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Archive for ARCHIVES/Meet Our Members

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.”

Sister Maria Fernanda Ramirez Rivera (Mafe)

Sister Maria Fernanda Ramirez Rivera (Mafe) is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and Associates trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer today.

Born in Popayan, Colombia, Sister Maria Fernanda Ramirez Rivera (Mafe) studied medicine, then worked in a remote jungle between Colombia and Ecuador. “Working as a general physician in the zone of armed conflict in Colombia, I spent most of the time caring for children who were victims of war and those who were forced to take part in this conflict as child soldiers. These children of war helped me to discover my religious vocation. I think their cry awakened in me the call for a more radical commitment to the Gospel.”

Sister made First Vows as a Medical Mission Sister in 2007 in Peru. On March 9, she will make her Final Vows in our Community.

Currently Sister Mafe is a member of our Callao community in Peru. During her pre-candidacy, she worked as a volunteer in the hospital Dos de Mayo, a hospital for people with few economic resources, which helped her get to know the Peruvian pediatric approach. During this time she came to explore possibilities of mission in Pachacutec, a town in Lima’s desert along the coast.

She says, “One day, a young mother came to my office with a child with severe disabilities. I was touched to know there were no options for going to any rehab because of the lack of appropriate means of transportation, the great distance to hospitals and the lack of money. During the weeks that followed, many other mothers came with children with disabilities. I felt we should do something for them. We found support from two NGOs and started with 10 children in September 2008.” Sister Mafe continues, “We offered physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, psychological help, social worker services and pediatric care. Gradually more and more came.” Sister also worked in a project for women with HIV and AIDS.

In addition to her medical service, Sister Mafe is active in inter-congregational collaboration both in reflection groups and in mission itself. She participated in disaster relief work after the earthquake in Pisco, Peru, and the earthquake in Haiti. Sister reflects, “The whole experience left me with the great satisfaction of having been there and having contributed from my being as a Medical Mission Sister, the commitment to try to make others know better the reality of these brothers and sisters (in Haiti), the desire to keep on supporting concrete projects of trustworthy organizations – and the treasure of the many people I came to know, with whom I could share the mission, to whom I could give my time, my gifts, my love, share a hug, a prayer, a word.”

We congratulate and pray for Sister Mafe as she takes her Life Vows as a Medical Mission Sister!

March 1, 2013

Sister Anne Kayathinkara

Sister Anne is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 19 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Anne, the eighth of eleven children, was born in Kerala, India. When she was 19, she left home to serve as a volunteer nurse at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, India. She recalls, “This was the first time I crossed the boundaries of my native land to go to a faraway place with a new culture, a new language, new people, and a new profession…somehow I knew that God had already taken hold of my hand, and I was being led through new territory on my spiritual path.”

After making First Vows in 1947, Sister Anne was one of four pioneering Medical Mission Sisters who began serving at Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital in Kerala, India. “The people were deeply moved with awe when they saw the young Sisters working in the hospital,” she says. “For the first three months I slept in the hospital ward and when the patients needed something, they would just call me…it was a real family life. What we enjoyed in the beginning was togetherness! We were one with the people, and they were full of appreciation.”

Sister Anne went on to minister at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar; St. Thomas Hospital, Chethipuzha; Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital; and Holy Family Hospital in Bombay. She says, “I had an adventurous journey as a nurse.” She became vocation promoter and newsletter editor for our South India District – dual positions which she held for six years. In 1973, she was nominated by the Kerala Bishops’ Conference for the new position of General Secretary of All Kerala Vocation Promoters Conference.

In 1987, Sister Anne returned to Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, where she began pastoral care service. “After 48 years, I was really thrilled to see the changes and developments there.” She presently works in the hospital’s counseling and psychiatry department.

“Looking back over the years, I have come to understand that God took hold of me even before I knew where I was being led,” she says. “I feel that I was chosen to follow in a special way, and I was always held with special protection and care. Today I am even more and more aware of the presence of God.”

January 1, 2010

Sister Helen Lembeck

Sister Helen is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Sister Helen graduated from Visitation Academy before joining our Community. She then earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1969 to 1974, Sister Helen ministered in Fort Portal, Uganda, as Secretary of Virika Hospital and Treasurer of District East Africa. She returned to our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia for several years, serving as Treasurer of our Eastern District, and working in a private accounting firm.

Sister Helen went back to Africa in 1980. In Malawi, she was Business Administrator at Montfort Hospital for 7 years, and at Phalombe Hospital for 3 years. She also served as our Sector Treasurer in Africa, and as a member of our Central Finance Team.

After repatriating to the U.S. in the 1990s, Sister Helen moved to California. She has been Treasurer of the Western District, and active with our Assembly of North America, either as an elected member or as a participant-observer.

In 1995, Sister Helen earned her M.B.A. in Global Management from the University of Phoenix. She currently serves as our Treasurer in North America. She shares, “What makes my job easier for sure is the fact that we have wonderful donors and benefactors who have supported our ministry and are co-missionaries with us around the world. Thanks to their faithful support, we are tasked with looking for the best stewardship of the gifts God and they have given; to use them wisely now and have sufficient for the future.”

Sister Helen has also been on our global General Finance Team for 14 years. “This is a wonderful opportunity to learn how other areas of our Society are faring financially, and to contribute to or participate in our Generalate responsibility for overall care for our members, ministries and healing charism.”

January 15, 2010

Sister Celine Paramundayil

Sister Celine is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 19 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Kerala, India, Sister Celine is the youngest of eight children. A nurse, she joined our Community in 1982. As a young Sister, she wrote, “Mission for me means recognizing my share in God’s plan for wholeness, since I am a part of God and of this universe. If the light is lit in me, that much darkness is removed from this world. With my little lamp, I wish to enter into the darker areas of suffering, illness and ignorance.”

After her First Vows, Sister Celine served as the youth animator at the Lourdes Forane Church in Kottayam. In 1991, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Holy Cross College, Trichy. She ministered at Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital in Kerala before opting to work among the poor dalit women in Gandhipet, Tamil Nadu. The dalit people are the least in the social strata, and Sister Celine was a pioneer in our work with them.

She shares, “My ten years in Gandhipet were golden years…I learned the value of human dignity and the need to respect each human being, irrespective of their caste or what they possess. Even today, if someone insults the dalit, I feel the pain.”

Sister Celine received a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies from Mother Teresa Women’s University in Kodaikanal, and was recognized with the A.K. Pillai Award for earning the highest marks.

After serving as the assistant program coordinator of our Ayushya Center for Healing and Integration, Sister Celine began teaching in our School of Nursing at Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, Bharananganam.

Sister Celine will begin a three-year term as our Community’s new representative to the United Nations in 2010. She will be based in the U.S., and will work with Sister Philo Morris in the first six months of this year in transitioning into the responsibilities of this ministry.

February 1, 2010

Sister Anna Mae Doran

Sister Anna Mae is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in the small town of Jordan, New York, Sister Anna Mae earned her R.N. at St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Syracuse before joining our Community. In 1950, she began 29 years of hospital and public health work in India, where she also became a registered midwife. She was a supervisor at our Holy Family Hospitals in Patna and Mandar, and Administrator at St. Thomas Hospital and Archbishop Attipetty Jubilee Memorial Hospital in Kerala, and Holy Family Hospital in Bombay.

Sister Anna Mae returned to the U.S. in the late 1960s, earning her Bachelors Degree in Education from Temple University and her Masters in Public Health from Tulane. Back in India, from 1971 – 1978, she served as Executive Secretary and Relief Coordinator of the Bihar Voluntary Health Association, and Coordinator of the Community Health Department at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna.

After repatriating to the U.S. in 1978, Sister Anna Mae served in a federally-funded “Improved Pregnancy Outcome” project in Anderson County, South Carolina, where she “saw a great need for midwifery in rural areas of the South.” She became certified as a nurse-midwife at the University of Mississippi. She then spent five years in Americus, Georgia, founding and coordinating the Middle Flint Cooperative Perinatal Project to reduce infant mortality rates in eight counties of southwest Georgia.

“I was surprised at the similarities between Southwest Georgia and a developing country,” she recalls. “I was surprised that there were people without running water or inside plumbing.”

Sister Anna Mae then moved to Gainesville, Florida, where she spent six years as Team Leader on a federally-funded project for babies and their mothers aimed at reducing low birth weights. After working in the Health Department in St. Petersburg, Florida, for a year, she served with the Healthy Start Program in Pinellas Park, Florida, for 11 years.

In 2008, Sister Anna Mae moved to our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia.

February 15, 2010

Sister Belaynesh Abera

Sister Belaynesh is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The oldest of twelve children, Sister Belaynesh was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After completing her education, she worked at the Cistercian Technical School, where she first met the Medical Mission Sisters. She made her First Vows in our Community in 1987.

As a young Sister, she shared, “For me it is important to share in and participate in the healing ministry of Christ, since I belong to the part of our world’s society who receive only 8% of the world’s resources for health. It does not matter where and how I involve myself, but it is important to me to try and bring hope and justice to people. I want my life to witness to this, and I want to be part of the struggle for freedom wherever oppression exists, in any form and in any degree.”

After pharmacy training, Sister Belaynesh worked at Attat Hospital, then moved to our community-based project in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. She now works for the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa, coordinating the Justice and Peace Desk, which she set up in 2006. She says, “Contemporary Ethiopia is changing fast and going through the process of socio-economic, political and cultural transformation…there is a real need to educate citizens on issues related to human rights and to prepare them to vote, and to have positive political involvement on matters that affect their lives.”

Sister Belaynesh’s work includes preparing and organizing seminars and workshops for religious and political leaders, teachers, parish youth leaders and laity council leaders. She explains, “Our Mission is to strengthen communities of Christians which exhibit love, justice and peace, so as to enhance the formation of a more egalitarian society.”

