris recently completed a decade of service at the U.N. in New York, and is now returning to India. Her ministry began in 2000, when our Community received consultative status with ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. This council coordinates the U.N.’s work in economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related fields.

An attorney who also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, Sister Philo helped to start a NGO (non-government organization) Committee on Financing and Development, which she chaired from 2004 to 2008. Now with 74 member organizations, this group helps poor countries develop their economies and better deal with critical issues like HIV/AIDS, debt and poverty. Along with a small group of environment NGOs, Sister Philo started a Working Group on Climate Change in 2009, which now has 65 member organizations.

In her U.N. ministry, Sister Philo collaborated with Church World Service, Anglicans at the U.N., Pax Romana, Voices of African Mothers, MDG (Millenium Development Goals) Global Watch, and the Vihara Foundation which works in India. She also served as Co-Chair of the Earth Values Caucus, a NGO focused on sustainable development and on infusing ecological values into the U.N. agenda, documents and processes.

“I believe we are the voice of the voiceless in an arena where policies are made which affect every living being on our planet earth,” she explains. “The work at the U.N. was very challenging for me, and I am very grateful to the Society for entrusting this important aspect of our mission to me.” She adds, “I never worked so hard before, and never travelled so much…I loved every moment of it.”

We thank Sister Philo for her many contributions at the U.N., and we welcome her successor, Sister Celine Paramundayil from India, who begins a three-year term at the U.N. this month. A nurse-midwife and educator, Sister Celine was our first Sister to work with the poor dalit women in India – those in the lowest social strata. We wish her many blessings in the U.N. ministry.

July 1, 2010

Training Home Nurses at Kurji Holy Family Hospital

Training nurses to care for patients at home is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

For the past ten years, a three-month home nursing course has been offered at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, India. The course consists of two months theory and one month practice. Sister Anne Irene Rodriquez explains, “We have both men and women on cases and they are really appreciated for their services to the sick, lonely, bed-ridden patients, most of whom are older people.”

Sister Anne Irene and her co-workers keep in touch with the families where the home nurses are assigned, and also visit some families monthly. She says, “This is much appreciated and welcomed. Some of the families have expressed their gratitude and told us that Kurji Holy Family Hospital has not only given us nurses to care for our loved ones, but has also come to our doorstep.”

Many doctors, nursing homes and hospitals in Patna send those who need home nurses to Sister Anne Irene and her co-workers. “Many of our patients in Patna have relatives across the country and also abroad, thus we are also known in the international circles,” she explains.

Sister Anne Irene reflects, “Through this service which we render to many home bound cases, we make the cause known of our healing charism and ministry….We have helped many with job opportunities once they have completed the course, and they in turn have helped their families, made themselves self-reliant, and have been able to educate their children…we continue to be channels of God’s healing to many through our home nursing services.””

July 15, 2010

Celebrating 430 Years in Mission

The eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating 60- and 65-year Jubilees in 2010 represent a combined 430 years in mission.

On August 15th, we are honoring six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 60th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows this year, and two who are celebrating their 65th anniversary. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks. A Mass and brunch is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

60 years:

Sister Julia Burkart, a native of New Orleans, served in hospital admissions in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and worked in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as a librarian and social worker. The recipient of both a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Sociology, she taught on the faculty at several universities in the South. In recent years, she helped homeless and imprisoned women, and others in need, in New Orleans and Tucson. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she is involved in social justice work.

Sister Jane Burns, who grew up in Jersey City, NJ, has Master’s Degrees in English and Liturgy. She taught our novices in Philadelphia and England, and served in Dacca, Bangladesh. She learned Bengali music and poetry, and translated the liturgy from Latin to Bengali. She also taught in the Philippines, where she was our local superior, and in India, Pakistan, Africa, Latin America, the U.S. and Europe. In the 1980s, she founded our Peace Hermitage ministry in Philadelphia, where she resides today and offers spiritual companioning.

Sister Anna Mae Doran, a native of Jordan, NY, is a nurse-midwife who cared for impoverished mothers and children in Patna, Mandar, Bombay, and Kerala, India. After studying public health, in the 1970s she ministered as Coordinator at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, and with the Bihar Voluntary Health Association. She spent over 20 years serving in various health projects for women and children in Philadelphia; Anderson, South Carolina; Americus, Georgia; and Gainesville and St. Petersburg, Florida. She now lives in Philadelphia.

Sister Pat Edelen, a Baltimore native, worked in hospital pharmacy and administration in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, she ministered in the towns of Savannah and Lumpkin, Georgia. She returned to Philadelphia in 1985 and served at a local parish, and on many of our committees. She is currently the Hospitality Coordinator for our Administration Building in Philadelphia.

Sister Jean Murray, a native of Philadelphia, served as a secretary to our Foundress, Mother Anna Dengel, and in a number of positions in our Community. She taught young people in Philadelphia, and was an instructor of office practice in Limbe, Malawi. When she returned to the Philadelphia area in 1988, she taught literacy and English as a Second Language. She then worked in Archives at our North American Headquarters.

Sister Andrea Serafini, a nurse from Renovo, Pennsylvania, served in India for 27 years, in Thuruthipuram, Kottayam, New Delhi, Bombay (now Mumbai), and Patna. She was a hospital administrator, educator, and coordinator of health programs helping impoverished people in the slums. Living near Harrisburg, PA, she has worked with mentally challenged adults at Goodwill Industries for over 20 years.

65 years:
Sister Mary Conahan is from Bethlehem, PA. She did publicity work for our Community, spent ten years in Rome as part of our leadership team, and taught English to nursing students in Karachi, Pakistan. After returning to the U.S., Sister Mary studied clinical pastoral education, then worked as Assistant Chaplain in a center in Phoenixville, PA, and as a counselor at a clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has lived and served in Philadelphia for 19 years.

Sister Catherine Shean, a native of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is a pioneering nurse-midwife who taught at and directed the Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe for over 20 years. She also was in mission in Africa for 25 years, serving in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. When Sister Catherine returned to the U.S., she taught at a clinic in Tucson. Today she is retired in the Philadelphia area.

August 1, 2010

Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

Helping vulnerable Ethiopian children is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Ethiopia today, about 5.4 million children are orphaned, living and working in the streets. Sister Senait Mengesha, in her work as the Social Rehabilitation Unit Coordinator of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat (ECS), is helping to respond to their needs.

