Archive for ARCHIVES/Healing Presence – Page 2

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

“Sustainable Societies: Responsive Citizens”

Participating in international conferences to help societies worldwide 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.

Four Medical Mission Sisters and two Associates attended the 64th U.N. Department of Public Information Conference in Bonn, Germany, from September 3 – 5, 2011. 1,500 people from 70 countries representing non-government organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups gathered around the theme, “Sustainable Societies: Responsive Citizens.”

Sister-Doctor Elizabeth Vadakekara, our Assistant Society Coordinator; Sister Celine Paramundayil, our U.N. representative; German Sisters Mariotte Hillebrand and Monika Ballani; and Associates Petra Schrey and Dunja-Maria Bischof represented our Community.

Opening the conference, Kiyo Akasaka, the U.N.’s Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, highlighted the challenges of “food, energy, finance, water and climate” and noted that worldwide climate change negotiations are at a crucial stage. Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the U.N. Volunteers program, noted, “Sustainable societies need responsive citizens – people who rise to the challenge, take action of their own free will, and work towards a better and brighter future…in a nutshell, for sustainable development to work, we’re going to need to get as many people as possible involved in a coordinated way and with a collaborative spirit.”

Our Sisters and Associates appreciated the vitality and optimism among the attendees, the noted speakers who gave the “big picture” and the opportunities to network and share in smaller workshops. Short phrases like, “Stop talking, start planting,” and “Connect the dots” stayed in their minds. One need not get involved in big campaigns; it is enough to make conscious decisions about our own use of energy each day.

Sister Mariotte Hillebrand shares, “Sustainable societies need social justice – and that for me means an option for the poor – access to the resources of the earth for all people, economic development, the protection of the environment, and a responsible use of natural resources by all people.”

October 15, 2011

2011 Justice Co-Mission

Collaborating on our work for justice in North America 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.

On the weekend of October 14-16, 2011, our Sisters in Arizona, California, Florida and Philadelphia gathered in a “virtual” meeting, using flash technology to share their justice ministries and learn from each other. The meeting began with a prayer, “We long for the day when justice prevails…we long for the day when all are one.”

Each participant shared her involvements in social justice activities, and in groups with which they network. Mrs. Susan Thompson, who facilitated the meeting, said this was “a time filled with amazement, pride and affirmation at what our Sisters are doing.”

Our Alliance for Justice Office in Washington, D.C., focuses on issues related to the work of Medical Mission Sisters in all parts of the world. They network with many groups to bring the voice of our Community into the halls of Congress and to international agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Concerned about the environment, this year they joined in the Keystone XL oil pipeline peaceful protest in front of the White House.

In California, our Sisters are involved with issues of economic justice, working with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, which successfully won workers’ demands at a variety of supermarket chains. In Florida, an ecumenical program called Faith and Action for Strength Together is bringing people together to discuss education, affordable housing, and crime.

Two of our Sisters are involved in holistic healing and justice education efforts on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border. They are encouraged that the Dioceses of Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona have joined with the Diocese of Hermosillo, Mexico, to build bridges and find solutions to their common problems.

Our Sisters living in the Philadelphia area are active with letter-writing, prayer, networking with Quakers and other groups. Their issues include illegal gun sales in the city, and hydraulic fracturing in the state. They work with persons recovering from addiction, women in need of empowerment, and people in prison. They also help migrants prepare for citizenship and GED exams.

November 1, 2011

Outreach to Poor Families in Faisalabad, Pakistan

Ministering in a poor neighborhood of Faisalabad 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 Sisters in Faisalabad, Pakistan, have seen the city grow as people have migrated there from surrounding villages to find work. Five years ago, the parish priest asked them to serve in one of the most neglected areas of the parish, Wazirkhanwala.

Sister Iginia John explains, “It is one of the most depressed areas of the parish, where the majority are daily wage earners, laborers, cleaners, and employed in other low paying jobs.” Many of the women are domestic workers, often taking their young daughters with them to work in the homes of Muslim families.

Our Sisters surveyed the families in the neighborhood, who identified their needs as health care, skills training, and education for young people not going to school. Our team began a weekly health clinic, mostly for women and children, promoting antenatal care, immunization and child assessment. Home visits helped in encouraging good health habits among families, and in identifying problems.

Under the leadership of Sister Iginia John, a sewing center and literacy program were started. The sewing center provides women and girls the opportunity to help support their families. Some of the girls who completed the literacy course have been able to begin fifth grade in the regular schools.

Sister Iginia also does pastoral work, preparing children for the sacraments and helping families plan for liturgical feasts.

November 15, 2011

In Union in Mission

Sharing with fellow Catholic missionaries from the U.S. 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.

Sisters Pat Travaline and Lorraine Ryan, who live and work in Florida, recently participated in the annual U.S. Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) Conference, held in Miami. Sister Anne Louise von Hoene,accountant and administrative assistant for the USCMA, presented financial reports at the conference, which marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of this group. The theme was, “Communion and Missionary Discipleship.” The meeting included three keynote presentations and smaller groups.

Sister Pat, who is involved in a variety of healing ministries in St. Petersburg, attended sessions by Sister Madge Karecki, SSJ, in which she “spoke of the formative process of missionary disciples, which begins with an encounter with Christ, and developing a relationship with Him, and continues with conversion, discipleship, communion, and mission.”

Sister Pat also appreciated a discussion on the need for missionary communities to maintain themselves for the sake of their mission, involving faith-filled risk and prudent decision.

Sister Lorraine Ryan, who works with many Haitian women at the Women’s Circle in Boynton Beach, was moved by a talk on “Faith in Times of Trial,” by Father Kunal, who is a pastor in Haiti and teaches at St. Thomas University there.

Sister Lorraine says, “It was an unforgettable experience, with a liturgy at Our Lady of Haiti Church concelebrated with Miami Archbishop Wenski (fluent in at least three languages: Kryol, Spanish, and English), having Haitian liturgical dance, and a Haitian fete afterward with marvelous entertainment.”

December 1, 2011

Celebrating Two Jubilees in Ghana

At a festive celebration in Sunyani, Ghana, two Medical Mission Sisters are honored for a combined 85 years in mission.

In Sunyani, Ghana, Sister-Doctor Fernande Pelletier recently celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and Sister Ursula Preusser her Silver Jubilee at a wonderful Mass at the parish in Fiapre, followed by lunch in the Sisters’ garden.

Sister Fernande, a native of Maine and graduate of Trinity College and Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C., has served for 50 years in Africa. Of that time, 48 years have been at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum, Ghana, where she continues today. A naturalized Ghanaian citizen, she received a Papal Award from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana in 2007 for her lifetime of service to the sick and poor. She also has been awarded the Grand Medal of the Ghanaian government, and the Ghana Medical Association’s Fellowship Award. She has been a member of the National Ethics Commission for many years.