Within seven of the Catholic schools, Sister Belaynesh has developed Peace Clubs. She has also produced a guide book to help students have Peace Club meetings. The enthusiasm and commitment of the young people is a great inspiration to her. The students say that being in the Peace Clubs has positively changed their attitudes towards others and helped them to know themselves, to envision what they can become, to set goals, and to become more tolerant and confident as they work to promote peace and justice.

March 1, 2010

Sister Maria Hornung

Sister Maria Hornung is one of 650 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A graduate of Ursuline Academy in New Orleans, Sister Maria attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and earned her B.S. in Pharmacy from George Washington University. She was then missioned to Africa, where she served as a pharmacist in Fort Portal, Uganda, and in Kampala, Uganda.

In 1970, Sister Maria graduated from Temple University with a Master’s Degree in Education. She worked for several years in Nairobi, Kenya, in the area of group dynamics and human relations with the Association of Sisterhoods in Kenya. In Nigeria, she served a three-year term as District Superior of West Africa, and then was elected our Sector Superior in Africa.

After 25 wonderful years in Africa, Sister Maria repatriated to the U.S. in 1986. She served for nine years as our Formation Coordinator, briefly returning to Africa for 6 months of relief work in Ghana. In 1997, she was elected to a six-year term as our North America Sector Coordinator.

After her years in leadership, Sister Maria felt called to a new mission. She returned to Temple University and graduated with her Master’s Degree in Religion, with a focus on Interreligious Dialogue. She authored a book, “Encountering Other Faiths,” published by Paulist Press, along with an accompanying workbook.

In 2005, Sister Maria began working as Coordinator of Interfaith Education at the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia, whose programs reached over a thousand people last year. She works with adults in diverse settings, facilitating an understanding of their commonalities and an acceptance of their differences. She also serves as Coordinator of our Lifewright ministry, which offers retreat and renewal programs to Medical Mission Sisters. In 2009, she traveled to Indonesia as part of a special U.S. – Indonesian Fulbright exchange program.

Sister Maria shares, “In my encounters with peoples of many countries, cultures and religions…I have met God in many places and under many guises…interreligious dialogue has become a passion with me.”

March 15, 2010

Sister Maria Emma Panizales

Sister Emma is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Cotabato City in the Philippines, Sister Emma joined our Community the early 1970s in the midst of the Muslim-Christian conflict in the island of Mindanao. She was then a faculty member of Notre Dame University Training Department. She made her First Vows in 1975.

Sister Emma lived and worked in the slum areas of metro Manila, and also served as our Vocation Promotion Coordinator, and a member of our formation team in District Philippines. In addition, she worked closely with her country’s Justice and Peace Commission of the Share and Care Apostolate for Urban Settlers.

“Our mission with the slum dwellers, with the workers, with those who struggle for Justice and Peace, for a land of their own, with those exerting efforts to form Christian Communities not only among adults but among the youth and children, our mission which calls us to organize women, children, young people, etc. to educate, to heal and be healed, have been and will continue to be God’s signposts of God’s continued presence and love for me,” she shares.

In 1983, Sister Emma was missioned to Caracas, Venezuela. There she has been very active with the Justice and Peace Commission for many years, and coordinates the activities of different justice and peace teams with inmates imprisoned in Caracas. She is our Sector Coordinator in Latin America, and is involved with the formation of young religious in the Theological Institute for the Education of Religious. Sister Emma also serves as our Sector Coordinator in Latin America.

April 1, 2010

Sister Mary Elizabeth Johnson

Sister Mary Elizabeth is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sister Mary Elizabeth graduated from St. Margaret Academy and became a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, before joining our Community in 1946.

In 1949, Sister Mary Elizabeth began 17 years of ministry in Pakistan. She served at Holy Family Hospitals in Rawalpindi, Karachi, and Dacca, as a nurse, midwife, and administrator. She also was involved in education, setting and correcting the national nursing and midwifery exams.

Sister Mary Elizabeth reflects, “This time of my life is set apart in my heart to remember always with a special glow, and many thanks for those Sisters I worked, played and prayed with, and for the Pakistani people I met, worked with, and helped to better health.”

IIn 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, Sister was appointed to a five-member governing body for North American Medical Mission Sisters serving around the world. Two years later, she became administrator at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. From 1972 to 1974, she served on our “Ministry Team” that traveled extensively, leading workshops, facilitating prayer and giving concerts.

Sister Mary Elizabeth then became business administrator for our music and liturgy publications, and also responded twice to the need for emergency relief work along the Cambodian border. She says, “We Medical Mission Sisters are called into relationships and areas of ministry that change: widening and narrowing in turn into new endeavors that continue to open our faith life for, and as a part of, God’s people.”

In 1980, Sister Mary Elizabeth moved to Hartford, Connecticut, assuming administrative duties at the Hartford Seminary Foundation and its Educational Resources Center. She received her Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary. She continues to live in Hartford, and helps fill orders and answer permission requests for the use of our music and books.

Sister Mary Elizabeth, who celebrated her 60th Jubilee in 2009, shares, “Mission for me means helping to make Christ present in the world. It is trying to witness Christ the healer in our daily life with others and with ourselves.”

April 15, 2010

Our new Society Coordinators

Sisters Agnes Lanfermann and Elizabeth Vadakekara are two of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, our new Society Leadership Team took office in London. We offer gratitude and prayerful good wishes to Sister Carmelita Perez, who has completed her six-year term as our Society Coordinator, and Sister Suzanne Maschek, who has finished her term as Assistant Society Coordinator.

Sister Agnes Lanfermann is our new Society Coordinator. She was born and raised in a small village in northwest Germany. A published author, Sister Agnes has studied pastoral psychology, philosophy and theology. She has lived in Frankfurt for the past 25 years, teaching at the Jesuit University and giving workshops at the Institute of Mission Spirituality. She has served in leadership as our Sector Coordinator in Europe, and as our District Coordinator and Formation Coordinator in Germany.

Sister-Doctor Elizabeth Vadakekara is our new Assistant Society Coordinator. Born in Kerala, India, Sister Elizabeth has served at Kurji Holy Family Hospital, Patna; Holy Family Hospital, Mandar; and Holy Family Hospital in Bongao, the Philippines. She spent 12 years at the Mundakayan Medical Trust Hospital in Kerala, where she developed community health programs in villages around the hospital.

Wishing to expand her skills, Sister Elizabeth studied child psychiatry and began working in the areas of suicide prevention, drug addiction, and HIV/AIDS at a crisis intervention center. She has been our Sector Coordinator in Asia for the past six years, and coordinated many aspects of our outreach to victims of the 2004 tsunami.

Sisters Agnes and Elizabeth will attend the annual SEDOS meeting in Rome in May, and will visit and introduce themselves to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL). Sister Agnes will also attend the International Union of Superiors General Plenary Assembly in Rome.

Please join us in prayer, thanksgiving, and celebration at this special time in our history.

May 1, 2010

Sister Patricia Edelen

Sister Patricia is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Sister Pat entered our Community one year after she graduated from Mt. St. Agnes High School. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the George Washington School of Pharmacy in Washington, D.C., and completed her pharmacy internship at St. Clare’s Hospital in New York.

Sister’s first mission assignment was to Hospital Nuestra Senora de Coromoto in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where she served for 9 years as pharmacy director, and for 3 years as hospital administrator. She returned to the U.S., and spent 4 years as assistant chief pharmacist at Holy Family Hospital in Atlanta. She then relocated to our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, and served as our Personnel Directress for 2 years.

In 1974, Sister Pat began working in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, as staff pharmacist at the Chatham County Memorial Hospital. She later moved to Lumpkin, Georgia, where she assisted Sister-Doctor Jane Gates with her medical practice and also worked part-time as the pharmacy director of Stewart-Webster County Hospital of Richland. In 1980, she spent 3 months in Thailand, ministering to Cambodian refugees.

When Sister Pat settled back in Philadelphia, she began a term on our Eastern District Assembly, and also served in parish social ministry in North Philadelphia. She became the Services/Facilities Coordinator of the Administration Building at our Philadelphia headquarters. She explains, “This ministry put me in contact with our employees, as well as numerous outside groups, and different vendors.”

Now serving as our Hospitality Coordinator in Philadelphia, Sister Pat shares, “Mission for me means to be an active presence of Christ the Healer in a world that often rejects the very ones whom we are called to serve. It means caring enough for others that we take the risk of going where we have never been before and trying daily to reflect the compassion of Christ.”

May 15, 2010

Sister Dulce Corazon Velasco, M.D.

Sister-Doctor Dulce is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A physician, Sister Dulce Corazon Velasco served as a lay volunteer in Bangladesh before joining our Community. She made her First Vows in 1980, at age 36.

Sister Dulce’s first mission assignment was to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, where she lived and worked for 22 years. During this time, the Jolo Vicariate Health Ministry was centered in Bongao, where Holy Family Hospital underwent changes and re-orientation. Our Sisters developed a shared vision with the local people of an alternative health care system, which included community health programs, a referral system, medical services and linkages/networks.

The experiences Sister Dulce had over those years, and the relationships she developed with the local people, had a deep impact on her. She reflects, “It is very important for health professionals to learn how to have trust with people. The people are able to take care of themselves given the chance.”

In December, 2003, our Sisters officially turned over their involvement in Bongao to the local people. Sister Dulce continued on the hospital’s advisory board for 5 more years. “We Medical Mission Sisters offered this as our gift to the healing mission of the Vicariate of Jolo…enabling the people to take back their responsibility for their own health as their God-given right,” Sister Dulce recalls.