“There are 36 orphanages run by the Catholic Church supporting about 5,000 orphans, and 31,000 children are supported at the community-based project level,” Sister Senait explains. “Some of these community-based projects are combined with pre-school education and school feeding programs.”

With the availability of anti-retroviral drugs, some of the AIDS orphans are living longer than expected, and have started school at a much later age. Sister Senait says, “The need for careful planning as to how to rehabilitate them and reunite them with the community is now a timely issue.”

Sister’s ECS Unit is also working with families at the parish level, to enhance family values and “lessen the pull and push factors at the household level that lead children to street life.” Volunteers from parishes in Addis Ababa were identified by the ECS and trained by the African Child Policy Forum. Each parish has a four-month action plan, to create awareness concerning child abuse and neglect, and to eventually create a means of social support for children in great difficulty.

Sister Senait feels strongly that, “Children with inadequate or no family support need material and moral guidance and support. They have the right to survival, growth, development, protection, and participation.”

August 15, 2010

85th Anniversary of Medical Mission Sisters

Still pioneering at 85, Medical Mission Sisters celebrate our Foundation Day.

On September 30th, over 650 Medical Mission Sisters and Associates around the world will celebrate the 85th anniversary of our Community’s founding. Please join us in thanking God for these wonderful years of pioneering spirit and healing presence.

Our Foundress, Doctor Anna Dengel, served in the early 1920s as the only physician for thousands of women and children in what was then Northern India (now Pakistan), because Muslim customs did not permit women to be seen by male doctors. She knew that the need was much greater than she alone could meet…so she took the unprecedented step of founding our Community of Catholic women doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

In 1925, there was no precedent for Catholic Sisters to be physicians, surgeons, and obstetricians-gynecologists. Instead, there was a Church ban – a Canon Law – against it. It took 11 more years of petitioning Rome and demonstrating, by dedicated service, that “it could be done,” before the Church permitted Catholic Sisters to be engaged in the full range of medical work, especially in mission lands.

During our 85-year history, hundreds of our Sisters have helped millions of people in 43 nations. Our pioneering has included:

–    building and staffing hospitals and health centers
–    starting nursing schools and programs for nurse-midwifery training
–    offering vital health and nutrition education to mothers, so they would have healthy pregnancies and deliveries
–    monitoring closely the health and growth of children under five
–    caring for people suffering with HIV/AIDS
–    working towards justice for the poor and voiceless, at the U.N. and in local areas
–    creating ecologically-friendly work and living environments
–    being present to women who are imprisoned or trafficked

Mother Dengel encouraged us, “to prudently push on, not being rash, but not afraid either to dare something when it appears important in the building of the kingdom.” Following her example, we continue to pioneer new expressions of healing ministry wherever there is great need.

September 15, 2010

A New Home for the Women’s Leadership Institute

Helping women to develop their leadership skills and expand their ministries is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

On September 11, 2010, Sister Miriam Therese Winter welcomed over 150 visitors to the new home of the Women’s Leadership Institute, which she founded 15 years ago and continues to direct. The newly renovated space in Hartford, Connecticut, is a “gift of love” from graduates and friends. A special, hour-long outdoor ceremony blessed this new space for learning, sharing and growing.

The Women’s Leadership Institute: A Program in Applied Spirituality (WLI) enables participants to develop and strengthen leadership skills while exploring a feminist perspective in religion and society. The new space will also have room for WLI2– an ongoing program for alumni that will celebrate the transformative ministries of its participants and offer a variety of programs for women through the year.

As Sister Miriam Therese explains, “The strength of this experience-based program lies in its capacity to speak honestly to the deepest of needs, to listen to and affirm women wherever they are on their journey, and to offer a rich mix of theory and theology, prayer and practical application, as the basis for facilitating leadership, and as substance for transformative change.”

Sister Miriam Therese was already well-known as an author, singer and composer when she became the first woman on the faculty of the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut in 1980. She continues there as Professor of Liturgy, Worship, Spirituality and Feminist Studies in the Center for Faith in Practice.

Participants in WLI are required to enroll in a Hartford Seminary course; complete a cross-cultural immersion experience; design and implement a leadership project; and attend 9 weekend seminars over the course of 9 months. This is a certificate program, although undergraduate and graduate students can receive academic credit for it.

Sister Miriam Therese reflects, “The heart of my ministry here is learning, and helping others to learn, how to be in conversation, and eventually in community, with those who are different and consequently force us out of our comfort zone…with Anna Dengel (our Foundress) we continue to envision a more just, compassionate, equitable world, where the light of God’s all encompassing spirit is there for everyone.”

October 1, 2010

Justice Co-Mission 2010

Working together for justice is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

On the weekend of October 8-10, 2010, over 25 of our Sisters and Associates in North America gathered in a “virtual” meeting, using flash technology to share their justice ministries and learn from each other. The meeting began with a prayer, and each participant shared highlights of her work for justice over the past year.

Our Sisters who live and work near the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be involved with a micro-loan program and with immigration. Sister Janet Gottschalk completed 39 years as an educator in Texas this year, working mainly with Hispanic students who were often the first in their families to graduate from high school and then go on to college.

In California, Sister Justine Church is active with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and with a Faith and Justice group for low-wage workers. Sister Key Heidkamp attends monthly Catholic Worker meetings, and networks for many justice causes.

Several of our Sisters and Associates in Philadelphia are involved with prison ministry, violence against women, Alternatives to Violence workshops, and the New Sanctuary movement. Others are active with letter-writing, networking, and in an ecumenical Northeast Philly Peace and Justice Group. Sister Celine Paramundayil, our new representative to the United Nations, focuses on women, sustainable development and financing for development, and climate change.

At our Alliance for Justice Office in Washington, D.C., Sister Janet Gottschalk and Mrs. Susan Thompson are involved in a wide range of activities, including border/immigration issues, an interfaith group working on trade and investment, and groups on water and extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas extraction from the earth.

Our Justice Co-Mission group decided to focus their efforts for the coming year on “Migration from a Planetary and Global Perspective.” They will look at migration from the broadest possible vantage point, from both around the world and through all the issues that create the need for massive global migration.