Sister Ursula, a native of Germany and our District Coordinator in West Africa, joined our Community in 1986, after her nursing training. In 1991, she began mission in Berekum, Ghana – first as a nurse, and then as a clinical instructor and teaching assistant at the Nurses Training College. In 2003 she moved to Sunyani, where she worked at the Don Bosco Boys Home as a nurse for seven years. Last year she began an involvement in sex education and counseling of youth in Fiapre, where the Catholic University College of Ghana is located.

Bishop Matthew K. Gyamfi, the Bishop of Sunyani, and Monsignor Kwame, the parish priest and Vicar General, concelebrated the Mass, which was attended by many friends and fellow religious. The university choir added beautiful music. Sister Ursula says,“It was really a celebration of gratitude: to God for having led us this far, and to our sisters, friends, aspirants and helpers, for being part of our lives and making the day so beautiful.”

December 15, 2011

​New Leadership Team in North America

Serving in leadership 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.

Sisters Maria Hornung, Rose Kershbaumer, and Suzanne Maschek begin their service to our Community as our new leadership team in Sector North America (SNA) on January 1, 2012. We welcome them warmly and also sincerely thank Sisters Rosemary Ryan and Frankie Vaughan, who have finished their terms in office.

Sister Maria Hornung, our new SNA Coordinator for Mission and Membership, is a native of New Orleans. She previously served as Sector Coordinator of North America and also of Africa. In the latter Sector, she worked for 25 years as a pharmacist, educator, and in other ministries. The author of “Encountering Other Faiths,” by Paulist Press, she has been Coordinator of Interfaith Education at the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia. In addition, she has been serving as our Lifewright Coordinator, offering retreat and renewal programs to our Sisters..

Entering her second term as SNA Coordinator for Life and Community, Sister Rose Kershbaumer is from Hazleton, Pennsylvania. She also was in mission for over 25 years in Africa. She worked with the World Health Organization, and was a nurse-midwife educator consultant for many groups, including the Peace Corps and the Rockefeller Foundation. After she returned to the U.S., she served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing for over a decade.

Sister Suzanne Maschek, a native of St. Louis, is our new SNA Coordinator for Intrasociety Collaboration. A physical therapist by profession, she served in Ghana for almost 25 years, and was District Coordinator of West Africa. She then spent several years based in Philadelphia, assisting Sisters from around the world with sabbatical and continuing education experiences. For six years, she served as Secretary for our worldwide General Assembly. From 2004 to 2010, she lived and worked in London as Assistant Society Coordinator for our global Community.

We ask God to bless these three Sisters as they begin their leadership work together.

January 1, 2012

Assisting Typhoon Survivors in the Philippines

Reaching out to victims of natural disasters 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.

Typhoon Washi struck the Philippines from December 16 to 18, causing over 1,000 deaths and leaving 60,000 people homeless. Our Sisters in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, experienced heavy rains and driving winds, but not the flooding that devastated other areas. They asked their youth groups, Medical Mission Youth and the Parish Youth Apostolate, to sort clothes for the diocesan relief distribution efforts. The young people spent two nights and one day helping with this effort.

Sister Mary Jane Caspillo was involved in relief distribution for the typhoon victims. Her group of 98 volunteers went to four areas and gave out packages that included food, drinking water and personal hygiene items to 1,000 families. Sister shares, “Words are not enough for me to describe the images and the atmosphere that this event caused the people and Earth.”

Two of the areas Sister Mary Jane visited, Barangays Carmen and Balulang, are located beside the Cagayan River. Hundreds of houses there were washed away by the floods. Sister says, “I met two young men who were among the survivors. They were both carried away by the floodwaters…one was able to hold on to a piece of log and was found by a fisherman in the sea the next day; the other held on to a water container and was found in the sea by the Coast Guard, also on the next day.”

She adds, “A lady pointed to (me) where her house was standing before the flash floods. Now, everything is gone…she hugged me tightly and said no words, just a loud cry and then a deep sigh, grateful that nobody was hurt in her family.”

The group Sister Mary Jane worked with, Help Northern Mindanao, is planning a second relief distribution effort this month, when they have gathered enough goods and cash.

Sister shares, “I don’t know how much time it will take for Earth to restore herself…for the victims, it will take a long time before they can recover from this tragedy and find their rightful place again. The little that we can do for them or share with them means a lot. Let us continue to pray with them.”

January 15, 2012

Loving You: Sacred Folk Songs by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

Sharing the healing gift of song 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.

The music composed and sung by Sister Miriam Therese (MT) Winter is known around the world. Her first recording in 1966, Joy is Like the Rain, was a Gold Album in the U.S. and Australia, bringing with it worldwide recognition. In 1967, she was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall – the first time ever that an ecumenical version of modern sacred music was performed there. She went on to record many additional albums and author many books, and she toured in Africa, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and North America. .

Together with the St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art (SBI), we are delighted to announce a new, five-CD set of this wonderful music entitled “Loving You.” The first CD is now available. It has 21 original songs by Sister Miriam Therese, sung by performing artists of many traditions.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of “Loving You” help support the global healing ministries of the Medical Mission Sisters.

The performing artists who freely shared their gifts of time and talent include: Mack Bailey; Cynthia Clawson; Patti Cohenour; Jahstix Dadson; Robert Edwin; Evelyn Harris; Stephen Hill; Janis Ian; Annie Karto; John McDermott; Melba Moore; The Limeliters – Mack Bailey; Andy Corwin; Gaylan Taylor; Bob Rowe; Seraphim – Christa, Lisa, Theresa Hanson; Kate Haggerty Varley; Elisabeth Von Trapp; and Charlie Zahm.

Volume One of “Loving You”–with 21 songs–is available for $14.95, plus $3.00 shipping and handling in the U.S. To order, please send your check to Medical Mission Sisters, “Loving You,” 8400 Pine Road, Philadelphia, PA 19111. For credit card orders or orders outside the U.S., please call 215-742-6100.

February 1, 2012

Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE)

Networking with others against human trafficking 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 Dagmar Plum is a founding member of RENATE, a group of women religious in Europe who are committed to working together against human trafficking and exploitation. In September, 2011, the group held an international conference in Poland near Krakow. Women religious from 17 European countries attended. .

Sister Dagmar explains that the conference facilitated contacts “with religious who are already involved in anti-trafficking activities, or with Sisters who are looking for a new and more meaningful mission. There is a great desire, especially among young Eastern European Sisters, to offer services for women in distress that only women can provide as an expression of their solidarity with these women.”

In her work with the Jesuit Refugee Service at a detention center near the Polish border, Sister Dagmar regularly meets women and men victims of trafficking, who are detained because they have no documents. In addition to pastoral work and counseling, she initiates or follows up on juridical procedures for the detainees. She also is teaching some of them English, German, and French.