Sister Dulce began serving a three-year term in 2005 as Executive Director of a non-government organization, Integrative Medicine for Alternative Health Care System (INAM) in the Philippines. At the request of Bishop Labayen, President of the INAM Board of Trustees, she has renewed her term until 2011.

Living in Quezon City in the Philippines, Sister Dulce has also served as a Visiting Professor at Boston University, and continues to mentor students from the University who visit her country yearly.

June 1, 2010

Sister Annette Froehlich

Sister Annette is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Johnston, PA, Sister Annette joined our Community shortly after her high school graduation. She attended St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing, where she received her R.N., and later became certified as a midwife at the Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe.

Sister Annette’s first mission assignment was to Ghana, where she was a nurse at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum and at the Kokofu Leprosarium. She then served in administration and nursing at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman.

In 1971, Sister Annette received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and then a Master’s Degree in Public Health from St. Louis University. She returned to Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana, for several years as a public health nurse and administrator.

Upon her return to the U.S., Sister Annette worked as a nurse in her native Johnston, PA, and updated her midwifery skills at Booth Maternity Center in Philadelphia. She then served as Public Health Nursing Supervisor of the Allegheny County-Covington and Clifton Forge Health Departments in Covington, Virginia.

Sister Annette settled in the southwest in 1981. She was involved in overall administration for a University of Arizona-New Mexico Chile Health Project on the Navajo Indian Reservation. In 1983, she moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she served as a nurse-midwife at the Dona Ana Public Health Office. Later, Sister Annette worked at the Mesilla Valley Hospice in Las Cruces as a staff nurse.

A certified Master Gardener, Sister Annette has been an environmental services volunteer and a Nature Center volunteer. She lives in Las Cruces with her sister Mary Grace, who is also a Medical Mission Sister.

June 15, 2010

Sister Maria Agustine Miyatun

Sister Maria Agustine is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Maria Agustine was born the fourth child in a Muslim family in Solo in Central Java, Indonesia. She studied at Catholic elementary and high schools run by the Franciscan Sisters. “I was attracted to the Catholic faith and wanted to become a Catholic, but my parents forbade it,” Sister recalls.

At nursing boarding school at Holy Family Hospital, Sister Maria Agustine became a Catholic without telling her family. She was drawn to the Medical Mission Sisters’ way of life, and joined our Community in Solo. She made her First Vows in 1978, and her Final Vows in 1985. “Still Muslim, my mother and family came to join our celebration. I felt very happy,” she remembers.

Sister Maria Agustine has been involved in a variety of healing ministries. She worked with the social service group of the Vicariate of Surakarta to empower people, and also did vocation promotion work. In 1996, she was appointed Formation Coordinator while continuing her social service ministry.

In Kedung Ombo, Central Java, Sister Maria Agustine ministered in a program for improving children’s nutrition and health. She also was active in Panti Wredha, a new home for the elderly that was established in Solo. She shares, “The elderly need friends in the process of aging, attention, and love … they need to be accompanied, to be heard, to be respected, to be helped, and to be served.”

Sister then served at Fatima Hospital in Parepare, Indonesia. She began in the nutrition department, then had charge of the kitchen, laundry and sewing areas, and later, was general cashier of the hospital. In addition, she taught first semester nursing students at the Nursing Academy of Fatima.

Sister Maria Agustine recently began her elected term as our District Coordinator in Indonesia. “I have now been a Medical Mission Sister for 32 years, and I ask God’s guidance in this new task of district leadership.”

July 1, 2010

Sister Jean Lorenz

Sister Jean is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, Sister Jean graduated from Visitation Academy, and from Clarke College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art. She worked for the American Cancer Society as a medical illustrator before joining our Community. She remembers, “My job was absorbing and challenging, so the Lord had difficulty in getting my attention for another possibility in my life journey.”

In her early years with our Community, Sister Jean served as local superior in St. Louis and Philadelphia, and traveled throughout Africa, Asia, and the U.S., doing publicity and fundraising. In the mid-1970s, she entered a work-study medical illustration program at Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina, and helped to develop booklets for a health center in Rossville, Tennessee. She recalls, “It was a blessing that I was able to go to different departments and see surgeries and other services.”

Sister Jean then left for East Africa to work with the African Medical and Research and Education Foundation (AMREF), as well as an associated group, the Flying Doctors. With them, she used her art skills to create manuals and posters to help educate the people about health. She explains, “AMREF was a small organization and we knew everybody. We were very much into doing everything we could to help the people.”

In 1979, Sister began 25 years of ministry as Associate Chaplain at Mathari Psychiatric Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. When she learned that the 1,500 patients had no occupational therapy, she began incorporating music therapy into their daily routines. Volunteers joined her, bringing cassette tapes of tribal music and international hymns. “The patients responded so well…I would play the music and get them on their feet, moving and dancing, and at the end we had some hymns and a short prayer.”

Sister Jean, who returned to the U.S. after 27 years in Kenya, recently has been working with women prisoners and at adult literacy centers in the Philadelphia area. She celebrated her 60th anniversary in 2009. “I just knew I had to become a Medical Mission Sister,” she says, “and I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I did. And yes, I am very happy.”

July 15, 2010

Sister Rosamma George Vadakethalakal

Sister Rosamma is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The oldest of six children, Sister Rosamma is from a village in Kerala, India. She was drawn to the simplicity she saw in our Sisters who lived in the midst of the poor Muslim people in Erattupetta, Kerala. “There I saw religious life lived out in a different form,” she explains.

Sister went on to study nursing at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, and worked as a staff nurse in Mascat for four years, where she learned “the meaning and implications of living and working with an international group.”

After a time of formation in Erattupetta, Sister Rosamma made her First Vows in 1996. Her first mission assignment was to Gandhipet, Tamil Nadu, South India, where she was involved at the grassroots level for six years. “The people around us were dalits, low caste, who had undergone long years of oppression and isolation from higher castes,” she recalls. “The women were doubly oppressed and overburdened.”

Sister Rosamma went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Sociology from Anna Malai University. She was a member of our community in Maner, India, where she worked in the community health center. She then became involved in formation ministry, serving as pre-candidacy coordinator, and now as coordinator for the orientation phase of formation in South India.

Now living in Bharananganam, Sister is studying for a degree in psychology. She has served on a team giving psychotherapy sessions for the first year theologians of St. Paul’s Seminary, Trichy, and the novices of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Thomas, Trichy. She also has given health awareness classes for students of St. Xavier’s School, where she shared the message of the People’s Health Assembly, “People’s Health in People’s Hands.”

Sister reflects, “I am convinced that our choice to be on the side of the poor is the right one, and in this there is the hope of bringing social transformation. My hope for the future is to be an active presence of Christ, the healer, with whom I live and struggle to form a just society.”

August 1, 2010

Sister Helen Marie McGrath

Sister Helen Marie is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Sister Helen Marie graduated from Holy Name High School. In Cincinnati, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Mount St. Joseph College, became certified as a medical technologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, and worked at Charity Hospital for eight years. She remembers, “I thought I was being called, summoned, I wasn’t quite sure where… when I came to visit the Medical Mission Sisters, their simplicity of life and joy attracted me.”

Sister was assigned to Holy Family Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, where she served for 43 years. She worked in the lab for about 20 years, then turned over her position to two professionals she had helped to train. She was already teaching microbiology in the School of Nursing; in the mid-1980s, she began teaching full-time. She recalls, “I taught physics, chemistry, microbiology and human development and I was consulate for the students also, lots of 17-year-olds!”

She adds, “Our time with the students would go so fast. But when I would see the girls walking up on graduation, I could not believe the happiness. Not only had they grown, but they had matured and really become professional women.”

The people of Pakistan are mostly Muslim, and Sister Helen Marie remembers that, at Holy Family Hospital, “We were always known for taking everybody, whether they were Muslim or Catholic or Protestant or on the staff, it was all the same. We all worked together.” She was also involved with the St. Joseph Association, a mostly Christian group that provided burials for people from low-income families.

Even though she lived through times of political instability in Pakistan, Sister Helen Marie said she never felt really afraid. “The people were very kind to us. And we never, ever felt anything like the people were against us.”

She adds, “Healing presence isn’t just a one-way street. Sometimes people are there when you need them, and you try to be there when they need you.”

Sister Helen Marie repatriated to the U.S. in 2009. After completing a period of renewal, she has been volunteering at our Thrift Shop in Philadelphia.

August 15, 2010

Sister Betty Mathay

Sister Betty is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Bataan Province in the Philippines, Sister Betty is the second of three daughters. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and CPA at the University of the Philippines. She made her First Vows at age 30, in 1969.

After serving as District Treasurer, Sister Betty was missioned to the Brayat Minulyo Hospital in Surakarta, Indonesia, where she served until 1992. During those years, she served on our Society Finance Team, and was also our Coordinator in Sector East Asia from 1981 to 1987. When she returned to her native country, she wanted to work at the grassroots level and had a strong desire to do pastoral care.

“From the very beginning of my religious life, I saw my participation in our healing mission doing pastoral care as just being a loving person, giving my smile and having an understanding heart for all,” she explains.

Sister Betty ministered in the southern part of the Philippines in several hospitals, and became part of the hospital ministry of the diocese. For four years, she was co-chaplain with a priest in the Zamboanga City Medical Center. She was also involved with building community with the local fisher folk, and with interfaith dialogue and weekly Bible reflections.

After transferring to the northern Philippines, Sister Betty continued to do pastoral hospital visits, and visited homebound patients, bringing them Holy Communion when needed. She was also involved with formation for pre-candidates and Sisters in temporary vows.