November 1, 2010

Mission at the Panackachira Resettlement Colony

Caring for resettled people is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In 1977, several of our Sisters in South India began living and working with families in the Panackachira resettlement colony, most of whom had already been uprooted twice and were evacuees from government land. Sister Sophie Vallavasseril explains, “They had absolutely nothing and were struggling in every way….Beginning with meeting the basic needs of food, shelter, employment, drinking water, sanitation, health, education and the like, Medical Mission Sisters and the diocesan Malanadu Development Society (MDS) collaboration continued with the empowerment of children, youth, women and the whole society.”

Over the past 33 years, a number of our Sisters and candidates have been involved at the colony. Sister Sophie remembers, “We lived a very simple life in their midst, and shared many of their hardships and struggles.” Now every family has a decent house and clean drinking water. The educational standard for children has grown, and most people are currently employed. The MDS, governmental and nongovernmental agencies will assure that there is ongoing growth.

Our Sisters notified the Diocese that it was time to phase out our involvement. As many of the residents said, “When Panackachira was in need, Medical Mission Sisters responded whole heartedly; now that we are more or less able to stand on our own feet, let us happily send our Sisters on with our prayers and blessings.”

In July, 2010, two gatherings of thanksgiving were held. The first was arranged by our Sisters, to express our gratitude for those who supported our mission in the colony for over 33 years. Bishop Mar Mathew Arackal, several priests, staff members, local residents and 20 Medical Mission Sisters attended. The second event was held by the local people, to express their appreciation.

Sister Sophie says, “In both these gatherings, the participants thanked us profusely for our dedicated service, which brought about radical change in the area…many of the people shared that they were touched by our simple life there.”

“Most of the people expressed that as we leave the colony, what they would miss most is our total availability and healing presence…we felt very happy that at least some people have imbibed our spirit and charism…and pray that they may grow together as children of one Father.”

November 15, 2010

U.S. Catholics in Mission

Exploring what it means to be a U.S. Catholic in mission is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sisters Pat Lowery, Mary Ann Tregoning, and Anne Louise von Hoene recently attended the U.S. Catholic Mission Association’s 2010 Congress in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year’s theme was, “God’s Mission, Many Faces: A Portrait of U.S. Catholics in Mission.”

Sister Pat reports that the initial keynote speaker, Rev. Gargy Riebe Estrella, SVD, Ph.D., spoke about God’s mission with many faces. He emphasized that we are all human beings in communion with and relationship with each other. He discussed the need to be bridge builders and to build a church that is a community of communities.

Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM, President of Maryknoll Sisters, gave a keynote address on, “Turned Upside Down: Learnings and Challenges (A Missioner’s Journey in South Africa).” She spoke about the three weeks in which she was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Rhodesia for following up and reporting on government abuses, calling this the “best retreat” of her life. She highlighted three areas of concern in mission: the environment, human trafficking, and poverty and inequality among people.

The third keynote speaker was Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who spoke about faith, joy in life, and personal, ecclesial, and pastoral conversion. He noted the ecumenical character of mission, which does not proselytize but invites the other to accompany us, to listen to each other, and to joint action. He stressed that dialogue is best done by one versed in their faith, and noted that Mary was the educator of the disciples. He spoke of encounter, conversion, discipleship, communion, and formation.

Our Sisters enjoyed attending some of the 15 workshop/dialogue sessions. There were 22 bishops at the opening ceremony and liturgy, and some stayed on until the next day to participate in an open dialogue session. Sister Pat shares, “Most striking for me was an appreciation of and meeting so many different peoples of different cultures, situations in life, and languages, and some whom I did know and did not expect to see there – and all in mission.”

December 1, 2010

Outreach to Elderly Persons in Essen, Germany

Caring for elderly persons in Essen, Germany, is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Essen, Germany, Sister Maria Hohenadl is involved with caring for older persons in the city.

This past summer, Sister Maria completed her first year of work with “Katholischen Pflegehilfe” (Catholic Care Help) – an organization providing care for elderly persons. With 350 co-workers, she has grown in her connections to people and different groups with similar goals. She says, “A year ago, all the faces and names were new…the whole network we call the Health Systems is no longer a labyrinth in which I wonder how to proceed.”

Sister Maria was grateful to take part in a training course for care management. She reflects, “It has given me insight into the workings of health insurances and social security systems. It was especially helpful in my work of visiting people at home. Their problems are usually with the health insurance, endless papers to fill out, no money to pay the necessary bills, or perhaps nobody to talk to.”

She adds, “It is good to know what road to take to help solve a problem. Sometimes what is needed is a human being to listen to the woes in life. I must say, I do enjoy it.”

December 15, 2010

Marking a Decade of Service at St. Luke’s in Wolisso, Ethiopia

Ministering at St. Luke’s Catholic Hospital and College of Nursing and Midwifery is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Ten years ago, St. Luke’s Catholic Hospital and College of Nursing and Midwifery in Wolisso, Ethiopia, saw its very first patient. Sister Elaine Kohls, who has served as the hospital’s General Manager since it opened its doors on January 1, 2001, says, “Medical Mission Sisters were involved from the beginning, in the planning and the beginning of the hospital and college, along with other religious congregations.”

Serving a population of roughly 350,000 people, the hospital has more than doubled in capacity over the past decade. It now has 192 beds, and an outpatient department that sees over 300 patients each day. UNICEF has declared it an excellence hospital for the fight against malnutrition.

The college of nursing and midwifery – the only Catholic nurse’s training school in the country – has graduated hundreds of students and continues to offer two three-year diploma training programs. Sister Elaine explains, “80% of the people in Ethiopia live in remote, rural areas. The health coverage is about 50%, as there is inadequate infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals and basic health services…also, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternity mortality rates in the world and is very much in need of trained and qualified midwives.”

Sisters from four religious communities minister at the hospital and college, which are owned by the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops Conference. Our other member at St. Luke’s, Sister Maggie Lupiya, is a nurse-midwife from Malawi with a Bachelor’s Degree in community development. She serves in the Public Health Department, which is very active in both the hospital and in outreach sites.

Ensuring safe water is a priority for the health of the people, and Sister Elaine, with gratitude to many generous donors, says that there are now “27 completed hand-dug wells, 17 protected springs, and 7 boreholes in use serving over 90,000 people.”