For Sister Dagmar, who has been involved in human trafficking for many years, RENATE is a great support. She shares, “Cardinal Dwiesicz, the Archbishop of Krakow, opened the conference. He felt very much honored because RENATE had chosen his country for our first conference. He was full of admiration of the work and courage of the Sisters.”

She adds, “Being of one voice, one heart and one passion enables the group to work not only in solidarity, but also to think together strategically. This is the way the mission of RENATE is evolving. We have made a commitment to work not only with the victims, but to study the roots of the problem and to forward the mission of RENATE in light of these insights.”

For more information, please visit:

February 15, 2012

Bringing Teens Together to Talk About Dating Violence

Creating an environment where teens can talk together about dating violence 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 Teresita Hinnegan founded the Center for the Empowerment of Women in Philadelphia five years ago. Its mission is, “To stop the silence and put an end to all violence against women and girls.”

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in the U.S. To address this issue, the Center for the Empowerment of Women sponsored a “Spoken Word” event on February 25. It was a Poetry SLAM competition about teen dating violence. Young people between the ages of 13 and 21 were invited to share their feelings, philosophy, and experiences of dating.

Sister Teresita says, “This was a truly collaborative event, led by Aislin Lavin, my volunteer at the Women’s Center, and Stephanie Bartusis, a poet and free lance journalist. Also Christina Stoltz, Director of the Ploome Pilates Studio, was a consultant and very generously offered her studio for the event.”

The Kensington International Business High School’s Guitar Club provided music both before and after the poets shared their pieces. A panel of four judges decided on the top three contenders, who received awards.

Sister Teresita has been a nurse-midwife in Bangladesh, a local and state advocate for maternal-child health in Pennsylvania, and a 20-year faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She shares, “For me this has been a whole new learning experience including: a new approach to dealing with a social problem (violence against women); an introduction to a part of our culture that is using the art form of the ‘Spoken Word’ to give their message as to how they view societal problem; and a new vocabulary!”

For more information about the Center for the Empowerment of Women, please call 215-609-4360 or e-mail:

March 1, 2012

The 120th birthday of our Foundress, Anna Dengel

Medical Mission Sisters and Associates celebrate our Foundress, Anna Dengel, and all she has meant to so many around the world.

Anna Dengel was born on March 16, 1892, in Steeg, Austria. The oldest of a family that would grow to nine children, she was one who looked beyond her small mountain village to a world in need. Because her own mother died when she was a young girl, she was especially moved by the unmet health, education and development needs of women, wherever they happened to live, whoever they happened to be.

After medical school in Ireland, Anna’s vision and compassion led her to North India in the early 1920s as “the” doctor for thousands who had no care. They then led her to found the Medical Mission Sisters.

As a Catholic Community of women from 22 nations, we dedicate our professional talents and our personal lives to a mission of healing presence. We feel especially called to situations of injustice, to areas of disparity, neglect, discrimination, and where little or no value is being shown for the sacredness of all of created life.

Anna Dengel wrote, “Thank God for everything, and let us remember in love and gratitude those who went before us with the sign of faith.” We thank God for the gift of her life, and remember the millions of people who have been touched in a healing way because of her vision, faith and fortitude.

March 15, 2012

Sister Yumiko Nobue’s Healing Presence in Japan

Accompanying families suffering from the tsunami 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.

Raised in the Buddhist/Shintoist tradition, Medical Mission Sister Yumiko became a Christian when she was 18 and made her First Vows as a Medical Mission Sister at age 34. Now in mission in Tokyo, she joined in her country’s recent gatherings marking the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that killed over 15,000 people and injured nearly 6,000.

The families who lived near the Fukushima nuclear plant have endured a year of great suffering. She explains, “92% of the people in Fukushima still feel themselves at a loss and have no prospects of recovery yet.” The farming families, fisher folk and dairy farmers in this area have lost their means of making a living. They must wait for word from the Tokyo Electric Company or the government.

Sister has done relief work with the Association of Japanese Women Religious at a base in Shiogama, where the main task was to assist at an island about half an hour by boat from the mainland. At the base, Sister Yumiko provided hospitality and food to volunteers and other visitors, and helped dig a fishing boat out of deep sand. .

Sister Yumiko has also accompanied a “Listening with Compassion” group in Iwaki City, about 31 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, where a thousand displaced families are living in temporary homes. She visited with the people, listened to their concerns, and offered encouragement.

With gratitude for our continued prayers, Sister Yumiko shares the words of a woman who lost her newly married son and parents in the tsunami. “How she wishes she could go back to the days before March 11th. Knowing it is impossible, she said, ‘Embracing the sorrow, we will live. We will move on beyond our tears.’ Yes, life goes on, and the people have the courage to say Yes to life no matter what.”

April 1, 2012

Helping African Youth Develop a Spiritual Foundation

Offering religious and values education to young people in Ghana 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.

Shortly after she made her First Communion in 1994, Sister Rita Amponsaa-Owusu, who is from Ghana, joined the Tarcisians of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a group devoted to the Sacred Heart through Saint Tarcisius. The experience had such a positive influence in her life that now, as a Medical Mission Sister, she has begun a group herself in Bamiri, a small village outside Techiman, Ghana. The group is flourishing.

“The group seeks to provide a space where children are informed on various issues of life, so they get the chance to make informed decisions rather than succumbing to negative peer pressure. They are taught the Gospel values, and prayer and study of scripture are central to all we do,” Sister Rita explains. The children have an opportunity to be part of organized events – sports, quiz competitions, retreats, and inter parish, diocesan and national programs.

Children and young adults from primary school to senior high school can become members of the group. Many of the young people are from poor families. Sister Rita says, “In effect, the group empowers the members for life…to become responsible and make meaning out of life, in spite of hardships and other challenging situations.”

Sister Rita is fully involved with the group, and other Medical Mission Sisters visit from time to time to give talks, and to encourage the youth. Leaders have been chosen from among the members, and are being trained. Seeing the success of the group, the Techiman Diocese hopes to establish it in other parishes as well.

April 15, 2012

Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Networking with people from many faiths who share one vision of justice for all 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.

Over 800 people from the U.S. attended the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held from March 23-26, in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme, based on Isaiah 58, was, “Is this the Fast I Seek? Economy, Livelihood, and Our National Priorities.”

Sisters Janet Gottschalk, Maria Hornung, Lucy Klein-Gebbinck, Celine Paramundayil, Abhaya Thekkan, Mary Ann Tregoning, and Rose Vypana, candidate Christine Kancewick, and Mrs. Susan Thompson all participated.

A variety of workshops were offered on domestic issues; concerns affecting Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East; and on eco-justice, global economic justice, and peace and global security.

Susan Thompson, of our Alliance for Justice Office, coordinated the Global Economic Justice Track of the conference. She says,“It was a wonderful experience…we went to different workshops and could share what we heard and saw with each other each day.”