Now living in Quezon City in the Philippines, Sister Betty is serving as the District Treasurer. She shares, “Our healing mission is a wholistic one, caring for the whole person’s needs – body, mind and spirit. When the three are in harmony, healing comes to the person…When I see a smile, a spark in people’s eyes, and they start communicating, I always feel joy in my heart as healing is happening, and God is there healing all of us.”

September 1, 2010

Sister Katherine Baltazar

Sister Katherine is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Katherine’s mother is Swiss and her father is Filipino. Both were present, along with many other family members and friends, when she made her Final Profession of Vows on September 5, 2010, at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia.

Sister Katherine, who speaks six languages, graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, VA, in 1977 with degrees in science and nursing, and earned a third degree in psychology from Marymount Manhattan College in New York in 1980. She then lived in Europe for several years, studying at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.

When Sister Katherine returned to the U.S., she earned her Master’s Degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing at Columbia University in New York. She served as an oncology nurse at Sloan-Kettering Hospital, and also worked with Mexican immigrant women in Arizona. Pursuing an interest in native peoples and herbal medicines, she visited New Zealand and Australia.

Sister Katherine settled in Hawaii for six years, where she studied culture and community development, taught undergraduate nursing at the University of Hawaii, and worked as a psychiatric nurse at Hawaii State Hospital. She also earned her certification as a clinical nurse specialist and served as president of the Filipino Association of University Women (FAUW). “Through the FAUW, I became friendly with a Filipino Jesuit, Father Jaime Neri,” Sister Katherine recalls. It was through him that she learned about our Community.

At the prompting of a friend, she attended a Basic Christian Community retreat, and heard a newly-professed Benedictine nun share her story. “She ended her talk by saying, ‘If you hear God’s call, heed that call.’ For some reason, I heard this directed at me,” Sister Katherine recalls. “Before I left Hawaii, I visited the Benedictine and told her my story. She told me that her prayer to God was that her talk would touch just one person. I turned out to be the answer to that prayer.”

Living in Philadelphia for the past 8 years, Sister Katherine served as a nurse, and ministered in our New Jerusalem Laura program for recovering addicts. For three months, she had a mission experience with the Lakota Sioux in Rosebud, South Dakota. She earned a post-master’s Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner certificate from Drexel University and now works at Livengrin, a Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Rehab Center in Bensalem, PA.

September 15, 2010

Sister Philo Mylady

Sister Philo is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 18 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born the second child in a family with eight siblings, Sister Philo made her First Vows in 1966, at the age of 18. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from BCM College in Kottayam, Kerala, India. Her first mission assignment was in Kerala, at St. Thomas Hospital in Chethipuzha. She then had an intercultural experience in rural Jhamkhed, Maharashtra, which inspired her to choose work at the grassroots level for the development of people.

After Sister Philo made her Final Vows in 1975, she served in community health for several years. She worked in a community development project at the pastoral orientation center in Cochin. Her next assignment was to Padappakara in the Quilon Diocese, where she was able to implement programs of the diocesan social services for the health and welfare of the people.

In 1982, Sister Philo began ministry in North East India. After studying bookkeeping and accounting, she was appointed our district treasurer, and was elected to a six-year term as district coordinator. After that, she was involved for ten years with vocation promotion and formation.

For the past eight years, Sister Philo has been in mission with people who are recovering from substance abuse at the Shalom Rehabilitation Center in Chumukedima, Nagaland. The detoxification facility accommodates 20 residents at any given time. “Recovery and rehabilitation happen to each person at their own pace,” she says.

As assistant to the director of the Center, Sister Philo gives input sessions to the clients and does counseling. Educating health workers, other religious, and high school students about chemical dependency is another aspect of her work.

Sister Philo shares, “With faith and trust in God and with a daring spirit, we continue our ministry to the most neglected…we realize that God has strengthened us to go forward with courage and a sense of total commitment to our mission.”

October 1, 2010

Sister Celeste DiGiorgio

Sister Celeste is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Celeste was born in Philadelphia, the oldest of 11 children. She graduated from West Catholic High School, and worked as a bookkeeper before joining our Community. She shares, “I am thankful for the special grace of being near Anna Dengel (our Foundress) herself…I learned of her deep appreciation for our benefactors and realized how our growth has been dependent on the generosity of others.”

After she made her Vows, Sister Celeste worked for 17 years in internal administration offices within our community. She was involved with the magazine/circulation department, was an assistant to the Superior at our North American Headquarters, and in charge of our house of studies in Washington, D.C.

With a desire to do social work, Sister Celeste completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at Temple University, then moved to Maryland in the mid-1970s. She recalls, “As a Social Worker, I was deeply and forever touched by the poor who came to me in the Baltimore Health Department.” After three years of service there, Sister spent six years coordinating development at St. Monica’s Community Center in an impoverished Baltimore neighborhood. During part of this time, she was also our Formation Coordinator.

When she returned to Philadelphia, Sister served as the Social Work Supervisor at Women of Hope, a residential program for homeless women, many of whom were mentally ill. “I related to the staff, residents, and professional consultants in an attempt to provide a life-giving milieu, where each resident could take the steps necessary to bring her to a little more wholeness.”

In the 1990s, Sister Celeste coordinated hospitality for returning and visiting Sisters at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. She remembers, “I experienced what I call ‘Fresh Internationality’ in the Renewal House.”

Sister Celeste’s recent ministries have involved teaching reading and English as a Second Language, and communication with groups advocating for justice. She shares, “I feel awe, joy and deep gratitude to God, and to all my dear companions on this journey.”

October 15, 2010

Sister Magda van Hoyweghen

Sister-Doctor Magda is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Magda and her twin sister were born in Temse, Belgium. They grew up with four other siblings, and she and two of her sisters went to boarding school for secondary school. After graduation, she joined our Community in Imstenrade, The Netherlands, in 1953.

After earning her medical degree from the state university in Utrecht, Sister Magda did a one-year surgical internship at Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Philadelphia. She then completed a four-year surgical residency at St. Clare’s Hospital in New York.

In 1972, Sister Magda began 25 years of service as a missionary doctor in Africa. In Tanzania, she was a general surgeon in the referral government hospital in Mwanza for four years. This was followed by a year in Juba, Southern Sudan, and four months in Serabu, Sierra Leone.

Sister Magda and two of our other Sisters began a new involvement in Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, in 1979. She served there as a general surgeon until 1992. While in Malawi, she was a board member of several church hospitals. She also became involved in the support and care of persons with AIDS.

Sister Magda was elected to a six-year term as our Sector Africa Coordinator in 1992. At that time, she moved to Nairobi, Kenya.

In 1998, Sister Magda returned to Antwerp, Belgium, and earned a Master’s Degree in Bio-Ethics. Today she contributes her knowledge and international experience to a number of European organizations, and within our Community.

November 1, 2010

Sister Judy Garbaccio

Sister Judy is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Sister Judy graduated from Mount Saint Dominic Academy, studied chemistry and pre-medicine at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, and received her R.N. from St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing in Paterson.

Sister Judy’s first mission assignment was at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where she served as Nursery Supervisor. In 1960, she began ministry at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum, Ghana, where she was a Nursing Arts Instructor and Ward Supervisor for 2 years.

Sister Judy went on to spend 11 years at Virika Hospital, Fort Portal, Uganda, where she directed the Nursing Service, and was an operating room and ward supervisor as well as a nursing tutor. During this time, she worked with Uganda’s Ministry of Health to improve health conditions, and became Senior Nursing Officer at Uganda’s government hospital. She also served as our Formation Coordinator.

She reflects, “My companions along the way have been many – nurses, doctors, villagers, professional people, the sick, the healthy, the strong, the weak. Together we traveled, each sharing the others’ gifts and burdens.”

After returning to the U.S. in 1974 and receiving her B.S.N. from St. Louis University, Sister Judy began a new mission in Kenya. She served at Kyeni Hospital for a short time, then at Nangina Hospital for nearly 3 years as Director of Nursing Service and Ward Supervisor. In 1983, she went back to Uganda, where she organized community-based health care projects in the Mbarara Diocese. In the early 1990’s, she became District Formation Coordinator in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. She repatriated to the U.S. in 1995.

She says, “In Africa, to be a healing presence meant to serve in hospitals, schools of nursing, and a community-based health care project…then I came to a fork in the road. The branch that beckoned was quite different.”

Sister Judy pursued her interest in spiritual direction and retreat work, taking classes at La Salle University in Philadelphia, and at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA. She is active in the Church Ministry Institute of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a three-year certificate program for laypeople that she helped to develop. She also is involved with spiritual counseling.

November 15, 2010

Sister Sophie Vallavasseril

Sister Sophie is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in Kerala, India, Sister Sophie is the third of four children. After she joined our Community in 1954, she studied nursing and midwifery at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna and worked as a staff nurse.

After our 1967 renewal Chapter, Sister Sophie wanted to learn more about holistic care. She took a one-year diploma course in psychiatric nursing at the All India Institute of Mental Health in Bangalore, and a course in counseling and psychotherapy at the Christian Counseling Center in Vellore. She recalls, “A personal growth and pastoral care course at the Socio-Religious Center in Calicut put me in touch with the specific pastoral aspect of the healing ministry.”

Sister Sophie became involved with formation ministry for seven years, working closely with young people. Following that, she lived and worked in a colony of poor, displaced people in Panackachira. She recalls, “We lived a very simple life in their midst, and shared much of their hardships and struggles. I learned the value of being a compassionate listener, and being simple enough to be of help in small ways as the opportunity presented itself.”

In 1998, Sister Sophie joined the pastoral care team at Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital in Bharananganam, India, where she appreciates the good interaction between the medical staff and the pastoral team. She shares, “I have learned to put people at ease, introduce them to the ‘hospital routines’ and accompany them through their stay.”