January 1, 2011

Recycling in Arequipa, Peru

Working with local people in caring for the environment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Arequipa, Peru, our Sisters are active in a number of villages near the parish of Christ the Liberator. Sister Marisol Martinez explains, “Being a very populated zone, year by year pollution has increased. The majority of people and factories throw toxic residues in the river…in many cases, garbage has to be burned because there are no available garbage trucks to collect it.”

In May, 2010, our Sisters began a project with women from two of the common kitchens involved with the Christian Studies Center and Popular Education (CECYCAP). Meetings and workshops are being held every 15 days, covering such topics as:

–    environmental pollution
–    sources of contamination – water, air, and soil
–    other types of pollution –sound and visual
–    types of residues – solids, organic and inorganic
–    recyclable material – paper, cardboard, plastics, glass and metal
–    commitment to the environment

Once a week for two hours, the participating women, in uniforms, collect bottles, cardboard, plastic and metal cans. On Saturdays, they select and separate items to be sold to companies that are committed to care of the environment.

Sister Marisol shares, “Most of the women have learned a lot about recycling as a way of caring for the planet and having another source of livelihood for their families…they feel happy and also know that through the project they are creating consciousness in their families and the whole society.”

January 15, 2011

Assisting the Pakistan Flood Victims

Accompanying and assisting the flood victims in Pakistan is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

For the past seven months, our Sisters in Pakistan have been in mission with victims of the terrible flooding that affected one-third of their country. Millions of people lost their homes, belongings, crops and animals.

Sister Sylvia Strahler, originally from Ohio, lives and works in Faisalabad and is our District Coordinator in Pakistan. “Initially our team worked with Caritas in their survey, medical camps and food distribution programs about 93 miles from Faisalabad,” she explains. Our Sisters then partnered with a non-government organization to provide goats to the most needy families in a village. “This gives ongoing help to the families in the form of milk for the children who are mostly malnourished…each family that gets goats is committed to give two young goats to another family. This is how many people benefit.”

Before Christmas, our Sisters in Faisalabad helped to distribute food staples to several hundred families of kiln workers. Sister Sylvia explains, “They are some of the poorest people, since they are paid very little. Most of their children are not going to school, but helping to support the family by making bricks.”

During this same time, Pakistani Sister Pauline Sadiq went to her home province, Sindh, and worked with the Columban Fathers in assisting the villagers, giving them warm clothes and also providing goats to needy families.

Sister Agatha Titi Prawati, who is from Indonesia and now serves in Lahore, Pakistan, reports that our Sisters in Lahore ministered in the area of Kasur. They held five health camps in coordination with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. “We decided to focus on health, rehabilitation of the villagers’ crops, and repairing their houses and boundary walls,” she shares. They gave seeds to needy families, and sewing machines to some young women who do not attend school, and helped to repair houses with bricks and cement.

With gratitude to the generous donors who have been helping our Sisters’ mission in Pakistan, Sister Agatha says that, for the people, “It is their faith journey that teaches them to believe that God always cares for and loves them. God never leaves us alone, and God doesn’t give us a challenge that we cannot cope with…we journey together and experience God alive in our midst.”

February 1, 2011

Gathering of 16 Sisters in Temporary Vows

Learning, sharing and supporting each other in our commitment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence today.

In Patna, India, sixteen of our Sisters from North and North East India who have professed Temporary Vows recently gathered for a one-month program. They strengthened their relationships with each other and their sense of belonging to our Community.

“There was much life, laughter, time for serious reflection and creative expression through drama, song, paintings and mandalas,” says Sister Rowena Miranda, our District Coordinator in North India.

Three Jesuit priests facilitated the program, along with three of our Formation Coordinators, Sisters Nirmala Lopes, Anne Irene Rodriguez, and Anna Kalista Bara.

The participants studied our Community’s documents, history, and realities today. They worked on their writing skills, and learned the basics of journalism. They shared the life stories of several older Sisters, and discussed various aspects of religious life.

The Sisters appreciated time set aside for sharing “heart stories” – their experiences in community and ministry, their joys, struggles, challenges and suggestions. They also enjoyed several picnics and outings.

Sister Rowena shares, “The Sisters were enabled to look deeper into themselves and get in touch with their ‘heart’s deepest desire’ – their call to religious life and their willingness and commitment to respond to the needs of the time.”

During the gathering, the Sisters were also challenged to keep up-to-date on the social realities in India and across the globe. They discussed the need for a shift in mindset and perspective as they encounter new realities, and expressed a hopeful, positive picture of their future mission and community life. As Sister Rowena says, “They returned to their respective communities with joy, enthusiasm, hope, and commitment to ‘keep the fire burning.’”

February 15, 2011

Ray of Light Farm

Honoring the healing quality of animals is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Medical Mission Sister Associate Bonnie Buongiorne is the founder of Ray of Light Farm in East Haddam, Connecticut, that serves as an animal assisted therapy center and large animal rescue farm. The non-profit charity, begun in 2000, sits on 40 acres and, with the help of many volunteers, helps people “make a positive connection with life through the healing presence of animals.”

“We aspire to be a ‘healing presence in a wounded world.’ Every day we hear about violence, crimes of the heart and crimes of conscience. But we still search for something good, something true. Our greatest accomplishment has been bringing people and animals together, offering something good and true — for our clients and the community at large,” their website explains.

The staff at Ray of Light Farm coordinates animal-assisted therapy, pairing humans and horses in ways that improve the physical and emotional well-being of both. They also rescue and care for neglected, abused and abandoned large animals, and facilitate their placement and adoption.

Along with riding instruction for youth, adults, and specially-abled people, at Ray of Light Farm the staff concentrates on promoting a genuine understanding of animals and how to care for them. In the Basics in Training program, held weekly for 8 weeks, students are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, with individualized attention and time. The program uses positive reinforcement and communication in the language of the horse to build the foundations necessary for both human and equine to advance to other pursuits.

In addition to horses and ponies, the farm is now home to an alpaca, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea pigs, guinea fowl, peacocks, miniature cows, miniature donkeys, mini horses, mules, and several heritage breeds of animals. These are traditional breeds, raised for food in the past, that have unique genetic traits.

