Medical Mission Sister, Carmel Petonyak celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this month; she entered our Society in February, 70 years ago! Sister Carmel was in mission in India for over 30 years, working as a floor supervisor at Holy Family Hospital, Bombay, as staff nurse and instructor at the School of Nursing at Holy Family Hospital, Patna, and as an English instructor and assistant to the novice mistress in Pune. She currently lives at our North American headquarters in Philadelphia and assists in the Archives Department.
A cherished part of Sister Peninah Lilian Mukabwa’s routine is stepping out into her garden in the early morning hours, after it rains, and reflecting on the interconnectedness of the life forms she sees. A Native of Kenya, Sister entered the Medical Mission Sisters in East Africa’s Umoja parish in 2011, eventually joining the Sunyani Community in Ghana, West Africa. Now back in West Africa after a six-month inter-Unit exposure in the Philippines, she is considering returning to East Africa to continue exploring her passion for organic farming. In 2013, Sister had started a farmers group to share the methods she had learned, along with the message of our interconnectedness with the Earth. She had been troubled by how many local farmers were relying on less labor-intensive, inorganic methods, and by the easy availability of harmful chemicals. She recalls going to the market and seeing tomatoes with clear fungicide residue (likely the result of the farmer’s illiteracy) being sold to customers who had no option to buy healthy, organic produce.
Sister Lilian reflects: “We totally depend upon the rest of the universe… We forget the real truth that we can’t take a breath without the trees and all the green growing things. We would have nothing to eat or drink without the cycle of water and rain.”
Medical Mission Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier was awarded by the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) for her “historic and immense contributions to Christian health service delivery in Ghana.” After being missioned to Ghana in 1961, Sister Fernande was instrumental in establishing clinics in multiple villages, often under difficult conditions. She continued her service to CHAG long after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 60.
Caption: A photo of Sister Dr. Fernande Pelletier taken before she retired in 2016 at age 84.
After graduating from Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia, Associate Marie Conti was convinced she should become a nun. The Mother Superior from the Dominican Order who interviewed Marie told her to take one year off to “explore life.” Marie moved to Miami and after getting pregnant, returned for Philadelphia and made an adoption plan for her baby.
Over the next few decades Marie struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. During this time, she earned a degree from Wharton School of Business at University of Penn, got married, had a child, and got divorced five years later. For 30 years she worked in healthcare and in risk management/patient safety.
In 1992, Marie entered a twelve-step program and learned about the MMS Peace Hermitages. For the next seven years she came to stay in the hermitages as often as six times a year, a key part of maintaining her sobriety. Through our Sister Jane Burns she learned about MMS Associates and made her first Associate commitment in 2011. Now retired, she devotes her time to ministries like the “Radical Hospitality” programs at Broad Street Ministry.
Marie shares: “The focus of my life has become service, as opposed to material gain. I desire to bring succor to a suffering world. To comfort God’s broken creatures, of which I am one.”
Sister Selena Wilson, OP, describes 2016 as grace-filled and blessed. This was the year she made her first commitment as a Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) Associate, and had surgery to remove her right kidney and a cancerous tumor. Sister Selena shares that even though she had feared the worse, God’s grace showed her how to pour herself into her ministries at Holy Cross School, in the Heart-to-Heart program and Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP), easing her worried focus on her fate.
A Richmond, Virginia native, Sister Selena served in the Army Medical Service Corps, earned a Temple University degree in Creative Arts/Recreation Therapy in 1984, and joined the Dominican Congregation. While caring for her ailing mother in 2010, Sister Selena had searched for a religious community nearby with whom to live. After meeting with Sister Jean Mouch, MMS, she knew she would be happy living with the MMS Community. She now lives with Sister Lucy Klein-Gebbinck, MMS, in Camden, NJ.
Sister Selena shares: “I believe we take our ‘healing presence’ with us or rather, it’s just a natural part of who we are. God had a plan all along and I’m so glad he chose me to experience such a glorious and strong healing presence in the spirit of Anna Dengel and the Medical Mission Sisters.”