Sister Mary Ann Tregoning, who served in Africa for over 35 years, says, “We worshipped and prayed, learned from a variety of ordained and lay speakers from many cultural heritages, and shared our common desires.”
Dr. Margaret Aymer, an Associate Professor at the New Testament Interdenominational Theological Center, gave a spirited presentation on “The Bible and a Just Economy.” Dr. Gary Dorrien, an Episcopal priest who is a well-known social ethicist, professor and author, spoke about the economy, our livelihoods and national priorities. Dr. Ellen Nissenbaum, the senior VP for Government Affairs for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explored the content and implications of the budget that has recently been presented to Congress; and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, a United Methodist pastor, spoke movingly about the need for a budget that will care for the needs of the poor and most vulnerable.

For more information, and for a glimpse at next year’s program, please visit:

May 1, 2012

Holy Family Hospital, Techiman, Ghana

Ministering at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman 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 Sisters built Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana, in 1954. Originally a clinic with eight beds, today it has 115 beds, as well as a large number of outpatient services. It is now under the management of the Catholic Diocese of Sunyani.

Over the years, more than 100 Medical Mission Sisters have served at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman. Today, three of our Sisters continue in mission there.

Sister-Doctor Ursula Maier, a pediatrician, cares for the hospitalized children (who are often three to a bed), supervises the house officers, and is working with management toward the much-needed expansion of the ward.

Sister Catherine (Kate) Afua Osei, a nurse, is in charge of the Outpatient Department. She is also studying Public Health Administration and Management at Catholic University on the weekends, and will complete her degree in 2012.

Sister Rita Amponsaa-Owusu works at the main hospital pharmacy, and also at the antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic, which provides free medicine for people living with HIV/AIDS. The availability of the antiretroviral therapy has brought great improvements in their lives.
Our Community’s roots are strong at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, and we are thankful that our work is supported by the local people and the Diocese..

May 15, 2012

Celebrating Two Jubilarians and Two New Medical Mission Sisters

On June 10, 2012, Medical Mission Sisters in North America joyfully celebrate the fifty-year anniversaries of two of our Sisters, and the vows of two new Sisters.

A Mass and reception are being held at our North American Headquarters on June 10 in recognition of these Sisters’ lives of commitment:

Sister Carol Francis, who was raised in New Orleans and graduated from St. Louis University, worked in medical record keeping and administration at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Philadelphia, and at Holy Family Hospitals in Karachi and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. In the 1970s, she served as our Treasurer in North America, and in several other leadership roles. Sister Carol earned her B.F.A. in Fine Arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1979. She did graphic design work in Brooklyn for several years, then worked with tenants and shareholders in low-income cooperatives in the Bronx. She now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she continues her deep interest in art.

Sister-Doctor Patricia Lowery, a Chicago native, earned her M.D. at Georgetown University and did her residency and surgical internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center in New York. In 1978, she began 20 years of mission in Ghana, serving as a surgeon (and the only non-Ghanaian staff member) at Sunyani Regional Hospital. She also supervised Ob/Gyn, pediatrics, and female medicine at the 150-bed hospital. For the past 12 years, she has been has been in mission on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. She is Chief of Surgical Services at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, which serves almost 30,000 persons.

Former Mother of Carmel Sister Vilsy Thekkan (Abhaya) will profess her Final Vows as a Medical Mission Sister on June 10. A native of India, Sister Abhaya studied nursing at the Krupanidi School of Nursing in Bangalore. She was a nurse at a community health clinic in Bangalore, and at the diocesan hospital in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. After coming to the U.S. in late 2004, she served at St. Ann’s Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and at St. Joseph’s Home in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After taking an informal leave of absence from her Community, she joined the integration phase of life with the Medical Mission Sisters in June, 2009. She has recently ministered with our Sisters among poor people and immigrants in Arizona along the Mexican border, and in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Sister Christine Kancewick, also a Chicago native, will make her First Vows on June 10. A graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, she received her B.S. in Physical Therapy in 1978. Her work included long-term rehabilitation, pediatric care with children in schools, and special therapy with cancer patients. She received her Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in 1983, and also studied Spiritual Direction at the Claret Center in Hyde Park, Chicago. Sister Christine was the Director of Adult Faith Formation at SS Peter and Paul Parish, in Naperville, IL. She is currently involved in RCIA (Right of Christian Initiative of Adults) and the Alternatives to Violence Project.

June 1, 2012

50 Years of Healing Presence in Uganda

Honoring and continuing our 50 years of healing presence in Uganda 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 1962, Medical Mission Sisters arrived in the newly independent nation of Uganda, once known as the Pearl of Africa. We began our healing mission at Virika Hospital in Fort Portal, where we opened the first nursing school in Western Uganda. Our Sisters also began to hold regular safari clinics in the remote areas.

Seeing the great need among the people in far-flung areas, in 1979 we turned over the hospital’s management and built a small dispensary in Kasanga, a remote village in western Uganda. Our Sisters at the clinic treated thousands of people with tuberculosis, cholera, malaria and other diseases, and expanded their work into ten small clinics in outlying areas. Programs for education, immunization, nutrition, and mothers and children were all part of our work.

Eight years later, with the help of local parishioners we were able to begin another small dispensary in Rubanda, Uganda. Our Primary Health Care program there now covers 45 villages and serves over 20,000 people. Patients receive outpatient, inpatient, lab, pharmacology and maternity services. Special support for adults and orphans affected by HIV/AIDS is also given.

Our Sisters are also active in Kampala, the capital of Uganda and home of Sister Therese Tindirugamu, our Sector Coordinator in Africa. Sister Janet Harbauer has been in mission for over 20 years at Rubaga Hospital. Sister Josephine Nafula works at a de-addiction center and teaches at the Kibusi Brothers University College. Sister Mary Jo Grethel conducts retreats and psycho-spiritual workshops for Uganda’s priests, religious, and lay persons. Many of them know us, and some, like Bishop Robert Muhiirwa, were delivered by one of our Sisters.

One of the great blessings of these 50 years is the number of new vocations. In 1969, Sister Speciosa Babikinamu, a midwife, became our very first Medical Mission Sister from Africa. More than 30 other women from several African nations have followed her lead.

We thank God for the opportunities and challenges of the past 50 years, and ask for continued blessings on our mission in Uganda today and in the future.

June 15, 2012

Indigenous Peoples Forum at the United Nation

Learning from information shared at the U.N. 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 Celine Paramundayil, our representative to the United Nations, attended the Indigenous Peoples Forum in May, 2012. “Indigenous people from around the world came in colorful costumes,” she says. “The theme for the year was Doctrine of Discovery, which provided that by law and divine intention European Christian countries gained power and legal rights over indigenous non-Christian peoples immediately upon their ‘discovery’ by Europeans.”

