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Philadelphia Thrift Shop

Serving our neighbors through a local thrift shop is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Our Philadelphia Thrift Shop, located at our North American Headquarters at 8400 Pine Road, plans a grand re-opening on Monday, May 17, 2010. The store hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Sisters invite everyone to the “Same Place, New Face.”

Sister Joan Foley will have overall responsibility for the Thrift Shop. Sister Joan founded and directed the Connections employment assistance program and also started its thrift shop in New Port Richey, Florida. Sisters Helen Marie McGrath, Elona Stanchak, and Silva Zuzek are all involved with the Thrift Shop. Two men from the neighborhood, Bob Perry and Dennis Fisher, have been volunteering their time and help.

The Thrift Shop is selling a variety of items at low prices – new and gently used clothing, bric-a-brac, jewelry, children’s toys, books and CDs, shoes, and some electronics. Eventually we hope to sell items made by people in the areas around the world where our Sisters are in mission.

Sister Joan says, “A significant area in the Shop is devoted to the life and work of Medical Mission Sisters. It’s another way to inform people about what we do in the world, the people we serve, and who they are.”

The Thrift Shop gives people the opportunity to recycle old or unused items. Donations of new or “gently used” items from our neighbors and friends are always welcome. Proceeds help to raise money for our healing mission in 17 nations, including the U.S.

May 1, 2010

Celebrating 200 Years in Mission

The four Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating Golden Jubilees in 2010 represent a combined 200 years in mission.

On June 13th, we are honoring four Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 50th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows in 2010. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks. A Mass and reception is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

Sister Therese Hayes, a native of Norwalk, Connecticut, served in Ghana as an administrative assistant in hospitals and religious organizations in the towns of Berekum, Techiman, and Kumasi. After returning to Philadelphia in 1972, she got involved in prison volunteer work and other human services, including caring for the children of working mothers. In 1976, she became Prison Chaplain and Counselor for Philadelphia County prisons. Twelve years later, she joined ActionAIDS as an “AIDS Buddy,” a ministry she continues today.

Sister-Doctor Miriam Paul (Hanna) Klaus was born in Vienna, Austria, and raised in the U.S. An obstetrician/gynecologist, she served at Holy Family Hospitals in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh. She taught at St. Louis University and George Washington University, and was Ob/Gyn Director for three years at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. For the past 30 years, Sister has been Executive Director of the Natural Family Planning Center in Washington, D.C., and of the international TeenStar (Sexuality Teaching in the Context of Adult Responsibility) education program, which she developed.

Sister Marguerite Papineau, from Holyoke, Massachusetts, is celebrating 50 years of vowed life, 20 as a Medical Mission Sister. As a Daughter of Charity, Sister taught high school in the U.S. and Iran. She also served in Beirut, Lebanon. After receiving her nursing degree and joining our Community, Sister Marguerite was a nurse and teacher in Mirpurkhas, Pakistan. When she returned to the U.S., she coordinated our Samaritan Lay Missioners Program, became very active with our Associates program, and was a volunteer teacher in an impoverished area of Philadelphia. Certified as a chaplain, she was a holistic health practitioner for many years. She currently serves as our Membership Promotion Coordinator.

Sister Sylvia Strahler, a nurse-midwife, will celebrate her jubilee in Faisalabad, Pakistan. A native of Suffield, Ohio, she has spent almost all of her missionary life in Pakistan. She was a nurse and ward supervisor for many years at Holy Family Hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi. In Mirpurkhas, she served as a nurse and taught midwifery, facilitated maternal and child welfare programs, and trained local dhais (lay midwives) in health care. She has been in Faisalabad for 21 years, directing a community health project and serving as our District Coordinator in Pakistan.

June 1, 2010

Healers of Mother Earth

Caring for the earth at a Philippine eco-center is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

The Cagayan Valley in Northern Luzon is one of the hottest, driest areas of the Philippines, with summertime temperatures over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Sister Yolanda Durian is in mission there in an eco-center called HOME (Healers of Mother Earth). The center is a place where people in the valley can learn how to care for their environment. It also has a clinic that offers alternative healing modalities.

HOME is surrounded by the rice fields of poor farmers who formerly depended on rain in order to plant rice. When the rains came, they were able to harvest once a year, but they did not have enough water for the necessities of life. Sister Yolanda explains, “These farmers and their families worked so hard, but were still poor, sickly and undernourished. Their children were not even able to go to school.”

The people working in HOME discovered a free-flowing, underground stream that could be harvested to supply clean water, not only to the eco-center, but also for the farmers and their families. “If the poor farmers are able to plant and harvest more often, they will be able to eat enough to keep them healthy,” Sister Yolanda says.