She explains, “Pastoral visits are occasions of sharing on the whole process of life, health, healing, and the role of illness and healthy lifestyle…many a time, people return home with much hope and a more positive outlook on life.”

Sister adds, “Accompanying terminally ill and dying persons is a strenuous, yet rewarding, experience…pastoral care is healing ministry.”

December 1, 2010

Sister Sheila McGinnis

Sister Sheila is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in Troy, New York, Sister Sheila joined our Community shortly after graduating from Catholic Central High School in Troy. She received her R.N. from Misericordia Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and her Certification in Nurse-Midwifery from the Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe.

In 1964, Sister Sheila was missioned to Quinhon, Vietnam, where she spent four years as a staff nurse, floor supervisor, and midwife at Holy Family Hospital. She returned to the U.S. and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She went back to Quinhon and served in several positions at the hospital, including Nursing Supervisor, Inservice Education Director, and Pharmacy Supervisor.

Forced to evacuate Vietnam in 1975, Sister Sheila joined others in providing refugee relief work for Vietnamese persons displaced in Arkansas. She later offered the same assistance to Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees in Philadelphia. In 1976, she began a six-year term as Assistant to the Sector Superior of North America. She recalls, “It was then that I actually had some time to reflect on the experience of having worked in Vietnam, and what that meant in terms of my future, as well as my past.”

Sister Sheila developed an interest in complementary modes of healing, and became a staff member of the Center for Human Integration (CHI) in Philadelphia. Founded by Medical Mission Sister Mary Em McGlone, it offered a wide range of programs, workshops, and client services that were designed to facilitate healing by reducing chronic pain, increasing energy and mobility, managing stress, and integrating life-changing awareness.

In 1985, Sister Sheila was elected to a six-year term as our North American Sector Superior. She says, “This ministry involved connections with the Sisters…and connections with others through organizations in which our Sisters have been highly respected for all our years.” At the completion of her term of office, she rejoined CHI as Co-Director and served there until its close in 2008.

Sister Sheila celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2009. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is involved in healing arts using massage, reflexology, and energy work.

December 15, 2010

Sister Therese Cheruvallathu

Sister Therese is one of 625 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Kerala, South India, Sister Therese felt a desire as a young woman to dedicate her life to God and the people of God. She made her First Vows with our Community in 1965. After completing studies in laboratory technology, she worked for 14 years in this field at Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, Bharananganam, and Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital, Mundakayam.

As a preparation to enter into formation work, Sister Therese took a three-year degree course on Indian Christian Spirituality at the University of Mysore. Studying in-depth the spirituality of different religions widened her vision and helped her to respect and appreciate her own culture and spirituality. After accompanying pre-candidates for seven years, she volunteered for mission in Latin America.

From 1996-2000, Sister Therese served in Belem, Brazil, providing alternative health therapies and conducting workshops to equip a group of women to carry on the work. In 2000 she was asked to join the formation team in Caracas, Venezuela. She also worked part-time in the parish clinic.

Six years ago, Sister Therese volunteered to live in a barrio – 12 de Octubre in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Here she accompanies the basic Christian community and visits the sick, attending to their needs. She also offers acupuncture and other alternative therapies to those in need. Twice a month she participates in seminars for women to help them carry on our healing mission in Venezuela. Recently, she has incorporated the topic of ecology in the family health program, and has been helping women in the barrio learn about ecological living.

January 1, 2011

Sister Julia Burkart

Sister Julia is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Sister Julia studied for two years at Dominica College before joining our Community, making her First Vows in 1950. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree at Trinity College, and her Master’s Degree in Library Science at Catholic University.

Sister Julia ministered in the Admissions Office of Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and at our Novitiate in the Philippines, before returning to the U.S. and working as a librarian in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. She also was on the staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Philadelphia for one year.

In 1972, Sister Julia earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of St. Louis. She spent several years as a social worker, in school programs in New Orleans, and at New Mexico State Hospital in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Sister Julia began teaching social work in 1975. She recalls, “I liked teaching, and I had gotten my start teaching novices.” She served on the faculty of Eastern New Mexico University and West Texas State University. After additional studies at Texas Women’s University, she spent 12 years at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Volunteer work became Sister Julia’s ministry after her official “retirement.” She served homeless women and women in prison in New Orleans for several years, until she moved to Tucson in 1999.

In Tucson, Sister Julia spent four years serving at Casa Maria, the Catholic Worker soup kitchen. She recalls, “The first time I went there, I knew I was in the right space…my job was whatever was needed…it was so rewarding to see hungry people fed.” Sister Julia also worked in a crisis nursery, and was a volunteer teacher and librarian in a local parish. She then moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she continued her volunteer work.

Now living at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, Sister Julia also has been involved with Pax Christi and Amnesty International. She reflects, “I think national organizations with a track record and history are very powerful…you have to be public about social justice. It’s not enough to pray and have something in your mind. You have to have public action.”

January 15, 2011

Sister Maggie Lupiya

Sister Maggie is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The third of nine children, Sister Maggie is a native of Malawi, Africa. She met our Sisters when she attended the Phalombe School of Nursing and Midwifery in Malawi. After graduating, she worked for a year and a half at an Anglican hospital, and joined our Community in 1991.

Sister Maggie’s first mission assignments were in her native Malawi. She worked as a nurse- midwife at Phalombe Hospital, then taught typing to young girls from poor backgrounds. She also coordinated a microcredit project for poor widows.

After taking Community Development Studies specializing in rural development, Sister Maggie went to Wolisso, Ethiopia, where she is in charge of the Public Health Department of St. Luke’s Hospital. “I am working mainly in community mobilization, organization, and health education,” she explains.

The Public Health Department staff is involved both at the hospital and at outreach sites. They are activating the local committees and forming women’s groups. They also do ongoing training of the health extension workers – young women from the rural areas who have one year of training by the government and are assigned to do house-to-house health work in their areas.

Sister Maggie also checks the nutritional status of children under the age of three in their homes. If they are malnourished, they are referred to St. Luke’s Hospital, which UNICEF has declared an excellence hospital in the fight against malnutrition. Its Therapeutic Feeding Unit trains caretakers, staff from outlying health centers and clinics, and local families how to feed the children with nutritious, locally available food.

February 1, 2011

Sister Kathleen Fitzgerald

Sister Kathleen is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Sister Kathleen graduated from St. Aloysius High School and became a registered nurse at Jersey City Medical Center. She served in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps during World War II, and was stationed in England. After the war, she joined our Community.

Sister Kathleen’s first missionary assignment was for six years at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, India, where she worked as a nurse and became a registered midwife. She returned to the U.S. in 1955 to serve as our Postulant Mistress, and went on to serve as Novice Mistress in South Shields, England, and in Lipa City, the Philippines.

In 1967, Sister Kathleen began several years of nursing work at Holy Family Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. She was then called back to Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, where she became Directress of the School of Nursing.

After Sister returned to the U.S. in the early 1970s, she continued her education, receiving a B.A. in Health Sciences and Community Health Education from Jersey City State College, a M.S. in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola College in 1990. During these years, she worked as a clinical instructor at both the Monmouth College School of Nursing in Jersey City, and Brook-dale Community College in Lincroft, N.J.

In 1992, Sister Kathleen co-founded the Anna Center for homeless women in Washington, D.C. She recalls, “It was a privileged and blessed time…we were able to offer respite care for many women who needed a place to stay while they recuperated from illness or surgery.”

From 1995 until late last year, Sister Kathleen cared for hundreds of women in a prison ministry at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup. She used the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI) to “help the women grow in self-understanding and appreciation of their gifts, as well as fostering understanding of others and enhancing communication skills.”

Sister Kathleen celebrated her 60-year jubilee in 2009. She shares, “I am grateful for God’s patient, forgiving and enduring love…and for the opportunity and privileges I have had to serve, to be in the midst of the poor.”

February 15, 2011

Sister Eufrecina Briones

Sister Eufrecina is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The oldest of five siblings, Sister Eufrecina grew up in a rural area in the Philippines. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Nursing from the University of Santo Tomas. She lived in the U.S. for two years under the Exchange Visitors Program, where she took post-graduate courses in Nursing Administration at De Paul University, and worked as a staff nurse at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago.

When Sister Eufrecina returned to the Philippines, she served as a clinical instructor at the University of Santo Tomas College of Nursing before joining our Community. She made First Vows in 1968, and studied at the Asian Pastoral Institute.

Sister Eufrecina’s first mission assignment, in 1972, was to Holy Family Hospital in Mandar, India, where she was the director of the school of nursing. In 1978, she went to Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, India, where she coordinated the nursing school and nursing services for three years.

After she returned to the Philippines in late 1981, Sister Eufrecina became our Formation Coordinator for eight years. She then returned to teaching, serving as clinical instructor at the Ateneo de Zamboanga. In 2000 she moved to Antipolo City, where she became involved in ministry with the elderly.

From 2007 until last year, Sister Eufrecina was again our Formation Coordinator. She now lives in Capulaan, Villasis, where our Sisters have opened a Haven for Ecological and Alternative Living (HEAL), a center for learning, training and demonstrating an ecological and alternative way of life.

March 1, 2011

Sister Phyllis Backer

Sister Phyllis is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in Ferdinand, Indiana, Sister Phyllis graduated from the Academy of the Immaculate Conception, and earned her R.N. at St. Mary’s School of Nursing before joining our Community. She served at St. Vincent’s Hospital for a year, and then for almost 30 years in Pakistan.

Sister Phyllis was Director of Nursing Services, Director of Community Health Service, and Midwifery Supervisor at Holy Family Hospitals in Karachi and Rawalpindi, and at St. Teresa’s Hospital in Mirpurkhas.