A group of indigenous students from Salamanca High School in New York spoke of their situation as victims of the Doctrine. For years, their forbears were not permitted to live their own ethnicity. Instead of giving up their native language, now the students are encouraged to speak it, and treasure the culture of their ancestors. They stressed the importance of studying the Doctrine of Discovery to learn more about history that still influences our world.

Sister Katherine Baltazar, who attended the Forum for a day, said the importance of preserving native languages was also stressed at the presentation she attended on Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Other themes included the intrusions by mineral companies on the land, the lack of employment, non-inclusion in government policies affecting the indigenous communities, the desire for self-determination, and violence against indigenous women and girls.

“My new learning was about Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) which is a term I was not familiar with–but is now a focus for addressing cardiac disease, diabetes, chronic lung diseases and other conditions that often are related to inadequate diets and decreased exercise now plaguing many of the world’s communities,” Sister Katherine explains.

Sister Katherine also enjoyed a presentation on the contributions of Indigenous Peoples in providing nutritious food for all. A woman from the Micronesian Islands spoke about helping people to return to their traditional diets, which are much healthier than the fast foods being imported on the islands.

July 1, 2012

Enabling Older Parishioners in Arequipa, Peru, to Grow Nutritious Food

Helping older people grow fresh food 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 Arequipa, Peru, a group of older people gather at the local parish every Friday. With our Sisters’ help, they began a project to grow vegetables on a small piece of land behind the parish house.

Sister Pat Gootee explains, “We put up a fence around the garden land and asked City Hall to send some men to plow the land that had become very hard…the older folks came to pick up the rocks from the dirt and plant their seeds, and they brought bottles of water from their houses for their plot of land to make the seeds grow.”

Because Arequipa has a very dry climate, the need for water was ongoing. The group decided to ask City Hall to install a tank of water beside the garden, to be used to water the plants. After many months of insisting that this tank be installed, it was finally put in place. Meanwhile, the land dried up and became very hard. After many requests, City Hall again sent some men to plow the land and remove the rocks.

Sister Pat says, “Most of the older people have migrated from the mountain areas as young people, so they have their roots among the farmers in the mountain valleys. They truly enjoy working on the land and watching their seeds sprout and grow.” With the water tank, the older folks are very hopeful about producing something this year.

She reflects, “Like so many areas on this planet, there is very little water on the mountain sides around Arequipa. The relationship of hard work, to prepare the land and finally to produce a harvest is important but difficult. So much of the land in Peru is desert, and the miracle is to transform this desert into a green garden. This is the kingdom of heaven made visible.”

July 15, 2012

From Drug and Alcohol Addiction to Healthy Living

Providing wholesome, homegrown food for city dwellers whose health has been compromised through addiction is one of the hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates try to be a healing presence to others today.

As part of its program of holistic recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, New Jerusalem Now (NJN) in North Philadelphia takes advantage of the summer season to grow its own produce. Lettuce, tomatoes, squash, kale, collards, peppers and more help feed the 30-40 formerly homeless residents of NJN.

Founded by Medical Mission Sister Margaret McKenna over 20 years ago, New Jerusalem Now reaches out to marginalized persons in a very poor area of the city. NJN’s five empowering therapies are:
_ addicts helping addicts
_ solidarity in recovery
_ recovery that includes 12 Step and
Alternatives to Violence Programs
_ family-like recovery model
_ giving back to the local community
NJN shares the homegrown produce it cannot use with those in the local neighborhood as a way of giving back.

August 1, 2012

Counseling the Victims of Sexual Violence

Learning how best to be present to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates try to be a healing presence to others today.

In response to the need for counseling skills to help Medical Mission Sisters and others “be there” for those experiencing rape, incest and other sexual trauma, District West Africa hosted a “Counseling the Victims of Sexual Violence” Workshop in June. The nine-day workshop was led by Medical Mission Sisters Associate Sister Marie Ego, a Sister of Loretto, who worked with us in Ghana for many years. She also is a trained psychotherapist.

There were 11 participants in the program, five Medical Mission Sisters and six Sisters from other Congregations. It was a real international group with Nigerian, Filipina, Kenyan, Ghanaian and German Sisters attending. Sister Marie is from the United States.

Step-by-step, such issues as sexual exploitation, rape, victim-blaming, the wall of silence, incest and future trauma in the lives of abused persons were discussed. Participants learned why children are so afraid to tell their parents about any personal abuse they experience and why parents so often do not hear what their children are saying. Sister Marie addressed these often-labeled “delicate” topics using personal sharing and reflection, group discussions, practical exercises and some very illuminating movies. All felt they left the workshop much better prepared to help the women and girls who come to them for help.

August 15, 2012

Chinese Brush Painting and Meditation

Teaching others how meditation and art can come together is among the hundreds of ways that our Sisters and Associates try to be a healing presence today.

Sister Mary Gavin is known for her beautiful Chinese Brush Painting, her lovely liturgical enhancements and her instructive art classes. Her Contemplative Arts Classes–now in their 17th year–start again October 3, 2012, at our North American Headquarters in Fox Chase, Philadelphia.

Chinese Brush Painting is rooted in a rich tradition of many thousands of years. It is a spiritual discipline with principles and refined techniques, with purposeful use of brushes, ink, paper, color and composition. There are many people who find Chinese brush paintings to be some of the most understated, beautiful paintings around the world. Depicting subjects such as people, birds, flowers, and landscapes, these paintings represent one of the oldest styles of art in existence today.

Born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Sister Mary worked as a nurse-midwife and nurse-midwifery instructor for many years before pursuing her strong interest in art. She studied Art Therapy at Temple University and learned Chinese Brush Painting and Eastern Meditative Arts prior to beginning her Contemplative Arts ministry.

Sister’s classes introduce participants to all the steps involved in creating what appears to be “simple” artwork. They also offer 10-15 minutes of Silent Sitting Meditation. Sister Mary uses meditation because of its benefits to the body, mind and spirit. The practice of using simple breathing techniques helps one to focus and relax, reducing stress.

She says, “During meditation, you are focused on breathing. During the painting, you are focused on the brush and becoming one with the brush. Then, you have complete focus.”

Class Schedule:
Wednesdays beginning October 3, 2012, from 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Thursdays beginning October 4, 2012, from 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
and 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. There will be seven weeks of classes.

For more information or to register, please call Sister Mary Gavin, at (215) 725-1843.

October 1, 2012

Special Companions at the End of Life’s Journey

Journeying with those preparing to go home to God is one of hundreds of ways that our Sisters and Associates try to be a healing presence today

For many years, a number of our Sisters and Associates have been special companions to those passing from Earthly to Eternal life. They each recognize the sacredness and mystery of this time in a person’s life. Each in her or his own way, offer their physical presence, their care and compassion, and their prayers, trying to be fully present to the person who is approaching death.