With the help of a generous donor, our Sisters were able to use wind and solar energy to bring the underground water to the surface and harvest it. This system will permanently supply the water needs of the eco-center and the farmers.

Sister Yolanda adds gratefully, “The eco-center teaches people how to care for and heal the Earth, and make proper use of the bounty of the Earth like water to keep them healthy. It also supplies the farmers with clean water for their daily needs, and for watering their rice fields and gardens. When people are able to harvest from the work of their hands, they are able to eat and maintain their health…a healthy environment makes people healthy, and water is indispensable to a healthy life.”

June 15, 2010

A Decade of Service at the United Nations

Working for justice at the United Nations is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Philo Morris recently completed a decade of service at the U.N. in New York, and is now returning to India. Her ministry began in 2000, when our Community received consultative status with ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. This council coordinates the U.N.’s work in economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related fields.

An attorney who also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, Sister Philo helped to start a NGO (non-government organization) Committee on Financing and Development, which she chaired from 2004 to 2008. Now with 74 member organizations, this group helps poor countries develop their economies and better deal with critical issues like HIV/AIDS, debt and poverty. Along with a small group of environment NGOs, Sister Philo started a Working Group on Climate Change in 2009, which now has 65 member organizations.

In her U.N. ministry, Sister Philo collaborated with Church World Service, Anglicans at the U.N., Pax Romana, Voices of African Mothers, MDG (Millenium Development Goals) Global Watch, and the Vihara Foundation which works in India. She also served as Co-Chair of the Earth Values Caucus, a NGO focused on sustainable development and on infusing ecological values into the U.N. agenda, documents and processes.

“I believe we are the voice of the voiceless in an arena where policies are made which affect every living being on our planet earth,” she explains. “The work at the U.N. was very challenging for me, and I am very grateful to the Society for entrusting this important aspect of our mission to me.” She adds, “I never worked so hard before, and never travelled so much…I loved every moment of it.”

We thank Sister Philo for her many contributions at the U.N., and we welcome her successor, Sister Celine Paramundayil from India, who begins a three-year term at the U.N. this month. A nurse-midwife and educator, Sister Celine was our first Sister to work with the poor dalit women in India – those in the lowest social strata. We wish her many blessings in the U.N. ministry.

July 1, 2010

Training Home Nurses at Kurji Holy Family Hospital

Training nurses to care for patients at home is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

For the past ten years, a three-month home nursing course has been offered at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, India. The course consists of two months theory and one month practice. Sister Anne Irene Rodriquez explains, “We have both men and women on cases and they are really appreciated for their services to the sick, lonely, bed-ridden patients, most of whom are older people.”

Sister Anne Irene and her co-workers keep in touch with the families where the home nurses are assigned, and also visit some families monthly. She says, “This is much appreciated and welcomed. Some of the families have expressed their gratitude and told us that Kurji Holy Family Hospital has not only given us nurses to care for our loved ones, but has also come to our doorstep.”

Many doctors, nursing homes and hospitals in Patna send those who need home nurses to Sister Anne Irene and her co-workers. “Many of our patients in Patna have relatives across the country and also abroad, thus we are also known in the international circles,” she explains.

Sister Anne Irene reflects, “Through this service which we render to many home bound cases, we make the cause known of our healing charism and ministry….We have helped many with job opportunities once they have completed the course, and they in turn have helped their families, made themselves self-reliant, and have been able to educate their children…we continue to be channels of God’s healing to many through our home nursing services.””

July 15, 2010

Celebrating 430 Years in Mission

The eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating 60- and 65-year Jubilees in 2010 represent a combined 430 years in mission.

On August 15th, we are honoring six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 60th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows this year, and two who are celebrating their 65th anniversary. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks. A Mass and brunch is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

60 years:

Sister Julia Burkart, a native of New Orleans, served in hospital admissions in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and worked in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as a librarian and social worker. The recipient of both a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Sociology, she taught on the faculty at several universities in the South. In recent years, she helped homeless and imprisoned women, and others in need, in New Orleans and Tucson. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she is involved in social justice work.

Sister Jane Burns, who grew up in Jersey City, NJ, has Master’s Degrees in English and Liturgy. She taught our novices in Philadelphia and England, and served in Dacca, Bangladesh. She learned Bengali music and poetry, and translated the liturgy from Latin to Bengali. She also taught in the Philippines, where she was our local superior, and in India, Pakistan, Africa, Latin America, the U.S. and Europe. In the 1980s, she founded our Peace Hermitage ministry in Philadelphia, where she resides today and offers spiritual companioning.