For more information, please visit:

March 1, 2011

In the Midst of Conflict in North East India

Being peacemakers in the midst of tribal tension is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Violence along the Meghalaya-Assam Border in North East India sprung up at the end of December and has continued into 2011. The residents of the Garo Hills were blocked in their travels home for the holidays by the Rabha people, who had called for a strike. In early January, the tension escalated and inter-tribal clashes began. Many people were injured or killed, and 50,000 were left homeless.

Homeless families sought refuge in 26 relief camps. Our Sisters in the area explain, “Both groups suffered extensively, and many who returned to their villages were moved to tears on seeing entire homes and villages totally destroyed. Their homes no longer stood, their vegetable gardens were destroyed, and their cattle were taken away. Even barns which stored the rice crop for the whole year had been burned down.”

Sister Anita Sangma was working at the Mendipathar Multipupose Cooperative Society on January 3rd when a big crowd, mostly youth, came running with weapons to attack the Rabhas. “Immediately all the shops were closed and the neighbors, especially women and children, ran to the Cooperative for safety…they prayed the rosary and remained inside…we heard the sounds of shooting, fire engines and ambulances throughout.”

The following day, over 5,000 Rabhas were brought to the Mendipathar College compound, near our Sisters’ house, under police protection. Many were frightened because they were in a Garo area, and escaped into the forest. “This reminded us of the Exodus experience,” our Sisters said.

Sister Bridget Kaniampadickal shares, “In this crisis situation, we were able to support and strengthen both groups by visiting the relief camps, listening to the people’s cry and by our prayer. I also had the responsibility of protecting the Garo students who were with us, since all other community members were away…prayer gave us strength and courage.”

The government is now helping the people to rebuild, and both the government and Church are involved in peace-making activities between the two groups. As Sister Bridget says, “May the Prince of Peace bring peace to all people, hope and light to the brokenhearted, and guide them to build a world where all can live in harmony and love.”

March 15, 2011

Gateways to Learning

Helping others learn about different faith communities is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Maria Hornung, author of the book Encountering Other Faiths, has been serving for over five years as the Educational Coordinator of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. Last year, the Center began “Gateway to Religious Communities,” a new program in its area of Adult Learning and Leadership.

Participants in the program were able to tour the congregations of their choice with a small group, attend a service with the religious community, reflect and ask questions with community members and enjoy refreshments. Twelve different congregations from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Native America, Protestant, Society of Friends and Universalist faith communities welcomed the “journeyers.”

“The hope of this program was that people interested in interfaith engagement would over the year receive hospitality from different faith communities, learning from them and enjoying the experience,” Sister Maria explains.

She adds, “ New insights abounded, friends were made across religious boundaries, awareness about the great number of people of good will in this city grew….An unforeseen gift of these months has been the brother/sisterhood that grew among the journeyers, as well as the great affirmation of these visits experienced by those visited.” The program was so successful that it is being repeated in 2011.

Four communities participating this spring are: Main Line Reform Temple (April 1), Baha’i Community of Philadelphia (May 1), Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship and Mosque (May 29), and St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Parish (June 19).

For more information, please visit:

April 1, 2011

Networking Against Human Trafficking in Europe

Working against the trafficking of women is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

German Sister Dagmar Plum is on the steering committee of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking against Human Trafficking and Exploitation). An expert in human trafficking and its effects in Germany, where prostitution became legal in 2002, Sister recently visited Tirana, Albania. She met with Marjana Meshi, the director of Different and Equal, a shelter for trafficked women and girls, and visited the shelter’s residents.

Sister Dagmar also spent several days with Sister Imelda Poole, a British Sister of Loretto and a fellow RENATE steering committee member. Their first stop was at a poor Roma camp, where people live in cardboard houses covered with plastic bags. Sister Dagmar says, “Looking at their beautiful faces, I am not surprised that these kids can easily fall prey to traffickers.”

The next day, Sister Dagmar visited with young women outside of Tirana who are being reintegrated into their families and communities. One young woman had been trafficked to Italy as a minor. Another ex-victim, now a university student, is determined to use her studies to bravely help other victims fight for their rights.

Sister Dagmar later met a group of women in distress who were single mothers, divorced or abandoned, living in a dilapidated building. She reflects, “It’s mainly Sisters who make a difference to these women with so much potential. I pray that their determination and skills will bear fruit so they can make a living through their own work.”

“I found dignity despite suffering,” Sister Dagmar says of the women and girls she met on her trip. “I am convinced that many of them will come to terms with their lives…women still have a long way to go to be recognized as equal but different.”

For more information, please visit:

April 15, 2011

Living a Community Life in a Poor Area of Philadelphia

Establishing a new community among the inner-city poor is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In May, 2009, four of our Sisters established a community in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. This poor neighborhood is in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which has one of the highest rates of hunger in the U.S. The need for food there has increased 66% over the past two years, and the unemployment rate is very high.

Three of our Sisters in Kensington – Barbara Ann Brigham, Patrice McSweeney, and Juanita Ortega – spent many years in South America and are fluent in Spanish. They chose this area partly because Hispanic people make up 56% of the parish neighborhood. The fourth, Sister Goretti Poovathunkal, is from India. Each one has found a special area of ministry.

Sister Barbara Ann is a trainer for the Alternatives to Violence project programs, which are held in the Visitation Parish Center, among Hispanic men at Graterford State Prison, and at New Jerusalem Now for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Sister Patrice McSweeney visits the home-bound, offering companionship and solace. She also has acted as an interpreter for a social worker and Hispanic woman at a shelter for trafficked women.

Education has always been important for Sister Juanita Ortega, who established the first university nursing program in Venezuela. She has been teaching classes in English as a Second Language. In addition, she has a special talent with sewing, and helps to tailor and alter clothes.

Having recently returned from her native India, Sister Goretti Poovathunkal has resumed her mission at New Jerusalem Now, a residential recovery program in North Philadelphia where she served from 2003-2008. Sister Goretti enjoys accompanying the residents in community service, preparing meals, supervising food distribution in the neighborhood, and participating in justice and peace campaigns.

Although our Sisters still call themselves the “new kids on the block,” they have made many new friends and network with other like-minded groups working for the same goals of justice and healing for all.