One such companion is North American Medical Mission Sister Denise Elliott, who has worked with hospice patients for some time. At Action AIDS in the 1980s, she witnessed many suffering people who were isolated from the structures meant to help them. But she also recalls, “I came away…enriched and more at ease with how people die, and at the same time, growing in my understanding that each death is as unique as each person.”

She shares, “I remember well the first time I just sat breathing in rhythm with a person who was in a deep coma. The experience of connecting with not only that person but life itself was, and is, a profound ‘knowing,’ of experiencing God.” For Sister Denise, being involved with hospice “is a way to stay close to this final incredible mystery.”
A social worker who has an MSW Degree from Temple University, and who once worked as an Assistant Administrator in Calcutta House, a hospice for men with AIDS, Sister Denise says, “another gift of being a hospice volunteer is availability to family members who are also traveling a new uncharted path. I am so impressed at how so many families unselfishly share home and time and energy to be there for their loved one who is dying.”

“Being part of hospice, accompanying a person who is dying, is a pure gift. It is for me a deep renewal of my belief in life, of my faith that love is God and this love is eternal.”

September 1, 2012

A Century of Service in India

Offering lifetimes of compassionate care to the people of India is among the hundreds of ways that our Sisters and Associates try to be a healing presence today.

Sisters Rita Kacheriparambil and Josephine Veliparampil, both from Kerala, South India, marked their Golden Jubilees as Medical Mission Sisters at a special Mass in Sandipani, Pune, on August 15. Close to 100 family members, friends and other Medical Mission Sisters from all over India joined the celebration.

A nurse before entering our Community, Sister Rita was trained as a midwife at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar, India; served there for several years; then worked in our hospital in Thuruthipuram, South India. She studied public health nursing and reached out to many in need of basic health care services in areas served by Holy Family Hospitals in New Delhi, Bombay and Mandar. Sister Rita was a member of our pastoral team at Kurji Holy Family Hospital, Patna, and in recent years has been part of our healing mission at the Holistic Health Centre in Pune.

Sister Josephine, a nurse-anesthetist, assisted at thousands of surgeries at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar, for many years. She then became part of our Community’s formation teams in Maner, Pune and Rajnigandha. Sister Josephine, whose brother Msgr. George Veliparampil was the main celebrant at the Jubilee Mass, currently serves in a variety of support services at our Holistic Health Centre in Pune.

“Our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude as we recall the past 50 years of our journey as Medical Mission Sisters,” Sisters Rita and Josephine say. Literally tens of thousands of people in North and South India have felt their healing presence throughout these years in very special and personal ways. Congratulations, Sisters!

September 15, 2012

Enriching the Lives of Children with Disabilities

Caring for children with disabilities in Peru is among the hundreds of ways that our Sisters and Associates try to be a healing presence today.

In Peru, the government declared 2011 to 2020 as the “decade of people living with disabilities” and 2012 as the “year of national integration and appreciation of our diversity.” Although there is a general (protective) law for people with disabilities, our Sisters in Peru note that all do not benefit from it. Disability remains a factor that aggravates the extreme poverty of many families.

COFARI (Community of Families and Comprehensive Rehabilitation) began in Arequipa 10 years ago in the house of the mother of a child with cerebral palsy. It began with three children and after a year grew to eight. The staff of COFARI are now offering professional counseling, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, psychology, speech therapy, balanced meals, and shuttle service to and from home. Most children come from families with low income and pay very little for the daily therapies.

Sister Pat Gootee shares the story of Eduardo who is five years old and has cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He could not walk or talk, but answered with his eyes and smile. Eduardo requires daily therapies to reduce the spasms of his muscles and facilitate the mobility of his body. Sister says, “He stays in COFARI during the day and his mom has found a job to support the family. After having surgery, he is able to sit in a wheelchair. We hope that in a year or two of physical therapy and occupational therapy, Eduardo will be able to enter a special school and learn a trade that can support him in life.”

Another child, Heiner is a 15-year-old boy who was born with “split spine” (a congenital spine disorder), could not read or write and had a learning disability. In 2010, the local government started a literacy project in the community center of the neighborhood (Bocanegra). Once a week, Heiner comes to physical therapy where he has contact with other children. Our Sister Tomasa, a teacher, has visited Heiner regularly and encouraged him to do handicrafts to sell and earn a little income. He also is involved in making handicrafts with other children and parents of the group receiving physical therapy in our project.

“For me, Heiner is a beautiful example of how therapy can let the kids be more independent, and this makes life easier for the family. It shows me also how much can be accomplished when the families take advantage of the opportunities that arise and get involved in the local community. We continue, day by day, walking with Heiner and his family,” says Sister Christianne Gadiot.

October 15, 2012

Loving Care of our Elder Ones

Offering care and support to our Elder Sisters in North America is just one of the ways we are called to be a healing presence today.

In North America today, we are committed to providing our elder Sisters with the health, religious and social services they need for the full length of their days. They have given so much of themselves to others throughout their lives. By offering a “continuum of care,” we try to help each one to participate as fully and as long as possible in her lifelong mission of healing.

Many of our older Sisters pioneered our missions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. After decades of service in hands-on health care, teaching, community development and efforts to educate and empower women, they have turned over their ministries to local counterparts and come “home.” These wonderful women in their 80s and 90s continue to be a healing presence in whatever ways they are able: helping with Community tasks, teaching literacy courses, praying daily for the needs of our world, helping in our Thrift Shop, writing letters to politicians about social justice issues, being active in local senior centers, and staying in touch with our Sisters overseas.

Sister Aquinas Hamilton, one of our Sisters living at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, says, “If you can do something, you can make a difference,” quoting another Medical Mission Sister–Mary Louise Lynch. And so they do!

We as a Community support our elder Sisters’ “new way” of being a healing presence by providing the physical assistance, adaptive devices and living situations they need. We listen to and share their stories with others, for they are full of life and hope and concern for those in need. We are blessed, indeed, by all they are and continue to call us to be as Medical Mission Sisters.

November 1, 2012

Life Among the Maasai in Loitokitok

Sharing life and ways to better health among the Maasai people in Loitokitok, Kenya, is just one of the ways we are called to be a healing presence today.

Sister Pat Patton from Tarrytown, New York, was in mission in Africa for over 40 years. From 1971 to 1982, Sister worked as matron at the first hospital in Maasai land, Loitokitok District Hospital in Kenya. The Bishop then invited her to establish a community health program in Ngong Diocese, which covers most of the tribal lands of the Maasai. “This meant preparing myself for an entirely different approach to health care, and combining health care with the development of people.”

The first step was to do a basic survey, to identify the primary health care needs. The community then selected the women and men they wanted to be trained as Community Health Workers (CHWs). Over 300 CHWs were trained in concepts of basic hygiene, disease prevention, and other health issues. They then went out and taught their individual communities what they had learned.