Sister Anna Mae Doran, a native of Jordan, NY, is a nurse-midwife who cared for impoverished mothers and children in Patna, Mandar, Bombay, and Kerala, India. After studying public health, in the 1970s she ministered as Coordinator at Kurji Holy Family Hospital in Patna, and with the Bihar Voluntary Health Association. She spent over 20 years serving in various health projects for women and children in Philadelphia; Anderson, South Carolina; Americus, Georgia; and Gainesville and St. Petersburg, Florida. She now lives in Philadelphia.

Sister Pat Edelen, a Baltimore native, worked in hospital pharmacy and administration in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, she ministered in the towns of Savannah and Lumpkin, Georgia. She returned to Philadelphia in 1985 and served at a local parish, and on many of our committees. She is currently the Hospitality Coordinator for our Administration Building in Philadelphia.

Sister Jean Murray, a native of Philadelphia, served as a secretary to our Foundress, Mother Anna Dengel, and in a number of positions in our Community. She taught young people in Philadelphia, and was an instructor of office practice in Limbe, Malawi. When she returned to the Philadelphia area in 1988, she taught literacy and English as a Second Language. She then worked in Archives at our North American Headquarters.

Sister Andrea Serafini, a nurse from Renovo, Pennsylvania, served in India for 27 years, in Thuruthipuram, Kottayam, New Delhi, Bombay (now Mumbai), and Patna. She was a hospital administrator, educator, and coordinator of health programs helping impoverished people in the slums. Living near Harrisburg, PA, she has worked with mentally challenged adults at Goodwill Industries for over 20 years.

65 years:
Sister Mary Conahan is from Bethlehem, PA. She did publicity work for our Community, spent ten years in Rome as part of our leadership team, and taught English to nursing students in Karachi, Pakistan. After returning to the U.S., Sister Mary studied clinical pastoral education, then worked as Assistant Chaplain in a center in Phoenixville, PA, and as a counselor at a clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has lived and served in Philadelphia for 19 years.

Sister Catherine Shean, a native of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is a pioneering nurse-midwife who taught at and directed the Catholic Maternity Institute in Santa Fe for over 20 years. She also was in mission in Africa for 25 years, serving in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. When Sister Catherine returned to the U.S., she taught at a clinic in Tucson. Today she is retired in the Philadelphia area.

August 1, 2010

Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

Helping vulnerable Ethiopian children is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Ethiopia today, about 5.4 million children are orphaned, living and working in the streets. Sister Senait Mengesha, in her work as the Social Rehabilitation Unit Coordinator of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat (ECS), is helping to respond to their needs.

“There are 36 orphanages run by the Catholic Church supporting about 5,000 orphans, and 31,000 children are supported at the community-based project level,” Sister Senait explains. “Some of these community-based projects are combined with pre-school education and school feeding programs.”

With the availability of anti-retroviral drugs, some of the AIDS orphans are living longer than expected, and have started school at a much later age. Sister Senait says, “The need for careful planning as to how to rehabilitate them and reunite them with the community is now a timely issue.”

Sister’s ECS Unit is also working with families at the parish level, to enhance family values and “lessen the pull and push factors at the household level that lead children to street life.” Volunteers from parishes in Addis Ababa were identified by the ECS and trained by the African Child Policy Forum. Each parish has a four-month action plan, to create awareness concerning child abuse and neglect, and to eventually create a means of social support for children in great difficulty.

Sister Senait feels strongly that, “Children with inadequate or no family support need material and moral guidance and support. They have the right to survival, growth, development, protection, and participation.”

August 15, 2010

85th Anniversary of Medical Mission Sisters

Still pioneering at 85, Medical Mission Sisters celebrate our Foundation Day.

On September 30th, over 650 Medical Mission Sisters and Associates around the world will celebrate the 85th anniversary of our Community’s founding. Please join us in thanking God for these wonderful years of pioneering spirit and healing presence.

Our Foundress, Doctor Anna Dengel, served in the early 1920s as the only physician for thousands of women and children in what was then Northern India (now Pakistan), because Muslim customs did not permit women to be seen by male doctors. She knew that the need was much greater than she alone could meet…so she took the unprecedented step of founding our Community of Catholic women doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

In 1925, there was no precedent for Catholic Sisters to be physicians, surgeons, and obstetricians-gynecologists. Instead, there was a Church ban – a Canon Law – against it. It took 11 more years of petitioning Rome and demonstrating, by dedicated service, that “it could be done,” before the Church permitted Catholic Sisters to be engaged in the full range of medical work, especially in mission lands.

