When Sister Roselyn Ninsiima studied agriculture at a monastery in Kenya, the priests and other religious were surprised that a Sister would be sent to practice farming. Indeed, the experience broadened even Sister Roselyn’s conception of the existential nature of farming.
She shares, “Agriculture is not just having farms and animals, or cultivation and harvesting as many would look at it, but it is also being mindful of what God has created and appreciating its usefulness to our being.”
During her studies, Sister Roselyn developed a way to use microscopic living organisms to boost plant growth and eradicate unpleasant smells, impressing her supervisor.
Sister Roselyn, who was born in Uganda in 1982, made her First Vows as a Medical Mission Sister (MMS) in 2012. She was first assigned to the Rubanda community in the South West of Uganda, where she worked with orphans and other youth, helping to dispense medicine as well as working as a relief cashier at an MMS health unit.
During that time, she shared her passion for gardening, and MMS in the Rubanda community continue to harvest a variety of vegetables. and have a promising banana crop. After three years, Sister Roselyn went to Kenya to study at Baraka Agricultural College. After completing her studies in 2017, she continued her care for orphans as well as those living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. In addition to facilitating a “Come and See,” she helps to give classes to postulants and, of course, she practices her passion for agriculture in her community’s garden. Sister Roselyn plans to make Vows for Life in September 2020.
In 1967 Rita left the MMS community and remained living in Atlanta rather than returning to her native Detroit. In addition to working as an associate professor of nursing at Georgia State University for 15 years, in 1976 she began meeting annually with the “Southern Gathering,” a group of MMS as well as nonmembers from Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. At a 1980 meeting, she was invited to be a part of a committee that would eventually lead to the creation of the MMS Associate Program.
While working as an administrator at the Catholic Colored Clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, Associate Rita Engelhardt was baffled at the panic that arose among her colleagues one day because there was no white doctor available for surgery. The doctors at the clinic had always been white but, to Rita, the solution was obvious. She suggested hiring a doctor of color and, two weeks later, the staff followed her advice. Before long, there were seven black doctors working in the clinic. Rita, who then was a professed Medical Mission Sister with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, helped to establish a Holy Family Hospital in Atlanta in 1964. It would be the first integrated hospital in the city.
Now retired and living in Atlanta, Rita reflects on how the program has evolved and grown, saying “it provides an opportunity to be with people whose presence and values affirm, deepen and expand my values. There is a joy in being part of each other’s lives. This joy permeates who I am and what I do.”
Medical Mission Sisters join our Sisters and Associates living in Venezuela in prayer to our God of life, that all those who invoke war, feel in their very core, God’s dream of peace and union among the citizens of Venezuela.
Despite the years of experience she had under her belt as a Medical Mission Sister (MMS), it was a group of youngsters who helped to ignite Sister Rose Vypana’s passion for environmental justice. When the young people came to her at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Hospital in Kerala, South India, to express their concern about the sewer draining from local hotels into the river, she joined them in a protest march.
“Their voluntarism touched me deeply as they opened the doors of a new ecological awareness for me,” Sister Rose shares. “Through them I was exposed to the needs of empowering women and children and protecting trees. I began to make songs and slogans to spread ecological awareness.”
Born into a loving family of 12 children in Kerala, Sister Rose has had a lifelong passion for caring for others. Because her family had a relationship with MMS at IHM hospital, Sister Rose saw and was inspired by the enthusiasm the Sisters showed in caring for their patients.
The experience led her to enter MMS in 1969 and to later study general nursing and midwifery at Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi. Today she works as a community health nurse and serves as the head of the Department of Community Health at IHM. In addition to participating in community activism, Sister Rose is especially concerned with providing healthcare to those who are disadvantaged.
Sister Rose shares, “Tireless service to the sick and the needy gives me internal joy and happiness. Nursing is a noble profession. My mother always used to say that she hoped one of her children would be a nurse.”
When Indonesian Sister Agatha Titi Prawati was studying to become a Medical Mission Sister, she was struck by our Society’s message of empowerment.
“Empowerment is a part of our life and mission as MMS,” Sister Agatha shares. “I also began to understand that empowerment was what I received when I was in formation [to become an MMS].”