May 1, 2011

Conference of Religious Women in India

Sharing our mission with leaders representing 100,000 Religious Sisters in India is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In January, 2011, Sisters Irene Fernandez, Josita Myladiyil, Rose Kayathinkara and Rowena Miranda attended the 46th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Religious Women (CRWI) in Kochi, Kerala, India. 450 Sisters in leadership from across India, representing 100,000 Sisters, reflected on the theme, “Our Consecrated Life: Our Mission.” They spoke of their desire for a re-formation and re-orientation for religious congregations.

Our Sisters share, “We were accompanied in different religious houses. The Eucharistic celebrations were in the Syro-Malabar rite, the Syro-Malankara rite and the Latin rite – one on each day. The morning and evening prayers were creatively done.”

In her keynote address, CRWI president Sister Prasanna Thattil, CHF, appealed to attendees to meet the challenges of today, and to seek ways to deepen consecrated life “without compromising the Gospel values in the Indian context.”

The group encouraged inter-congregational collaboration in helping the poor and oppressed, and in safeguarding the dignity and lives of women and children.

At the concluding session, Father Stephen Alathara, Deputy Secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, acknowledged the importance of Sisters, saying, “The Religious are the most integral part of the Church…the Church depends on them heavily for everything…and they have great impact not only on the Church, but also on society.”

May 15, 2011

Celebrating 300 Years in Mission

The six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating Golden Jubilees in 2011 represent a combined 300 years in mission.

On June 5th, we are honoring six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 50th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows in 2011. A Mass and reception is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Sister Jacinta Conlon served in Mandar, Mumbai and New Delhi, India, as a midwife and staff nurse, and in administrative and supportive positions. From 1975 to 1985, she worked in public health, social service and care of the elderly in Ottawa; cared for our Foundress, Mother Anna Dengel, in Rome; and helped take care of our elderly Sisters in Philadelphia. She then moved to Florida for 15 years, where she offered assistance to the elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled in St. Petersburg, and was a hospice volunteer and senior companion in Tampa. She has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years, and volunteers in our Development Office.

Sister Anne-Marie Desroches, who grew up in Syracuse, NY, did nursing work at Holy Family Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and with Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Kentucky. She served as a nurse practitioner in the Greene Family Health Center in rural Standardsville, Virginia. After moving to Boston in 1984, Sister Anne-Marie became involved in caring for persons with HIV/AIDS. She worked as the nurse practitioner at the Addiction Treatment Center of New England, an outpatient methadone clinic in Brighton, MA, for 13 years. She is now retired in Boston.

Sister Mary Grace (Kenne) Froehlich, from Johnstown, PA, has managed our print shop, post office, and maintenance office. A professional photographer, she has traveled around the world recording visual images of our ministries. She spent six years doing volunteer work with the International Red Cross, and helping refugees near the Thailand-Cambodia border. After moving to the Southwest in the 1980s, Sister Kenne became a physical therapy assistant. She worked for six years at Memorial Medical Center Hospital in Las Cruces and at Alliance Care of Texas, El Paso. Since 2000, she has been doing pulmonary rehabilitation with lung disease sufferers at the Atrium Physical Therapy in Las Cruces, NM.

An obstetrician/gynecologist, Sister-Doctor Myrtle Keller grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. She was in mission for 17 years in Africa, in Uganda, Tanzania, and Milawi. When she returned to the U.S. in 1988, she settled in Las Cruces, NM. There she helped to open the First Step Women’s Health Clinic for low-income women, where she served as an obstetrician for 11 years. She also worked at the nearby Memorial Medical Center. Sister Myrt then moved to Chula Vista, California, to work as a rehab and health care coordinator. Retired from active medical practice, she is involved in administration within our Community, and in a variety of volunteer positions.

Sister Mary Em McGlone, who grew up in Drexel Hill, PA, served as a nurse-midwife and nursing supervisor in Uganda, and as a staff nurse at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. In the 1970s, she worked in a variety of administrative positions for our Community. After learning about “Touch for Health” she became a holistic health educator. She founded the Center for Human Integration (CHI) in 1981 in Philadelphia, and served as its director for many years. In 2000, CHI was licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to offer a program in Integrative Body/Mind Therapies leading to a diploma. Sister Mary Em currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is engaged in creative healing arts.

Sister Lorraine Ryan, who was raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, has degrees in medical records science, nursing, midwifery, and public health. Sister Lorraine spent 15 years in India, where she coordinated hospital education and outpatient services; taught nursing; helped train village health promoters in a tribal area; and supervised the ministries of over 100 Sisters. Returning to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Sister Lorraine worked as a staff nurse with chemically dependent patients. In 1999, she co-founded Women’s Circle in Boynton Beach, FL, to help lower income women achieve financial stability by providing assistance with education and job development. She continues in this ministry today.

June 1, 2011

Integrative Medicine in the Philippines

Empowering poor communities to reclaim their right to health is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister-Doctor Dulce Corazon Velasco serves as Executive Director of Integrative Medicine for Alternative Health Care System (INAM), a non-government organization in the Philippines. Sister explains that in her country, “Many have been deprived of their capacity to choose the kind of healthcare they need because of socio-economic constraints.”

INAM has responded to the needs of the people through education and training using a curriculum composed of: 1) Community Organizing, 2) Training of Community Health Workers, and 3) Training in Management of Community Health Programs.

The community organizers learn to mobilize people in the area into collective action toward the health situation they envision for themselves. Community health workers are taught how to treat common diseases, and to explain to family groups how to recognize the top ten diseases in the area. The health program managers learn to mobilize local resources and work in collaboration with other organizations and agencies to further develop their programs. Each community’s experience is documented and shared.

At the end of 2009, INAM had trained over 600 participants from 42 municipalities in the first level. Of these, nearly 400 went on to become community health workers, and dozens then went on to be managers. Over the past year, the training was expanded into some of the poorest areas in the country. Sister Dolce shares, “Poor and marginalized communities participating in these trainings will be able to generate health services according to their needs and available resources…they will be able to reclaim their right to health and be responsible for the sustainability of their health programs and services.”

June 15, 2011

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Working for the rights of the world’s indigenous people is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

From May 16-27, 2011, the United Nations held its tenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a landmark for the indigenous peoples of the planet. Sisters Katherine Baltazar and Celine Paramundayil attended this event.