During our 85-year history, hundreds of our Sisters have helped millions of people in 43 nations. Our pioneering has included:

–    building and staffing hospitals and health centers
–    starting nursing schools and programs for nurse-midwifery training
–    offering vital health and nutrition education to mothers, so they would have healthy pregnancies and deliveries
–    monitoring closely the health and growth of children under five
–    caring for people suffering with HIV/AIDS
–    working towards justice for the poor and voiceless, at the U.N. and in local areas
–    creating ecologically-friendly work and living environments
–    being present to women who are imprisoned or trafficked

Mother Dengel encouraged us, “to prudently push on, not being rash, but not afraid either to dare something when it appears important in the building of the kingdom.” Following her example, we continue to pioneer new expressions of healing ministry wherever there is great need.

September 15, 2010

A New Home for the Women’s Leadership Institute

Helping women to develop their leadership skills and expand their ministries is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

On September 11, 2010, Sister Miriam Therese Winter welcomed over 150 visitors to the new home of the Women’s Leadership Institute, which she founded 15 years ago and continues to direct. The newly renovated space in Hartford, Connecticut, is a “gift of love” from graduates and friends. A special, hour-long outdoor ceremony blessed this new space for learning, sharing and growing.

The Women’s Leadership Institute: A Program in Applied Spirituality (WLI) enables participants to develop and strengthen leadership skills while exploring a feminist perspective in religion and society. The new space will also have room for WLI2– an ongoing program for alumni that will celebrate the transformative ministries of its participants and offer a variety of programs for women through the year.

As Sister Miriam Therese explains, “The strength of this experience-based program lies in its capacity to speak honestly to the deepest of needs, to listen to and affirm women wherever they are on their journey, and to offer a rich mix of theory and theology, prayer and practical application, as the basis for facilitating leadership, and as substance for transformative change.”

Sister Miriam Therese was already well-known as an author, singer and composer when she became the first woman on the faculty of the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut in 1980. She continues there as Professor of Liturgy, Worship, Spirituality and Feminist Studies in the Center for Faith in Practice.

Participants in WLI are required to enroll in a Hartford Seminary course; complete a cross-cultural immersion experience; design and implement a leadership project; and attend 9 weekend seminars over the course of 9 months. This is a certificate program, although undergraduate and graduate students can receive academic credit for it.

Sister Miriam Therese reflects, “The heart of my ministry here is learning, and helping others to learn, how to be in conversation, and eventually in community, with those who are different and consequently force us out of our comfort zone…with Anna Dengel (our Foundress) we continue to envision a more just, compassionate, equitable world, where the light of God’s all encompassing spirit is there for everyone.”

October 1, 2010

Justice Co-Mission 2010

Working together for justice is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

On the weekend of October 8-10, 2010, over 25 of our Sisters and Associates in North America gathered in a “virtual” meeting, using flash technology to share their justice ministries and learn from each other. The meeting began with a prayer, and each participant shared highlights of her work for justice over the past year.

Our Sisters who live and work near the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be involved with a micro-loan program and with immigration. Sister Janet Gottschalk completed 39 years as an educator in Texas this year, working mainly with Hispanic students who were often the first in their families to graduate from high school and then go on to college.

In California, Sister Justine Church is active with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and with a Faith and Justice group for low-wage workers. Sister Key Heidkamp attends monthly Catholic Worker meetings, and networks for many justice causes.

Several of our Sisters and Associates in Philadelphia are involved with prison ministry, violence against women, Alternatives to Violence workshops, and the New Sanctuary movement. Others are active with letter-writing, networking, and in an ecumenical Northeast Philly Peace and Justice Group. Sister Celine Paramundayil, our new representative to the United Nations, focuses on women, sustainable development and financing for development, and climate change.

At our Alliance for Justice Office in Washington, D.C., Sister Janet Gottschalk and Mrs. Susan Thompson are involved in a wide range of activities, including border/immigration issues, an interfaith group working on trade and investment, and groups on water and extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas extraction from the earth.

Our Justice Co-Mission group decided to focus their efforts for the coming year on “Migration from a Planetary and Global Perspective.” They will look at migration from the broadest possible vantage point, from both around the world and through all the issues that create the need for massive global migration.

November 1, 2010

Mission at the Panackachira Resettlement Colony

Caring for resettled people is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In 1977, several of our Sisters in South India began living and working with families in the Panackachira resettlement colony, most of whom had already been uprooted twice and were evacuees from government land. Sister Sophie Vallavasseril explains, “They had absolutely nothing and were struggling in every way….Beginning with meeting the basic needs of food, shelter, employment, drinking water, sanitation, health, education and the like, Medical Mission Sisters and the diocesan Malanadu Development Society (MDS) collaboration continued with the empowerment of children, youth, women and the whole society.”