She remembers, “Much of my involvement was with women, especially those who came to us for antenatal care and delivery. This is a time when a woman is very vulnerable, and a kind word and gentle care is very much appreciated. We were also training young Pakistani women to become nurses.”

Sister Phyllis returned to the U.S. in 1987. She served as a nurse at Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore for two years, and then was Coordinator of Anna Center, a respite care center for sick, homeless women in Washington, D.C., for four years. Returning to Baltimore, she became involved in the Outreach Program of Corpus Christi Parish, and also at the Infirmary of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

For the past 11 years, Sister Phyllis has served with our older Sisters as our Residential Care Coordinator in Philadelphia. In this role, she visits and coordinates care for our Sisters who are in assisted living or nursing care facilities. “I look after their physical needs, keeping in touch with families when the Sister is not able to do this, x-rays, lab work, as well as any other needs they may have – their clothing, toiletries, insurance papers, books, etc.”

She reflects, “One of the privileges I have had is to be with many Sisters in their last illnesses, and in preparation for their final journey. These are times of blessing, and their memories are a real inspiration for me.”

March 15, 2011

Sister Inge Jansen

Sister Inge is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Emmerich, Germany, Sister Inge entered our Community in 1957 and had her formation studies in England. After making her First Vows, she returned to Germany and helped establish a foundation there for women interested in our Community. She was then missioned to our Generalate, at that time in Rome, where she assisted with hospitality.

After earning her nursing diploma in 1968, Sister Inge joined our other Sisters in Uganda who were preparing for mission in Ethiopia. She began working at Attat Hospital, which had just opened. Sister Inge recalls, “The miracle of healing happened from the very beginning.”

Over the next 40 years, Sister Inge served in the wards, the outpatient department, the financial office, and wherever else was needed. She explains, “For me, this mission was and is a lifelong commitment. Especially during difficult periods, the people around us counted on us. They promised all the support they could give, and together, we hoped for better times. Even when there was no medicine available, our presence was important.”

In early 2009, at the 40th anniversary celebration for Attat Hospital, Sister Inge received the “Pro Pontificae et Ecclesae” Medal during a Mass presided over by Bishop Abuna Musie. Although now officially retired, she mentors her younger coworkers at Attat Hospital, and cares for the many visitors and interested young women who want to know more about our Community.

“I love to live and would be happy to live until I die in my adopted country, among my beloved people of Ethiopia,” Sister Inge shares. “I imagine we are bringing a little sunshine, and the rays, through God’s miracle, are daily continuing to touch the now over a million people, mostly still living simply in mud or grass houses, in our catchment area. What an honor it is for us to be in mission here!”

April 1, 2011

 

Medical Mission Sister Associate Jane Jones

Jane is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Jane became a registered nurse at the Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing, then earned her Bachelor’s Degree at McGill University in Montreal. From 1973 to 1979, she worked as a nurse in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Jane shares, “In Sierra Leone, I was a public health nurse on a mobile river clinic, bringing medical care to a number of remote villages in the north of the country. In Kabul, I was the recovery room and intensive care unit supervisor/tutor in a large general hospital. In both jobs I learned more than I taught, and received more than I could possibly have ever given.”

After marrying her husband, Larry, and having two daughters, Jane decided to become an elementary school teacher. She did that work for 19 years in several international schools, in Jakarta, Indonesia; Kinshasa, Zaire; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; and Surabaya, Indonesia.

One summer while back in North America, Jane picked up a copy of “The Singer and the Song,” by Sister Miriam Therese Winter. She felt a strong connection with the healing charism of our Community, and our work for peace and justice throughout the world. In 2004-2005, she participated in Sister Miriam Therese’s Women’s Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary.

Jane has also worked with Sister Lucy Klein-Gebbinck on a number of projects in the very poor city of Camden, New Jersey. “I have been so blessed to have spent periods of time with the Medical Mission Sisters’ Camden community on a number of occasions. These are relationships I treasure,” Jane says.

Since retiring from teaching in 2006, Jane divides her time between Surabaya, Indonesia, and the U.S. She is taking courses toward her Master’s Degree at Hartford Seminary, and says, “As I have lived so far away for so long, I am very aware that this time of study and friendship with Medical Mission Sisters is very special, and one that I will always cherish.”

Jane adds, “The promise that I made in 2005 and continue to make each day, to live ‘as a healing presence at the heart of a wounded world,’ grounds me in the here and now and connects me to a world without boundaries…I am so blessed and privileged to be part of this sacred endeavor!”

April 15, 2011

Sister-Doctor Illigem (Gemma) Susanta

Sister-Doctor Gemma is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Takengon, Indonesia, Sister Gemma converted to Catholicism at the age of 15. After high school she joined a diocesan religious congregation and became a doctor. She transferred to the Medical Mission Sisters in 1980.

Sister Gemma has worked at a number of medical facilities. She has served for many years as a general practitioner in the outpatient department of Fatima Hospital in Parepare, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Managed by the Archdiocese of Makassar, this is the only Catholic hospital in the midst of the Muslim population in Parepare.

Sister uses alternative health therapies, such as herbal medicine and acupuncture, in her healing ministry. In conjunction with the local government health services, she also cares for persons with leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in the Lauleng Leprosarium.

For the past five years, Sister Gemma has been in charge of the national tuberculosis program in Parepare, in collaboration with the local government services. In addition, she is involved with the poor elderly, in the parish and the city, helping them with handicrafts, prayers, health care and nutrition.

May 1, 2011

Sister Marie Schmids

Sister Marie is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Philadelphia, Sister Marie attended Monroe Township Grammar School and Little Flower High School. She remembers at age 12, wondering if she would be a missionary in a foreign country. She reflects, “Perhaps that is where the God quest began for me.”

After joining our Community, Sister Marie attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and became certified as a medical technologist at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia. She was missioned to Holy Family Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1955. She served there for a total of 13 years in a number of leadership positions. She also served in Dacca for 5 years.

“My wonderful life experiences overseas, a truly life-giving community, and a variety of careers have all been part of my learning,” she shares.

Sister Marie returned to the U.S. in 1974, and began ministry in the South. She was involved with a primary health care/community development project in Wallace, North Carolina, and earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina in 1977. She worked with the Diocese of Savannah in St. Mary’s, Georgia, and in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

In 1980, Sister Marie spent several months in Thailand, aiding Cambodian refugees. From 1982 to 1988, she ministered in a number of departments at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. She then relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she helped to manage a shelter for single women, and served as our membership discernment coordinator.

Sister Marie worked for a dozen years in New Port Richey, Florida, in the Connections Job Development Program begun by Sister Joan Foley. “Almost all applications for employment require some basic computer skills…to be part of my students’ enthusiasm and appreciation of their new computer skills was fulfilling and exciting.”

Sister Marie returned to the Philadelphia area last year and is currently serving as our Membership Coordinator. She shares, “So many people, events, books, workshops, and ‘learnings’ have brought me to where I am today…the longer I travel my unique road as a Medical Mission Sister, the more grateful I am.”

May 15, 2011

Sister Mirjam Koevoets

Sister Mirjam is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The second of six children, Sister Mirjam was born and raised in the Netherlands, and studied nursing before entering our Community in 1963. Her first mission assignment was to Welkom, South Africa, where she studied midwifery in Cape Town. In 1971, she went to Siteki, Swaziland, where she worked as a nursing tutor.

From 1980 to 1983, Sister Mirjam lived in Nairobi, Kenya, and served as our Assistant Coordinator in Sector Africa. She also worked part-time with the Jesuits at the Mwangaza Retreat Center.

After her term was completed, Sister Mirjam studied Spirituality at the Institute of Spiritual Leadership in Chicago, Illinois. She then returned to the Netherlands and served in the District Assembly and in formation, and gave the first Enneagram workshops in her country. She gave spiritual guidance to individuals and groups.

Sister Mirjam now lives in Utrecht in the Netherlands. She guides students, pastors and ministers in their study and practice of spiritual direction. She also works as a volunteer in a local home for the elderly, where she conducts a reminiscence program with people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

June 1, 2011

Sister Anne Louise von Hoene

Sister Anne Louise is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Rutherford, N.J., Sister Anne Louise graduated from St. Mary’s High School and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry at Georgian Court College in Lakewood, N.J. After joining our Community, she graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and also did the house accounts for our Sisters living in St. Louis.

In 1959, Sister was missioned to Holy Family Hospital, Berekum, Ghana, as the pharmacist and local treasurer. She returned to the U.S. to earn her M.B.A. in Hospital Administration from the University of Chicago in 1969, and went on to serve as Administrator of Holy Family Hospital in Berekum for 13 years.

“I grew to love Ghana and its people.” Sister Anne Louise shares. She was active in the Diocesan Health Committee and the Church Hospital Association of Ghana, and also served as Sector Treasurer of Africa. She became a member of our General Finance Team in 1980.

After Sister turned over her job as Administrator to a Ghanaian man, she studied investment management at Temple University in Philadelphia. She became our General Treasurer in 1986, serving for ten years at our global headquarters in London. “The years in London were rewarding ones. It was challenging and stimulating to work at that level. It brought me into contact with many of our Sisters in parts of the Society I had not known before.”

When Sister Anne Louise returned to the U.S., her interest in social justice drew her to the Washington, D.C., area. She explains, “My previous experiences led me to become involved in the Jubilee movement to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest countries, and in the Africa Faith and Justice Network.” In 1998, she began working at the U.S. Catholic Mission Association (USCMA), where she continues today as the accountant and part-time administrative assistant.

Looking back on her lifetime of varied ministries, Sister Anne Louise shares, “I feel very blessed to belong to a congregation that has tried over the years to follow the lead of the Spirit through changing, sometimes difficult and confusing times. I feel very blessed to have been privileged to live and work with Medical Mission Sisters of many cultures and nationalities.”