After earning a degree in education and entering MMS in 1992, Sister Agatha set about helping others to become empowered. She provided welfare services for children living in slum areas and income-generating projects for adult women. Working in Pakistan, Sister Agatha participated in a nutrition program for malnourished children. Today she has returned to Indonesia and is a healing presence at Fatima Hospital, accompanying people who are suffering from diseases like leprosy.
Sister Agatha reflects: “This a world with many nations, cultures, languages, ethnicities, traditions, backgrounds and ways of doing things. These realities make me more aware that I am part of this larger world and that I cannot live in isolation. This understanding helps me to connect to the people and all of creation as I become more conscious that what I do will have an effect on others in the world.”
Medical Mission Sister Pat Gootee recently spent two weeks volunteering in McAllen, TX, the site of the U.S.’s largest immigrant detention center. Among the many touching gestures of love she observed were women teaching single fathers how to care for their infants, and nursing mothers feeding hungry babies in the absence of their mothers.
When she entered the Medical Mission Sisters in Duisburg, Germany, in 1999, Sister Dr. Ursula Maier was just shy of her 30th birthday and, by that point, thought she had her career ambitions figured out. She planned to become a surgeon. However, after working with a boy with disabilities and his family, she felt the calling to become a pediatrician.
In 2009, Sr. Ursula went to Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana. Initially she saw only a few malnourished children, some of whom weighed less than half of their normal weight. Because severely malnourished children cannot handle normal amounts of protein, sodium and high amounts of fat, they are given a specialized formula for 2-7 days to become stabilized.
After “great success” with two of the children, an increasing number of malnourished children began showing up at the hospital. Half of the children suffered from HIV/AIDS, Sister Ursula reported, but unlike their parents’ generation, the children now had access to life-saving drugs. For this reason, people in the community refer to them as “the hope generation”.
Today, Sister Ursula is earning a specialization in neuro-pediatrics back in her home country of Germany. She shares, “Having experienced that God is love, the source of healing and wholeness, my understanding of health and healing has been widened. This has drawn me to live with passion for life in all its aspects and life itself shows me how God is and seems to be. This experience of God’s love leads me to learn to be present to life in a way that fosters healing and life in its fullness.”
Medical Mission Sisters in West Africa are joyfully celebrating 70 years of MMS healing presence in Ghana. their healing ministries have included establishing Holy Family Hospitals, a fund for those made poor as well as a Cooperative Credit Union that now has branches in several towns.
Caption: Students from St. Mary’s Primary School in Odumasi, Ghana, where Sister Colette Beru serves as headmistress.
Raised by devout Catholic parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sister Mary Jo Grethel realized as a child that she wanted to devote her life to God, she just wasn’t sure how. The answer came when she was in the 8th grade, after a close friend confided that she wanted to become a missionary. Almost instantly, Sister Mary Jo realized that she wanted to do the same.
Entering the Medical Mission Sisters in 1962 she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, then began her first overseas assignment in Afghanistan, where she served as a nurse-supervisor and then as a program director in a new government nursing school.
Sister Mary Jo reflects, “That was exciting. It was my first mission abroad. My experience was fantastic. I will always hold it dear to my heart.”
After leaving Afghanistan in 1974, Sister began vocation work in Philadelphia. She later served 15 years in Ghana, first at a retreat center and later training catechists, after which she became MMS Vocation Director and served at the national level as Executive Secretary. In 1998, Sister Mary Jo went to Kampala, Uganda, where she would stay until 2017. There she was active in vocation ministry for seven years, taught nursing ethics and was involved with the Christian Caring Community that had an informal school for HIV/AIDS orphans. Today, Sister Mary Jo serves as Integration/Formation Coordinator for Unit North America.
Medical Mission Sister Maigualida (Mai) Riera del Valle, visiting from Venezuela, shared with our Sisters, Associates and staff in Philadelphia what is happening for our Sisters and their neighbors in her home country. Although Sr. Mai’s sometimes trembling voice expressed the emotional toll of seeing her neighbors in Barquisimeto suffer, she also described hope in the children singing in the Latidos Choir she founded and in the powerful experience of seeing neighbors helping neighbors.
Caption: Over 200 children from the barrio have joined the Latidos choir, bringing joy and healing to a neighborhood staggering under devastating hyperinflation and lack of resources.