Over the past 33 years, a number of our Sisters and candidates have been involved at the colony. Sister Sophie remembers, “We lived a very simple life in their midst, and shared many of their hardships and struggles.” Now every family has a decent house and clean drinking water. The educational standard for children has grown, and most people are currently employed. The MDS, governmental and nongovernmental agencies will assure that there is ongoing growth.

Our Sisters notified the Diocese that it was time to phase out our involvement. As many of the residents said, “When Panackachira was in need, Medical Mission Sisters responded whole heartedly; now that we are more or less able to stand on our own feet, let us happily send our Sisters on with our prayers and blessings.”

In July, 2010, two gatherings of thanksgiving were held. The first was arranged by our Sisters, to express our gratitude for those who supported our mission in the colony for over 33 years. Bishop Mar Mathew Arackal, several priests, staff members, local residents and 20 Medical Mission Sisters attended. The second event was held by the local people, to express their appreciation.

Sister Sophie says, “In both these gatherings, the participants thanked us profusely for our dedicated service, which brought about radical change in the area…many of the people shared that they were touched by our simple life there.”

“Most of the people expressed that as we leave the colony, what they would miss most is our total availability and healing presence…we felt very happy that at least some people have imbibed our spirit and charism…and pray that they may grow together as children of one Father.”

November 15, 2010

U.S. Catholics in Mission

Exploring what it means to be a U.S. Catholic in mission is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sisters Pat Lowery, Mary Ann Tregoning, and Anne Louise von Hoene recently attended the U.S. Catholic Mission Association’s 2010 Congress in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year’s theme was, “God’s Mission, Many Faces: A Portrait of U.S. Catholics in Mission.”

Sister Pat reports that the initial keynote speaker, Rev. Gargy Riebe Estrella, SVD, Ph.D., spoke about God’s mission with many faces. He emphasized that we are all human beings in communion with and relationship with each other. He discussed the need to be bridge builders and to build a church that is a community of communities.

Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM, President of Maryknoll Sisters, gave a keynote address on, “Turned Upside Down: Learnings and Challenges (A Missioner’s Journey in South Africa).” She spoke about the three weeks in which she was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Rhodesia for following up and reporting on government abuses, calling this the “best retreat” of her life. She highlighted three areas of concern in mission: the environment, human trafficking, and poverty and inequality among people.

The third keynote speaker was Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who spoke about faith, joy in life, and personal, ecclesial, and pastoral conversion. He noted the ecumenical character of mission, which does not proselytize but invites the other to accompany us, to listen to each other, and to joint action. He stressed that dialogue is best done by one versed in their faith, and noted that Mary was the educator of the disciples. He spoke of encounter, conversion, discipleship, communion, and formation.

Our Sisters enjoyed attending some of the 15 workshop/dialogue sessions. There were 22 bishops at the opening ceremony and liturgy, and some stayed on until the next day to participate in an open dialogue session. Sister Pat shares, “Most striking for me was an appreciation of and meeting so many different peoples of different cultures, situations in life, and languages, and some whom I did know and did not expect to see there – and all in mission.”

December 1, 2010

Outreach to Elderly Persons in Essen, Germany

Caring for elderly persons in Essen, Germany, is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Essen, Germany, Sister Maria Hohenadl is involved with caring for older persons in the city.

This past summer, Sister Maria completed her first year of work with “Katholischen Pflegehilfe” (Catholic Care Help) – an organization providing care for elderly persons. With 350 co-workers, she has grown in her connections to people and different groups with similar goals. She says, “A year ago, all the faces and names were new…the whole network we call the Health Systems is no longer a labyrinth in which I wonder how to proceed.”

Sister Maria was grateful to take part in a training course for care management. She reflects, “It has given me insight into the workings of health insurances and social security systems. It was especially helpful in my work of visiting people at home. Their problems are usually with the health insurance, endless papers to fill out, no money to pay the necessary bills, or perhaps nobody to talk to.”

She adds, “It is good to know what road to take to help solve a problem. Sometimes what is needed is a human being to listen to the woes in life. I must say, I do enjoy it.”

December 15, 2010

Marking a Decade of Service at St. Luke’s in Wolisso, Ethiopia

Ministering at St. Luke’s Catholic Hospital and College of Nursing and Midwifery is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Ten years ago, St. Luke’s Catholic Hospital and College of Nursing and Midwifery in Wolisso, Ethiopia, saw its very first patient. Sister Elaine Kohls, who has served as the hospital’s General Manager since it opened its doors on January 1, 2001, says, “Medical Mission Sisters were involved from the beginning, in the planning and the beginning of the hospital and college, along with other religious congregations.”