An integrated group from a number of areas in the parish also formed to address the problems of HIV/AIDS. “We decided to have a resource center, so that we could reach teachers, secondary school students, and the local population,” Sister Pat explains. “We started with a series of classes in our parish, and then we linked up with the Centers for Disease Control in Nairobi.” The center, Boma la Tumaini (House of Hope) was dedicated on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2004. World AIDS Day is recognized each year with programs to help further educate the community.

Over 100 people come to Boma la Tumaini each month for testing. If they are positive, they are able to get anti-retroviral drugs through a private clinic. “The most rewarding part of working with these people is to watch women develop their leadership qualities. They start with health education, and go on to the development of their community,” says Sister Pat.

Sister Pat spent her last years in Africa working with FRIFAT (Friends Fighting AIDS together). FRIFAT is a support group of 60 HIV-positive persons that meet weekly for classes, sharing, and celebrations. They learn income-generating skills (bead making, sewing, etc.) and work on a communal farm. Some members of FRIFAT have been trained as community health workers, and other members have learned about home-based care. As a result, they have been invited to give talks at antenatal clinics in the hospital, and at youth group meetings and in churches.

When Sister returned to the U.S. a few months ago, she knew she had left the Maasai people in and around Loitokitok with much-needed skills for a healthier life.

November 15, 2012

Computer Skills for Job Training

Teaching computer skills to persons searching for a job is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to those in need today.

About 12 years ago, Sister Marie Schmids began working in our Connections Job Program, founded by Sister Joan Foley in New Port Richey, Florida. She recalls, “There was a definite need to respond to individuals who wanted to make career changes who needed computer skills. I was just learning about computer technology, and wanted to share what I knew with others. The Connections Program seemed to be a perfect match for me to do this.”

Since that time, Sister Marie has seen the need for basic computer skills grow dramatically. “Almost all applications for employment require some basic computer skills, and require the job applicant to understand how to complete the job application on the computer,” she explains.

She adds, “Lately, the number of older clients seeking employment has increased because of the existing housing and economic crisis in Florida at this time.” Many of the individuals who attend computer classes at Connections have no computer skills, and need one-on-one training on the basics of using a computer. Some of the clients need to learn typing skills as well.

“Over the years, the quality of the computer courses available at Connections have developed significantly – we are blessed with sufficient computers and good teaching materials!” says Sister Marie. Classes are given on: Windows, Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, QuickBooks, File Management, File Organization, E-mail Fundamentals, Internet for Job Search, and Internet for Research.

Sister Marie explains, “I have discovered practical tutorials that prove very helpful to those seeking employment. These tutorials are excellent software programs that are self-taught and fun for the student.”

“To be a part of my students’ enthusiasm and appreciation of their new computer skills is fulfilling, and an exciting part of my ministry at Connections.”

Pastoral Care in “Priestless Parishes”

Providing pastoral care in “priestless parishes” is just one of the ways Medical Mission Sisters have been called to be a healing presence.

Medical Mission Sister Joan Barina and Mercy Sister Joyce Ross spent over 30 years together, first as religious education coordinators throughout the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, then as pastoral associates in Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Kenai. Appointed by the bishop to these positions, they are among a relatively small group of Church workers who have ministered to persons in parishes without resident priests.

The two Sisters recently published a book on their experience in Alaska entitled “Our Journey with the Real Church: Faith in the Last Frontier.” “Today, the entire Church is in need of ordained clergy,” they note in their book. “However, we have noticed that the Church in spite of fewer priests is the Church. The faith-filled laity (are) still practicing and are very aware that they are the Church.”

A Wisconsin native, Sister Joan entered the Medical Mission Sisters in 1961 and met Sister Joyce while working for the national hospital system in Alaska. During her three decades in the state, Sister Joan helped with sacramental preparation, RCIA programs, and catechetical work with adults and children. She also facilitated a Scripture study group and an outreach to prisoners. A graduate of Marquette University, in April 2012, Sister Joan received “A Person for Others Award” at Marquette’s Alumni National Awards Ceremony in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Both Sisters Joan and Joyce retired to Albany, New York, in 2009. While writing their book, they began serving as Eucharistic Ministers at Peter’s Hospital, a ministry they continue today, as well as “helping out” in the city’s Blessed Sacrament Parish.

“God is with us no matter what. We’re still praying to the same Jesus. He’s there even if ‘Father’ isn’t. I think people realize that,” the two Sisters reflect.

“Our Journey with the Real Church: Faith in the Last Frontier,” can be purchased from

December 1, 2012

Contributing to Global Efforts toward Justice and Peace

Our collaborative work with the United Nations is just one of the ways Medical Mission Sisters have been called to be a healing presence.

Sister Celine Paramundayil has been the Medical Mission Sisters’ full-time UN representative since 2010. She says Medical Mission Sisters’ involvement with the UN is “an extension of our healing presence.” In our committee and in other collaborative work there, “we strive to give voice to the voiceless by advocating for policy changes that are vital for the health of humanity and our planet.”

The primary goal of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. In light of the current global context, for the first time a high level forum on the culture of peace was held at the UN General Assembly on September 14.

“According to Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, the culture of peace should be seen as the essence of a new humanity, a new global civilization based on inner oneness and outer diversity. A culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes and ways of life based on principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity and respect for diversity, dialogue and understanding,” Sister shares. “His words resonate the kingdom values of Jesus, the very values we Medical Mission Sisters uphold.”

Sister Celine says, “While the problems of our world seem immense and continue to grow, we can have hope that the shared global network of committed persons is a clear indication of the growing role of civil society across our world.”

Sister has participated in many meetings and events in New York, facilitated the participation of other MMS and Associates in a variety of UN events, and enabled visitors, especially participants of our 2012 Gathering of Newer Members in Philadelphia, to get a firsthand experience of our contribution to this world body. She continues to see her mission at the UN as linked to all peace and justice involvements that work in the spirit of the Millennium Development Goals and other global peace initiatives.

Medical Mission Sisters have been involved with the UN for over 20 years, receiving DPI (Department of Public Information) accreditation in 1994 and EcoSoc (Economic and Social Council) consultative status in 2000. We also are active participants in work for Women and Climate Change.

Sisters Janet Gottschalk, Teresita Hinnegan and Philo Morris led the way for Sister Celine’s current full-time involvement. They continue to participate in UN meetings, as does Sister Senait Mengesha in Ethiopia.

December 15, 2012

North American Ministries

Focusing on the needs of the poor and those easily overlooked or forgotten in North America is just one of the many ways that Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates try to be a healing presence today.

Our 119 Medical Mission Sisters and 41 Associates in North America begin a new year of healing mission by responding to the special needs of the poor, isolated, underserved or those in need of a special healing presence in a country often considered the richest and most powerful in the world. As all members of our Community, our Sisters serving in the United States and Mexico believe justice is integral to healing. They work and pray for the day when all will be treated with the care and concern they deserve as human beings and as children of God.