Medical Mission Sisters congratulate Sister Lorraine Ryan, who recently received the Golden Rule Award from the Catholic Realtors & Real Estate Professionals of Boca Raton, Florida. The award was given in recognition of her work against poverty. After serving 15 years in India, Sister Lorraine founded Women’s Circle, which offers classes and job development services to almost 300 immigrant women each year.
Caption: Sister Lorraine Ryan poses with Bishop Barbarito at the award ceremony.
Many years ago, Mother Anna Dengel caught a glimpse of Sister Patrice McSweeney walking past her office and called her aside. Was there any reason, Mother Dengel wanted to know, that Sister Patrice wouldn’t want to return to Venezuela, where she had lived as a young girl, for her first mission assignment?
Sister Patrice recalls: “I just stood there like a poker and said ‘no, there’s no reason at all.’ On the inside, I was doing cartwheels!”
She would go on to spend nearly 40 wonderful years in Venezuela. She first went to Maracaibo, then to Caripito, where she served as a nurse. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Puerto Rico. Afterwards, she went back to Venezuela, this time working in Barquisimeto, helping deaf and handicapped children in Barrio La Paz to receive an education. In 1999, Sister Patrice repatriated to the United States after she “came down with a bug.”
“The Lord knew that was the only way to get me back here. I loved everything about Venezuela,” Sister Patrice theorizes. It took her about six months to recover and, afterwards, she became active in pastoral ministry, visiting the sick, and working as an office aide for a literacy center. Sister Patrice now volunteers part-time in our Community’s Mission Development Center.
Sister Dorothy Bilung discovered her “healing hands” early in life, when she generously shared her healing touch with loved ones, rubbing oils into her mother’s cracked feet and offering massages.
In 1989, her passion for healing led her to join the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS) in North India’s Mandar community, where she was trained in nursing at Holy Family Hospital (HFH). She later studied midwifery at HFH in Kurji, a village in the Northeast Indian city of Patna, Bihar. She continued to work in Kurji until 1998, when she began working in a dispensary in the Kasiyadih Village in nearby Jharkhand.
She recalls that “I felt within me and among us, God’s presence and guiding hand.” Soon after accompanying village doctors to collect herbal plants that were used to treat those suffering from illnesses including malaria, diarrhea and viral fever, she went to Pune, Maharashtra. There she attended a holistic health program and worked in an acupuncture clinic. She later returned to HFH in Mandar, where she worked in the hospital’s herbal, acupressure and massage department. Today, she serves as assistant coordinator in Mandar’s Ashadeep community, and her work includes caring for MMS who are ill.
She shares, “As MMS we have been gifted to integrate many systems of medicine. There is much healing power in the universe and in nature and in ourselves which we must tap. God heals using our hands.”
At an early age, Sister Pauline Sadiq’s father showed her the importance of being interconnected with the Earth. The eldest of seven children raised in Sindh, Pakistan, she spent her early childhood crawling around in clay, playing with it and using it to make toys. Her father was a farmer, and he brought home fresh vegetables for supper each day. She loved the way that he always walked barefoot across the Earth, soaking up its positive energy.
“This energy made him gracious and a peaceful person,” Sister Pauline recalls. “I am proud to be the daughter of a farmer.”
Entering the Medical Mission Sisters in 1992, Sister Pauline made her Final Profession of Vows in 2002 after training as a nurse-midwife at Holy Family Hospital in Karachi. For ten years, she served in our dispensary in Faisalabad and helped to found the Lahore Community in Pakistan. In addition to serving as formation director, she regularly visits the “bonded” workers forced to work in the brick kiln to pay off family debts.
Sister Pauline shares: “I am challenged to be a voice of the voiceless. I need to trust myself and believe that I am God’s beautiful daughter. God is dwelling in me and is my co-journeyer. Then I will become the voice of the voiceless.”