Serving a population of roughly 350,000 people, the hospital has more than doubled in capacity over the past decade. It now has 192 beds, and an outpatient department that sees over 300 patients each day. UNICEF has declared it an excellence hospital for the fight against malnutrition.

The college of nursing and midwifery – the only Catholic nurse’s training school in the country – has graduated hundreds of students and continues to offer two three-year diploma training programs. Sister Elaine explains, “80% of the people in Ethiopia live in remote, rural areas. The health coverage is about 50%, as there is inadequate infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals and basic health services…also, Ethiopia has one of the highest maternity mortality rates in the world and is very much in need of trained and qualified midwives.”

Sisters from four religious communities minister at the hospital and college, which are owned by the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops Conference. Our other member at St. Luke’s, Sister Maggie Lupiya, is a nurse-midwife from Malawi with a Bachelor’s Degree in community development. She serves in the Public Health Department, which is very active in both the hospital and in outreach sites.

Ensuring safe water is a priority for the health of the people, and Sister Elaine, with gratitude to many generous donors, says that there are now “27 completed hand-dug wells, 17 protected springs, and 7 boreholes in use serving over 90,000 people.”

January 1, 2011

Recycling in Arequipa, Peru

Working with local people in caring for the environment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Arequipa, Peru, our Sisters are active in a number of villages near the parish of Christ the Liberator. Sister Marisol Martinez explains, “Being a very populated zone, year by year pollution has increased. The majority of people and factories throw toxic residues in the river…in many cases, garbage has to be burned because there are no available garbage trucks to collect it.”

In May, 2010, our Sisters began a project with women from two of the common kitchens involved with the Christian Studies Center and Popular Education (CECYCAP). Meetings and workshops are being held every 15 days, covering such topics as:

–    environmental pollution
–    sources of contamination – water, air, and soil
–    other types of pollution –sound and visual
–    types of residues – solids, organic and inorganic
–    recyclable material – paper, cardboard, plastics, glass and metal
–    commitment to the environment

Once a week for two hours, the participating women, in uniforms, collect bottles, cardboard, plastic and metal cans. On Saturdays, they select and separate items to be sold to companies that are committed to care of the environment.

Sister Marisol shares, “Most of the women have learned a lot about recycling as a way of caring for the planet and having another source of livelihood for their families…they feel happy and also know that through the project they are creating consciousness in their families and the whole society.”

January 15, 2011

Assisting the Pakistan Flood Victims

Accompanying and assisting the flood victims in Pakistan is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

For the past seven months, our Sisters in Pakistan have been in mission with victims of the terrible flooding that affected one-third of their country. Millions of people lost their homes, belongings, crops and animals.

Sister Sylvia Strahler, originally from Ohio, lives and works in Faisalabad and is our District Coordinator in Pakistan. “Initially our team worked with Caritas in their survey, medical camps and food distribution programs about 93 miles from Faisalabad,” she explains. Our Sisters then partnered with a non-government organization to provide goats to the most needy families in a village. “This gives ongoing help to the families in the form of milk for the children who are mostly malnourished…each family that gets goats is committed to give two young goats to another family. This is how many people benefit.”

Before Christmas, our Sisters in Faisalabad helped to distribute food staples to several hundred families of kiln workers. Sister Sylvia explains, “They are some of the poorest people, since they are paid very little. Most of their children are not going to school, but helping to support the family by making bricks.”

During this same time, Pakistani Sister Pauline Sadiq went to her home province, Sindh, and worked with the Columban Fathers in assisting the villagers, giving them warm clothes and also providing goats to needy families.

Sister Agatha Titi Prawati, who is from Indonesia and now serves in Lahore, Pakistan, reports that our Sisters in Lahore ministered in the area of Kasur. They held five health camps in coordination with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. “We decided to focus on health, rehabilitation of the villagers’ crops, and repairing their houses and boundary walls,” she shares. They gave seeds to needy families, and sewing machines to some young women who do not attend school, and helped to repair houses with bricks and cement.

With gratitude to the generous donors who have been helping our Sisters’ mission in Pakistan, Sister Agatha says that, for the people, “It is their faith journey that teaches them to believe that God always cares for and loves them. God never leaves us alone, and God doesn’t give us a challenge that we cannot cope with…we journey together and experience God alive in our midst.”

February 1, 2011

Gathering of 16 Sisters in Temporary Vows

Learning, sharing and supporting each other in our commitment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence today.