Women and their needs are a special focus of ministry in North America. Whether these women are victims of domestic violence or trafficking, newer immigrants looking for work, in prison or in transition from incarceration, homeless, uninsured, seeking greater knowledge and leadership skills, or struggling to make a good life for their families, Medical Mission Sisters reach out to them as part of hands-on and in-person programs. Some of these programs have been developed by us. Others we have joined as co-workers with others for justice.

Several of our Sisters teach English as a Second Language to adult learners. Often these students come early in the morning, before their minimum-wage jobs, to learn language skills that will help them to better support those in their care and eventually gain citizenship. Other immigration issues–safe housing, good health care, educational opportunities, income-generating projects–also receive the attention, and action, of our North American members.

Two of our Sisters in the US work on Native American Reservations, providing needed health care services. One is a surgeon, the other a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Other Sisters continue to offer holistic health services, especially among those who are poor and living with almost unbearable stress.

Our Sisters offer counseling, religious education and spiritual direction in several areas. Wherever possible, the Community’s love of liturgy and attention to its importance in our lives are shared with others. So, too, is our respect for and collaboration with persons of all faiths for peace and justice in our world.

Taking time to talk with the lonely in parish settings and in our Philadelphia Thrift Shop involves several MMS. We also are pleased to be present to those in assisted living and nursing care facilities, including some of our own members. Other Sisters share their communications and artistic talents and teach interested persons how to identify and develop them in their own lives.

Praying for those who share their special intentions with us is very important to all North American MMS and Associates and a special ministry of our elder Sisters.

January 1, 2013

Germany Ministries

Caring for the poor and vulnerable in Germany is just one of the many ways that Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates try to be a healing presence today.

Medical Mission Sisters have been in mission in Germany for over 50 years. A vibrant group, with half their members below age 50, our Sisters in Germany serve in Berlin, Bottrop, Essen and Frankfurt as doctors, pastoral counselors, hospital chaplains, social workers, theologians, and therapists. They are joined in mission by committed Associate members who together with them minister to the sick and dying, elderly persons, children, the homeless, those with disabilities, women who are trafficked and imprisoned, recovering addicts, and people who are seeking a deeper spirituality in their lives. They also participate in many activities that promote peace, social justice, and interreligious dialogue.

Living in an economically deprived area of the eastern sector of Berlin, our Sisters come face-to-face with signs of growing poverty and need. Working with those with disabilities, Sister Monika Ballani is the head of the pastoral care department for disabled persons in the Archdiocese of Berlin. With a similar ministry focus, Sister Thekla Schonfeld teaches at a school for children with special needs. Helping those in precarious living situations, poverty or other crises, Sisters Michaela Banks and Angelika Kollacks run a women’s counseling center. These Sisters also share their healing presence with those with addiction problems and with those who are former victims or victimizers of concentration camps now looking for inner peace.

In Bottrop, both Medical Mission Sisters and Associates accompany and support people who are acutely or chronically ill, are suffering from chronic pain, are dying, grieving or have other needs for counseling or pastoral care. To help women and men cope with the growing isolation felt in elderly households, our Sisters and Associates in Bottrop try to create a culture of care in the local parishes and communities by establishing groups of volunteers to visit sick and housebound people and by supporting volunteers of the local hospice group.

Our Sisters in Essen also give special attention to the needs of the elderly. In this, they encounter real poverty in material, mental, and emotional resources. Theirs is a unique contribution, as they explore the realities of aging and how best to help others respect the dignity of people in their elder years.

When she moved to the Essen community, Sister Maria Hohenadl took on the role of counselor and case manager in a Catholic care organization. Part of this position consists of visiting elderly and homebound people, eliciting their needs and finding ways to meet them. As a member of several parish communities, Sister Mechthild Driesch continues to try to make the Church present in people’s lives. She helped start a home visiting service for those needing care composed of fellow parishioners.

Medical Mission Sisters in Frankfurt live their mission of healing presence through the medical and psychotherapeutic care of those who are homeless, addicted to substances, and victims of violence. They also accompany people searching for God and meaningful spirituality in their lives.

At the Center for Spirituality in Frankfurt, our Sisters work together with a Franciscan priest and explore creative ways to express and share faith and deepen spiritual life. A local community of our Sisters, right next to the meditation center, supports their many programs and efforts.

Medical Mission Sisters and Associates throughout Germany come together often for prayer, liturgy and focused reflective sessions in which they share their experiences in mission. They also are very involved in sharing their life and work with interested women in “Come and See” weekends and in the on-going Integration of new Canonical and Associate members of the Community.

January 15, 2013

Sister Patrice McSweeney

Many years ago, Mother Anna Dengel caught a glimpse of Sister Patrice McSweeney walking past her office and called her aside. Was there any reason, Mother Dengel wanted to know, that Sister Patrice wouldn’t want to return to Venezuela, where she had lived as a young girl, for her first mission assignment?

Sister Patrice recalls: “I just stood there like a poker and said ‘no, there’s no reason at all.’ On the inside, I was doing cartwheels!”

She would go on to spend nearly 40 wonderful years in Venezuela. She first went to Maracaibo, then to Caripito, where she served as a nurse. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Puerto Rico. Afterwards, she went back to Venezuela, this time working in Barquisimeto, helping deaf and handicapped children in Barrio La Paz to receive an education.  In 1999, Sister Patrice repatriated to the United States after she “came down with a bug.”

“The Lord knew that was the only way to get me back here. I loved everything about Venezuela,” Sister Patrice theorizes. It took her about six months to recover and, afterwards, she became active in pastoral ministry, visiting the sick, and working as an office aide for a literacy center.  Sister Patrice now volunteers part-time in our Community’s Mission Development Center.

Sister Pauline Sadiq

At an early age, Sister Pauline Sadiq’s father showed her the importance of being interconnected with the Earth. The eldest of seven children raised in Sindh, Pakistan, she spent her early childhood crawling around in clay, playing with it and using it to make toys. Her father was a farmer, and he brought home fresh vegetables for supper each day. She loved the way that he always walked barefoot across the Earth, soaking up its positive energy.

“This energy made him gracious and a peaceful person,” Sister Pauline recalls. “I am proud to be the daughter of a farmer.”

Entering the Medical Mission Sisters in 1992, Sister Pauline made her Final Profession of Vows in 2002 after training as a nurse-midwife at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi. For ten years, she served in our dispensary in Faisalabad and helped to found the Lahore Community in Pakistan. In addition to serving as formation director, she regularly visits the “bonded” workers forced to work in the brick kiln to pay off family debts.

Sister Pauline shares: “I am challenged to be a voice of the voiceless. I need to trust myself and believe that I am God’s beautiful daughter. God is dwelling in me and is my co-journeyer.  Then I will become the voice of the voiceless.”