June 15, 2011

Sister Jean Amar

Sister Jean is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of the Philippines, Sister Jean earned her B.S. degree in Commerce (Accounting) from the Colegio de San Agustin de Bacolod in 1984. She then served for six years as a community organizer with the sugar cane workers on Negros Island, her birthplace, before entering our Community at age 27.

Sister Jean’s first mission assignment was in the Prelature of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, where she journeyed with young people, farmers, and community health workers. In 1998, when she visited St. Therese’s Hospital in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan, she felt a strong wish to minister in Pakistan. She returned to the Philippines, made Final Vows, and spent several years in Bongao in mission.

In 2006, Sister Jean became part of our new international community in Lahore, Pakistan – a large city of about 10 million people. “We found ourselves trusting only in God’s Providence,” says Sister Jean of their first months. “Meeting and making connections with different people and feeling the tensions of the political/religious conflicts were opportunities to hold on only to God. Amidst our struggles, we took strength and inspiration from our love and support for each other…and the care, thoughtfulness, and encouragement of our new-found friends.”

When floods devastated much of Pakistan in 2010, Sister Jean was involved with relief efforts. She also coordinates the youth ministry, and is active with a Filipino Community in Lahore. At Christmastime, they gather gifts together for children in need. She shares, “Last year, some members of the Filipino Community were challenged to save more for next year because they were touched by the situation of the Special Children. So the activity became a venue for mutual growth and joy.”

Sister Jean also works as an administrative assistant in the seminary, and serves as our district treasurer.

July 1, 2011

Sister Jean Murray

Sister Jean is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Philadelphia, Sister Jean attended Little Flower High School, and did office work before entering our Community in 1948. “I was baptized Genevieve and was always called Jean by my family. I believe the meaning of that name is, ‘God has been gracious to you’ – something I have never doubted through the years of my life.”

Sister Jean feels privileged to have served as secretary to our Foundress, Doctor Anna Dengel, in Rome. She spent ten years at Marymeade, in Mt. View, California, where she was in charge of the office. She also did secretarial work for our Vocation Coordinator in Philadelphia, and public relations work in St. Louis.

In 1972, after Sister Jean returned from Rome, she lived and worked in Philadelphia for nine years. She earned her Associates Degree in Applied Science – Mental Health and Social Services at the Community College of Philadelphia, where she tutored in the Learning Lab. She taught shorthand and typing at The Bridge Therapeutic Center, acted as an aide at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital, and was our Vocation Coordinator for North America.

Sister Jean began five years of mission in Malawi, Africa, in 1982. She taught at Our Lady of Wisdom Commercial School, and was a member of our formation team in Malawi. When she returned to Philadelphia, she became a tutor in English as a Second Language, reading and math. She also did secretarial work in the Nursing Department of the University of Pennsylvania.

Looking back on sixty years of vowed life, Sister Jean shares, “Mission for me is listening to God’s word in the many ways it is spoken to me and responding to it with the help of His grace; it is love of God and neighbor; it is living in the presence of God, discovering the revelation He has for me in each new place, in the people and happenings in my life, and hopefully being some little expression of God’s presence in our world as I try to be of service to others.”

July 15, 2011

Sister Clare Muthukattil

Sister Clare is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born the fourth in a family with seven children, Sister Clare grew up in the small village of Teakoy in Kottayam, India. She studied at Assumption College in Changanacherry, and made her First Vows with our Community in 1960.

After a brief time of hospital work and teaching women interested in our Community, Sister studied and served as a laboratory technician at Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi, and at St. Thomas Hospital, Chetipuzha. She then attended a two-year course in pastoral and catechetical training at the Pastoral Orientation Center, Cochin.

In the 1970s, Sister Clare was in mission in Rome in preparation for our Chapter meeting; in Germany as a contact person for Indian nursing students working there; and in Brazil, where she ministered among the villagers of Faina Goas.

Sister returned to India, and worked for the development of fisherfolk for five years. In 1985, she was missioned to Mundakayam Medical Trust Hospital, where she served in the community health department.

At the request of our Community, Sister Clare went for studies in theology, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Pune, India, and then her Master’s Degree, specializing in spirituality and pastoral counseling, in Bangalore. For four years, she lived near the Kottayam Medical College and worked with poor families.

From 1995 to 2003, Sister Clare lived and served in our District House and Ushus Community in Kottayam. She then went to Ayushya where she helped in conducting programs and retreats, counseling, and holding holistic health classes.

Sister Clare has held many positions within our Community. She has served on our leadership teams, coordinated renewal programs, edited the newsletter, been a member of the Sector Asia spirituality team, and been a resource person for women in formation. She now lives in the Anna Dengel Home in Ithithanam.

August 1, 2011

Sister Karen Gossman

Sister Karen is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Sister Karen graduated from Our Lady of Mercy Academy, and received her R.N. at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital. She worked there, and in the Army Nursing Corps on a hospital ship in World War II, before joining our Community.

Sister Karen’s first overseas mission assignment was to Pakistan. She was an operating room supervisor and nurse-midwife at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi for five years, and then served as Administrator at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi.

In 1960, Sister Karen began several years of service as Administrator and our local Superior in Quinhon, South Vietnam. In 1968, she became Executive Director of a Vietnam Assistance program, spending time in Saigon and in Washington, D.C.

After Sister Karen repatriated to the U.S., she became certified as a nurse-anesthetist at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio, then worked on the staff there for four years. She was a Clinical Instructor at Bel Park Anesthesia Associates in Youngstown, Ohio. She also worked in the anesthesia department at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

When Sister Karen retired from active hospital work, she became a pastoral care worker. She recalls, “As a Eucharistic minister, I carried the Lord God to my fellow parishioners and neighbors. I brought comfort to the lonely and helped to feed the hungry.”

Sister Karen also participated in many outreaches for justice. She joined a Covenant Peace Community with 250 members. She says, “Practically all of the religious communities in the area were represented in our group, as well as married couples, children and single adults. We worshipped, worked, and made our spiritual journeys toward transcendence together. I consider it a grace to have been a small part of a group that pursues this goal.”

Sister Karen recently moved to our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia.

August 15, 2011

Sister Maria Gracia Navata

Sister Maria Gracia is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Sister Maria Gracia was born and raised in Agno, Pangasinan Province, in the Philippines, where she completed her elementary and secondary education. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at the University of St. Thomas in Manila, where she also worked as head nurse. Sister Maria Gracia came to the U.S. as an exchange visitor student, and worked at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital at Columbia University in New York City. Feeling the call to religious life, she joined our Community in Philadelphia, and made her First Vows in 1961.

Sister did nursing work at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and then at Holy Family Hospital in Dacca, East Pakistan. In 1968, she returned to the Philippines and studied at the East Asian Pastoral Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University.

For the next 13 years, Sister Maria Gracia ministered in the area of integral human development, which includes health, self-government, education, spirituality, and ways to earn a living. She was involved with the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, and with an agrarian movement in central Luzon.

From 1982 to 1996, Sister Maria Gracia helped farmers, women and youth struggle for preservation and reconstruction of the environment, especially with the Sarling Sikap Corporation, Abra. She then returned to her hometown, where she worked with local fisherfolk, farmers and women in integrated human development programs and community building.

Sister Maria Gracia has been involved with HEAL (Haven for Ecological and Alternative Living) since January, 2010. She celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Medical Mission Sister in 2011.

September 1, 2011

Sister Mary Grace (Kenne) Froehlich

Sister Mary Grace (Kenne) is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Sister Kenne attended Johnstown Catholic High School and Mt. Aloysius Academy. She learned about our Community through her sister Annette, who is also a Medical Mission Sister, and entered shortly after high school graduation. She went on to study at the Philadelphia Multi-lithing School, and in the 1960s managed the print shop, post office, and maintenance staff at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia.

Sister Kenne studied at Temple University and Antonelli’s School of Photography, where she earned her diploma in portrait photography in 1976. She traveled the world to photograph our health care and missionary work. She also volunteered with the International Red Cross on the Thai-Cambodian border for six years.

In the mid-1980s, Sister Kenne moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a printer at New Mexico State University. She decided to study physical therapy (P.T.), and attended El Paso Community College in Texas, graduating with her degree as a P.T. Assistant in 1993.

Sister Kenne served as a P.T. Assistant at Alliance Care of Texas in El Paso. She later moved backed to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she lives with her sister Annette. She does pulmonary rehabilitation work at the Atrium Physical Therapy Center in Las Cruces with clients ranging in age from their late 60s to early 80s.

The people Sister Kenne works with are suffering from lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis. Sister conducts a two-month program of 24 sessions with them, to teach better breathing and increase strength and endurance. Some of the clients are on oxygen, and some are hoping to get a lung transplant. All are referred by a physician, who then receives updates on their progress. Sister Kenne says, “This is the perfect job at this time for me.”

September 15, 2011

Sister Mini Thomas Ottaplakal

Sister Mini Thomas is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in a village in Kerala, India, Sister Mini Thomas came to know about our Community when she was studying nursing at Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital in Bharananganam. She joined our Community in 2000, and made her First Vows in 2004.

She shares, “For me, the call to religious life is something special and a privilege. It is entering into a freeing experience to follow Jesus’ ways by means of three vows. It enables me to experience and trust God in a deeper way.”

Sister Mini Thomas was assigned to work among the tribal people of Roshni, Madhya Pradesh, then to the Holistic Health Centre, Ayushya in Ithithanam, where she tended the herbal garden and took care of herbal preparations. She made her Final Vows on May 17, 2008, at IHM Hospital, Bharananganam, and began studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in Mangalore, Karnataka. She is currently serving at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna.