In Patna, India, sixteen of our Sisters from North and North East India who have professed Temporary Vows recently gathered for a one-month program. They strengthened their relationships with each other and their sense of belonging to our Community.

“There was much life, laughter, time for serious reflection and creative expression through drama, song, paintings and mandalas,” says Sister Rowena Miranda, our District Coordinator in North India.

Three Jesuit priests facilitated the program, along with three of our Formation Coordinators, Sisters Nirmala Lopes, Anne Irene Rodriguez, and Anna Kalista Bara.

The participants studied our Community’s documents, history, and realities today. They worked on their writing skills, and learned the basics of journalism. They shared the life stories of several older Sisters, and discussed various aspects of religious life.

The Sisters appreciated time set aside for sharing “heart stories” – their experiences in community and ministry, their joys, struggles, challenges and suggestions. They also enjoyed several picnics and outings.

Sister Rowena shares, “The Sisters were enabled to look deeper into themselves and get in touch with their ‘heart’s deepest desire’ – their call to religious life and their willingness and commitment to respond to the needs of the time.”

During the gathering, the Sisters were also challenged to keep up-to-date on the social realities in India and across the globe. They discussed the need for a shift in mindset and perspective as they encounter new realities, and expressed a hopeful, positive picture of their future mission and community life. As Sister Rowena says, “They returned to their respective communities with joy, enthusiasm, hope, and commitment to ‘keep the fire burning.’”

February 15, 2011

Ray of Light Farm

Honoring the healing quality of animals is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Medical Mission Sister Associate Bonnie Buongiorne is the founder of Ray of Light Farm in East Haddam, Connecticut, that serves as an animal assisted therapy center and large animal rescue farm. The non-profit charity, begun in 2000, sits on 40 acres and, with the help of many volunteers, helps people “make a positive connection with life through the healing presence of animals.”

“We aspire to be a ‘healing presence in a wounded world.’ Every day we hear about violence, crimes of the heart and crimes of conscience. But we still search for something good, something true. Our greatest accomplishment has been bringing people and animals together, offering something good and true — for our clients and the community at large,” their website explains.

The staff at Ray of Light Farm coordinates animal-assisted therapy, pairing humans and horses in ways that improve the physical and emotional well-being of both. They also rescue and care for neglected, abused and abandoned large animals, and facilitate their placement and adoption.

Along with riding instruction for youth, adults, and specially-abled people, at Ray of Light Farm the staff concentrates on promoting a genuine understanding of animals and how to care for them. In the Basics in Training program, held weekly for 8 weeks, students are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, with individualized attention and time. The program uses positive reinforcement and communication in the language of the horse to build the foundations necessary for both human and equine to advance to other pursuits.

In addition to horses and ponies, the farm is now home to an alpaca, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea pigs, guinea fowl, peacocks, miniature cows, miniature donkeys, mini horses, mules, and several heritage breeds of animals. These are traditional breeds, raised for food in the past, that have unique genetic traits.

For more information, please visit:

March 1, 2011

In the Midst of Conflict in North East India

Being peacemakers in the midst of tribal tension is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Violence along the Meghalaya-Assam Border in North East India sprung up at the end of December and has continued into 2011. The residents of the Garo Hills were blocked in their travels home for the holidays by the Rabha people, who had called for a strike. In early January, the tension escalated and inter-tribal clashes began. Many people were injured or killed, and 50,000 were left homeless.

Homeless families sought refuge in 26 relief camps. Our Sisters in the area explain, “Both groups suffered extensively, and many who returned to their villages were moved to tears on seeing entire homes and villages totally destroyed. Their homes no longer stood, their vegetable gardens were destroyed, and their cattle were taken away. Even barns which stored the rice crop for the whole year had been burned down.”

Sister Anita Sangma was working at the Mendipathar Multipupose Cooperative Society on January 3rd when a big crowd, mostly youth, came running with weapons to attack the Rabhas. “Immediately all the shops were closed and the neighbors, especially women and children, ran to the Cooperative for safety…they prayed the rosary and remained inside…we heard the sounds of shooting, fire engines and ambulances throughout.”

The following day, over 5,000 Rabhas were brought to the Mendipathar College compound, near our Sisters’ house, under police protection. Many were frightened because they were in a Garo area, and escaped into the forest. “This reminded us of the Exodus experience,” our Sisters said.

Sister Bridget Kaniampadickal shares, “In this crisis situation, we were able to support and strengthen both groups by visiting the relief camps, listening to the people’s cry and by our prayer. I also had the responsibility of protecting the Garo students who were with us, since all other community members were away…prayer gave us strength and courage.”