There are over 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries today. These people constitute 5% of the world’s population, yet make up 15% of the world’s poor. Of the some 7,000 languages in use today, it is estimated that 4,000 are spoken by indigenous people.

The Forum, an advisory body to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, has a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

The Forum officially opened with an Iroquois chief invoking the Great Spirit in his own native tongue. Sister Katherine shares, “I loved it when the indigenous people spoke up — their words pouring out from their hearts with such poignancy. This is perhaps why their cause resonates so strongly with me — the power of their words is very moving.”

The group has formulated a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN member states. This document sets a standard for countries to acknowledge the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith. Sister Katherine says, “As we all sat in the great General Assembly chamber, all listened with rapt attention to the American spokeswoman, a Cherokee, giving a report on the progress made under the Obama administration.”

Sister Katherine, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who has visited native peoples in New Zealand and Australia and served among the Lakota Sioux, said she was delighted to see a woman elected to chair the Forum. “I relish hearing the men publicly acknowledging the importance of role of women in indigenous cultures.”

For more information about the Forum, please visit:

July 1, 2011

The 2011 World Health Assembly

Participating in international health meetings is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In May, 2011, Sister-Doctor Elizabeth Vadakekara, our Assistant Society Coordinator, attended the 64th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. She also participated in the annual meeting of the NGO (non-government organization) Health Forum.

The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). About 2700 delegates from 193 countries attended the Assembly. Opening remarks were given by Doctor Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discussions focused on:
–    A framework to improve global preparedness for future pandemics.
–    The prevention of noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, which contribute to more than 60% of deaths worldwide.
–    Strengthening health systems to achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
–    Vision, strategy and progress in achieving global immunization goals.
–    A plan for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition.
–    New resolutions on child injury prevention.
–    Sustaining and expanding gains made on the problem of malaria.
–    Support of the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
–    A new, comprehensive strategy to combat HIV.
–    Work on the problems of cholera, water-borne diseases (which kill two million people each year), guinea-worm disease, and polio.
Young people (10-24 years old) currently represent one quarter of the world’s population, and Member States agreed to focus on preventing health risks specifically associated with this age group. They also welcomed the priority the WHO has placed on protecting health from climate change, and acknowledged the need to better handle chemicals and waste management to protect public health.

July 15, 2011

Honoring 480 Years of Healing Presence

The eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating 60-year Jubilees in 2011 represent a combined 480 years in mission.

Eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America are marking the 60th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows at a special Mass on August 15, 2011. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks for these Sisters’ many wonderful years of service.

Sister Celeste DiGiorgio, a native of Philadelphia, worked for many years in internal administration and service positions within our Community. After completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at Temple University, she ministered in Baltimore as a social worker. Upon her return to Philadelphia, Sister was the Social Work Supervisor at Women of Hope, a residential program for homeless women. She also taught reading and English as a Second Language, and was involved with groups advocating for justice.

Sister –Doctor Fernande Pelletier, a native of Maine, attended Trinity College and Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C. She completed her internship and surgical residency at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J. Fifty years ago, she began serving at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum, Ghana, where she is still in mission today. She is the recipient of a Papal Award from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, the Grand Medal of the Ghanaian government, and the Ghana Medical Association’s Fellowship Award.

Sister Isabelle Harmon grew up in Maryland and studied X-ray technology at Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital in Upper Darby, PA. She worked as an X-ray technician in Venezuela, Jordan, and Ghana, then earned her R.N. at New Mexico Community College. She served for 24 years as a member of a Primary Health Project in the village of Abease, Ghana. In Oaxaca, Mexico, she worked with PROSA (Promatores de Salud, or “Health Promoters”), under the auspices of the Commission for the Indigenous in the Diocese of Oaxaca. Sister Isabelle now resides in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she helps low-income women in our Women’s Circle program.

Sister Margaret McKenna, from Teaneck, New Jersey, earned a B.A. in English from Chestnut Hill College, M.A. in Liturgy from Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in Christian Origins and Religious Thought from the University of Pennsylvania. She also studied at Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Sister has been a Director of Novices, a La Salle University professor, a writer, art director, and peace activist. In 1989, she founded New Jerusalem Now, a treatment and housing center for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in North Philadelphia. She has received many awards for her work and remains involved in this ministry today.

Sister Teresita Hinnegan, a Philadelphia native and nurse-midwife, received her R.N. from St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing. She was a nurse supervisor and administrator in Bangladesh. Throughout the 1970s, she worked in nurse-midwifery in the Philadelphia area, and in leadership in our Community. In 1981, she graduated from Temple University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Social Work, and began 22 years on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. Sister became a local and state advocate on maternal/child health issues, and received many honors. She founded the Center for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Philadelphia, and is active in fighting human trafficking.

Sister Janet Gottschalk, a native of Chicago, graduated from Misericordia Hospital in Philadelphia and served as a nurse supervisor in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She later earned a B.S. in Nursing from Case-Western Reserve University, M.S. in Regional and Community Affairs from the University of Missouri, and Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health. She has had eleven academic appointments, and has served in a variety of leadership positions for our Community. As an international public health specialist, she has traveled the world as a consultant, represented us at the UN, and directed our Alliance for Justice Office in Washington, D.C., which she continues to do. She also has received many awards for her work.

Sister Marie Schmids, who grew up in Philadelphia, attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She served as a medical technologist in Pakistan and Bangladesh for many years. She returned to the U.S. in the mid-1970s and earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina, where she also worked in a primary health care/community development project She served in several parts of the South; in Thailand, aiding Cambodian refugees; and in a number of departments at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. She also worked for a dozen years in New Port Richey, Florida, in the Connections Job Development Program. She recently completed her term as Membership Promotion Coordinator in Philadelphia.

Sister Rosemarie Leier, from Saskatchewan, Canada, has her B.S. in Public Health Nursing from St. Louis University and Master’s in Community Health Nursing from Boston College. She was a nursing supervisor in Pakistan, where she began a nurse/midwifery school, and she also started a school for midwives in Bombay. She worked as teacher and nurse in Utah, California, and Canada, then served in nursing education for ten years in Africa – in Swaziland and Malawi. She now lives in San Diego, where she is involved with a number of volunteer activities and is a member of a centering prayer group.

