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