“In the future I see myself continuing to take care of the sick and poor, either in a hospital or clinic where the poor and ordinary people can benefit…I enjoy taking care of the sick and poor and treasure the moments when they recover by our simple, loving care,” Sister Mini Thomas says.

She adds, “Our Society has helped me to grow in all aspects of my life, to experience different ways of prayer, to find and experience God in creation, to encounter God in the poor and sick, to find the ‘God of small things’ in my day-to-day life, to discover the talents within me and to respond to the different needs in a hospital or village.”

October 1, 2011

Sister Jacinta Conlon

Sister Jacinta is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Sister Jacinta graduated from Moncton High School and earned her R.N. at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She was working in a hospital in Montreal when she learned of our Community. She remembers, “I wanted to go and work as a nurse where they did not have the resources.”

Sister Jacinta was missioned for 13 years to India, where she served as a nurse-midwife and worked with student nurses, primarily at Holy Family Hospital in Mandar. She spent three years as a staff nurse at St. Patrick’s home in Ottawa, where she developed an interest in caring for the elderly. She also cared for our foundress, Mother Anna Dengel, in the last year of her life in Rome.

When Sister returned to North America, she focused her efforts on accompanying older persons. She gave nursing care to our elderly Sisters at our Philadelphia headquarters for 5 years. Then she moved to Florida, where she served in the Senior Companion Program, provided respite to caregivers, and did hospice volunteer work. She lived in St. Petersburg, Holiday, and Tampa, Florida.

She shares,“Mission for me means going to those in need of healing, who have few resources and less power to help themselves…entering the lives of these people, open to be affected by them, and simple enough to give of ourselves.”

Sister Jacinta now lives at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, where she serves in our Mission Development Center.

October 15, 2011

Sister Gaudencia Nafula Wanyonyi

Sister Gaudencia is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in a small village in Kenya, Sister Gaudencia 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. She has served in Nangina Hospital, Kenya, and in Techiman Hospital, Ghana.

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.”

In 2006, Sister Gaudencia began working in Angíya, Homa Bay Diocese, as one of the pioneers of a new mission in Kenya. Located near Lake Victoria, Homa Bay used to be a busy port, but the shoreline became hemmed in, reducing the income of the local families.

Sister Gaudencia has been working as a coordinator of the Primary Health Care Program at the Good Shepherd Ang’iya Dispensary. Of the 350,000 people in the clinic’s service area, 54% live below the poverty line. Sister Gaudencia and the staff care for mothers and newborn infants, for patients suffering from illness, and for people with HIV/AIDS. They also offer preventive care, such as immunizations.

Community training is another component of the Primary Health Care Program, with workers visiting people who live in remote areas and accompanying those who need specialized care when they go to the hospital.

In January, 2011, Sister was elected District Coordinator for East Africa for a term of three years.

November 1, 2011

Sister Shirley Wing

Sister Shirley is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born in Rochester, New York, Sister Shirley spent her childhood in the country. At the age of 16 she converted to Catholicism, along with her immediate family. After graduating from East Syracuse High School, she received her R.N. at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Education at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She made her First Vows in our Community in 1953.

From 1953 to 1963, Sister Shirley taught and served as Director of Nursing Education at Holy Family Hospital in Patna, India. After earning her Master’s Degree in Nursing at Catholic University, she became Coordinator of Nursing Education and Nursing Services at the hospital for another ten years. She then served for eight years at Holy Family Hospital in Delhi, India, as a teacher and Assistant Director of Nursing Education.

After 27 years in India, Sister Shirley returned to the U.S. and took courses at Temple University in Philadelphia to prepare herself to work with older people in the field of Recreation Therapy. She served until 1995 at a geriatric center in Philadelphia, explaining,“In our U.S. culture, older persons are a group in need, a group experiencing deprivation.”

In 1994, Sister Shirley began working as a nurse with some of our elderly Sisters. She also became very interested in herbs, and began using them to help our Sisters with common ailments.

Sister Shirley has continued to be involved with hospitality and volunteer work. She enjoys our book study group, and is active with our Integrity of Creation group, identifying and sharing ways we can live more sustainably within the environment.

November 15, 2011

Sister Maria Salema

Sister Maria is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The sixth of seven children, Sister Maria grew up in Goa, India. She joined our Community after high school and served at Holy Family Hospital, Mandar. Sister completed her nursing studies in 1986, and studied midwifery at Kurji Holy Family Hospital, Patna, India, where she was a staff nurse for four years.

Sister Maria later moved to Pune, India, where she worked as district secretary, was in charge of the holistic health dietary department, and did vocation work. Her next mission assignment was to Holy Family Hospital, Mandar, where she took care of the dietary department and the farm.

Sister Maria began mission in Venezuela in 2000. She lives in Barquisimeto, where she is involved in coordinating the parish pharmacy. During the past 11 years, she has conducted health camps for hundreds of people, and helped diabetic patients learn to prepare their own healthful, delicious meals.

Together with Sister Therese Cheruvallathu, Sister Maria plans a variety of activities and accompanies different groups in the Barrio 12 de Octubre. They have given workshops on many topics, including: human values, nutrition, relationships within the family, reflexology, and massage.

December 1, 2011

Sister Elona Stanchak

Sister Elona is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

A native of Middlefield, Ohio, Sister Elona joined our Community shortly after graduating from Villa Angela Academy in Cleveland in 1952. She remembers,“I had an interest from about the eighth grade or so where I wanted to help people, go into nursing, and make some contribution as a missionary.”

Sister Elona and her good friend, Sister Celine Bernier, both became R.N.s at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J., and were missioned to Pakistan in 1959. She says, “We didn’t really know what to expect…we were just asked to go where the need was greatest.” She worked for a year at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi as a nursing supervisor, then became certified as a midwife and served for four years at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi. She returned to Rawalpindi for several years as Director of Nursing Services.

In 1968, Sister Elona came back to the U.S. and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Duquesne University. She returned to Holy Family Hospital in Karachi as Director of Nursing Services. In 1978 she became Administrator of the 225-bed hospital – a position she held for 21 years.

“It wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of support from the staff and the doctors…the Christians, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Farsi, we always had that spirit that we would work together as one,” she shares. “We received so much from the people, who are such a happy people with great faith, in spite of their poverty and the simplicity of their lives. They, even the government, respected us and supported our work.”

Sister Elona repatriated to the U.S. in 2009, and is currently living near our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia, where she volunteers at our Thrift Shop. Looking back on her missionary life, she says, “Being compassionate, caring, open to people and their needs is being a healing presence…if I had to do it again, I think I would be ready to do it. I think we have gained more than we have given from our experience. It’s been very enriching.”

December 15, 2011

Sister Anita Sangma

Sister Anita is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

The second of eight children, Sister Anita was born in a small village, Rajabala, in Meghalaya state in North East India. She made her First Vows in 2004, when she was 24 years old, then went to study for her Bachelor’s Degree.

After completing her degree, Sister Anita was assigned to the Chumukedima community, then took a one-year Theology course as a preparation for her Final Profession of Vows in 2010. She shares, “I experienced God’s love and protection wherever I was working and studying…as I stayed in different communities, I experienced the hard work of our elder Sisters.”

She adds, “As I continue in mission I find God in the midst of many different situations, in creation and in people. This has deepened my faith and trust in God.”

Sister Anita shares that she was working at the Mendipathar Multipurpose Cooperative Society in January, 2011, when a big crowd, mostly youth, came running with weapons in an outbreak of tribal violence. The shops were immediately closed and many of the local people, especially women and children, ran to the Cooperative for safety. Sister Anita prayed together with the people as they stayed in this safe place.

Sister Anita shares, “I thank God for calling me to be a Medical Mission Sister. I want to serve His people through the healing charism. It is an ongoing response to the demands of the time, and challenges me to be open to new ways to live Gospel values, to live the signs of the time.”

January 1, 2012

Sister Ann Louise Smith

Sister Ann Louise is one of 600 Medical Mission Sisters and 80 Associates in 17 nations trying to be present to others in the spirit of Jesus the Healer.

Born and raised in McSherrystown, PA, Sister Ann Louise joined our Community several years after graduating from Delone Catholic High School. Her first overseas mission was to Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where she supervised the housekeeping at Holy Family Hospital for three years. After several years back in the U.S. in various supportive roles, she went to Judibana, Venezuela, where she served as the kitchen supervisor.

From 1967 to 1972, Sister Ann Louise worked in the dietary department, office, and outpatient department at Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi. She then returned to the U.S. She worked in Fayette County, Texas, on a joint health care project between Vanderbilt School of Nursing and Meharry Medical College. She also was involved with the Thrift Shop and Chapel at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia.

Sister Ann Louise spent over 20 years working as a home health aide with older people in Philadelphia. During this time, she became trained as a cosmetologist as well. She reflects, “Mission for me means being of service to others. I did this by caring for and supporting the elderly in their homes. I was especially concerned for those who lived alone, having no one to aid or support them…I saw so many beautiful things happen in the lives of these persons.”

In 1992, Sister Ann Louise returned to Pakistan. She joined our Sisters in Karachi in helping to prepare young women who were hoping to enter nursing school. She says, “It was a great privilege to work so closely with these young Pakistani women, and to have been so accepted by them. I was touched in many beautiful ways by them, and felt a mutual love and respect for them – as students, and as friends.”

Sister Ann Louise now lives at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. She is able to use her cosmetology training to care for some of our own older Sisters, cutting and styling their hair. She shares, “It is in giving that I have received so very much. All these women whose lives have touched mine have helped me to grow more deeply in my own spiritual life…meeting the needs of people, being of service, giving support, caring, and listening are all part of our call to healing mission.”

January 15, 2012