August 1, 2011

Ecological Awareness in Venezuela

Joining others in caring for the Earth is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

As our Sisters and Associates in Venezuela celebrate 60 years of our healing presence in that nation, they are deepening their healing charism from the ecological perspective.

“Ecological living is a call to take care of our Mother Earth,” says Sister Therese Cheruvallath, a Sister from India who has served in Venezuela for eleven years. “It calls for a radical change and a conversion of heart with deep convictions.”

“Being in community with the people, we are trying to deepen our consciousness of taking care of the Earth and to live in harmony with the whole of creation,” Sister Therese explains. Some of the activities our Sisters have begun include:

– Incorporating the topic of ecology into their family health program and sharing their knowledge of ecological living with groups of women in the barrios.

– Producing organic manure by putting household waste products in a pit, covering it with dried leaves for few months, then using the manure for plants.

– Making use of the small space around the Sisters’ house, cultivating bananas and lemon trees, capsicum, beans, and some herbs. In front of the house they have few rose bushes. Sister Therese says, “It was so beautiful to see one rose plant with 50 flowers!”

– Preparing the soil and planting a variety of shrubs at the Centro Formación – at the request of, and with the help of, some of the women in the community who wanted to green and beautify the space.

Sister Therese shares, “We continue our journey with our people…committing ourselves to ‘promote healing and wholeness in all aspects of life’…weaving care and compassion into the web of life.”

August 15, 2011

“Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving”

Helping underserved women with education and employment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Medical Mission Sister Lorraine Ryan and Sister Joan Carusillo, a Sister of the Holy Cross, co-founded Women’s Circle for underserved women in Boynton Beach, Florida, eleven years ago. They are both interviewed in a thirty-minute documentary that will soon air on WXEL Public TV: “Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving.”

The film begins with a look at the history of Boynton Beach and its renewed vibrancy. Sisters Lorraine and Joan share their stories with Father John D’Mello, parochial vicar of Saint Ann’s Church in West Palm Beach. When they founded Women’s Circle, they created its mission statement: “To empower women made poor to become all they can be, by assisting them to gain enhanced employment, becoming self-sufficient, and leaders in a culturally diverse community.”

Educational classes, job preparation programs, support groups, a community garden, and many dedicated volunteers are all part of the program. Sister Joan explains that one of their goals for the women is to “help not only themselves and their families, but to raise the level of the community while doing that.”

For the first ten years, the Sisters operated out of a space shared with the Community Caring Center of Boynton Beach. With a large increase in the number of clients being served, they needed larger quarters – and were able to move to their own duplex with the help of an interest-free mortgage from city leaders and pro bono contributions from volunteers. The documentary contrasts the early computer training room, with one computer, with the current roomful of donated computers.

The Sisters greatly appreciate the support of many volunteers and benefactors. 250 people attended the Women’s Circle annual fundraiser in February. As The Coastal Star newspaper states, “It’s great to see the good work get broader recognition…‘Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving’ not only is must-see TV. It’s a fitting tribute to two ladies, and a ton of volunteers, who avoid the spotlight except to champion the women the Women’s Circle serves.”

For more information, please visit:

September 1, 2011

Pastoral Care with the Elderly in Germany

Caring for older persons in Essen, Germany, is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Mechthild Driesch has spent many years in pastoral care ministry. She served as a hospital pastoral care worker for 15 years, and then was employed by the Diocese of Essen, Germany, in 1998 as the person in charge of pastoral care in nursing homes for the elderly. In this position she trained and accompanied pastoral workers, geriatric nurses, volunteers, and pastoral teams in parishes. Her work included visits, consultations, seminars, and facilitating reflection on such topics as communication and conflict management.

“After retiring from my responsibilities in the diocesan department for senior citizens at the end of 2009 I was invited by our Bishop to take up pastoral care of senior members in our parish,” Sister Mechthild explains.

The focus of Sister’s work now is pastoral care for the elderly living in the St. Martin residential care home. She explains, “There I prepare liturgies for special occasions, accompany relatives in crisis situations, and give workshops/reflections on relevant topics for the staff. I am also a member of the advisory board and can influence the happenings in the home.”

Sister Mechthild adds, “In the meantime, I have started a reflection group in our parish…I am also organizing a course for professional care givers and social workers, training them for pastoral activities for the elderly in their institutions. The Church does not have enough workers in this field. This will help the people get the needed assistance.”

People of different ages and life experiences take the course. When they successfully complete it, they get a certificate and a commission from the Bishop for their work.

September 15, 2011

25th Anniversary of Our Philadelphia Peace Hermitages

Sharing our home as a quiet place for prayer, solitude and reflection is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

At our North America Headquarters in Philadelphia, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our Peace Hermitage Program on Sunday, October 9, 2011.

Sister Jane Burns began our Peace Hermitages in the mid-1980s, when she realized that she was being called into a life with more solitude. Several small, simple cottages and a lovely stone chapel are available to individuals seeking a place for quiet prayer and reflection. They are located in a wooded grove on our grounds in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia.

Sister Jane and Sister Edna Villafuerte, now Director of the Peace Hermitages, have organized a celebratory brunch on October 9th for past hermitage retreatants, Sunday worshipers, and Medical Mission Sisters and Associates. Kathryn Voit, a poet, and Father John McNamee, a city priest and author, will be featured, along with local musicians.

Bordered by two large parks, the hermitages are ideal for getting in touch with nature. Guests bring their own food and linens and stay for as long as they wish. They have an opportunity for Eucharist, and for communal evening prayer, if they choose. People of all religious traditions are welcomed.

“The wooded grounds are filled with deer and rabbits, and in summer the twilight air is alive with crickets and fireflies,” wrote a reviewer in Delaware Valley magazine. “There are trees as far as the eye can see, and the air smells of freshly-cut grass.”

Describing the hermitage guests in The Other Side magazine, Sister Jane explained, “Many of them work with the poor, the homeless, or for peace … people of all sorts share this solitude, and I find that the more varied the people, the better.” She added, “To get in touch with the silence of God is necessary for everyone.”

For more information on our Peace Hermitages, please e-mail: or phone 215-342-2039.

October 1, 2011