The government is now helping the people to rebuild, and both the government and Church are involved in peace-making activities between the two groups. As Sister Bridget says, “May the Prince of Peace bring peace to all people, hope and light to the brokenhearted, and guide them to build a world where all can live in harmony and love.”

March 15, 2011

Gateways to Learning

Helping others learn about different faith communities is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Maria Hornung, author of the book Encountering Other Faiths, has been serving for over five years as the Educational Coordinator of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. Last year, the Center began “Gateway to Religious Communities,” a new program in its area of Adult Learning and Leadership.

Participants in the program were able to tour the congregations of their choice with a small group, attend a service with the religious community, reflect and ask questions with community members and enjoy refreshments. Twelve different congregations from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Native America, Protestant, Society of Friends and Universalist faith communities welcomed the “journeyers.”

“The hope of this program was that people interested in interfaith engagement would over the year receive hospitality from different faith communities, learning from them and enjoying the experience,” Sister Maria explains.

She adds, “ New insights abounded, friends were made across religious boundaries, awareness about the great number of people of good will in this city grew….An unforeseen gift of these months has been the brother/sisterhood that grew among the journeyers, as well as the great affirmation of these visits experienced by those visited.” The program was so successful that it is being repeated in 2011.

Four communities participating this spring are: Main Line Reform Temple (April 1), Baha’i Community of Philadelphia (May 1), Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship and Mosque (May 29), and St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Parish (June 19).

For more information, please visit:

April 1, 2011

Networking Against Human Trafficking in Europe

Working against the trafficking of women is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

German Sister Dagmar Plum is on the steering committee of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking against Human Trafficking and Exploitation). An expert in human trafficking and its effects in Germany, where prostitution became legal in 2002, Sister recently visited Tirana, Albania. She met with Marjana Meshi, the director of Different and Equal, a shelter for trafficked women and girls, and visited the shelter’s residents.

Sister Dagmar also spent several days with Sister Imelda Poole, a British Sister of Loretto and a fellow RENATE steering committee member. Their first stop was at a poor Roma camp, where people live in cardboard houses covered with plastic bags. Sister Dagmar says, “Looking at their beautiful faces, I am not surprised that these kids can easily fall prey to traffickers.”

The next day, Sister Dagmar visited with young women outside of Tirana who are being reintegrated into their families and communities. One young woman had been trafficked to Italy as a minor. Another ex-victim, now a university student, is determined to use her studies to bravely help other victims fight for their rights.

Sister Dagmar later met a group of women in distress who were single mothers, divorced or abandoned, living in a dilapidated building. She reflects, “It’s mainly Sisters who make a difference to these women with so much potential. I pray that their determination and skills will bear fruit so they can make a living through their own work.”

“I found dignity despite suffering,” Sister Dagmar says of the women and girls she met on her trip. “I am convinced that many of them will come to terms with their lives…women still have a long way to go to be recognized as equal but different.”

For more information, please visit:

April 15, 2011

Living a Community Life in a Poor Area of Philadelphia

Establishing a new community among the inner-city poor is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In May, 2009, four of our Sisters established a community in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. This poor neighborhood is in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which has one of the highest rates of hunger in the U.S. The need for food there has increased 66% over the past two years, and the unemployment rate is very high.

Three of our Sisters in Kensington – Barbara Ann Brigham, Patrice McSweeney, and Juanita Ortega – spent many years in South America and are fluent in Spanish. They chose this area partly because Hispanic people make up 56% of the parish neighborhood. The fourth, Sister Goretti Poovathunkal, is from India. Each one has found a special area of ministry.

Sister Barbara Ann is a trainer for the Alternatives to Violence project programs, which are held in the Visitation Parish Center, among Hispanic men at Graterford State Prison, and at New Jerusalem Now for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Sister Patrice McSweeney visits the home-bound, offering companionship and solace. She also has acted as an interpreter for a social worker and Hispanic woman at a shelter for trafficked women.

Education has always been important for Sister Juanita Ortega, who established the first university nursing program in Venezuela. She has been teaching classes in English as a Second Language. In addition, she has a special talent with sewing, and helps to tailor and alter clothes.

Having recently returned from her native India, Sister Goretti Poovathunkal has resumed her mission at New Jerusalem Now, a residential recovery program in North Philadelphia where she served from 2003-2008. Sister Goretti enjoys accompanying the residents in community service, preparing meals, supervising food distribution in the neighborhood, and participating in justice and peace campaigns.

Although our Sisters still call themselves the “new kids on the block,” they have made many new friends and network with other like-minded groups working for the same goals of justice and healing for all.

May 1, 2011

Conference of Religious Women in India

Sharing our mission with leaders representing 100,000 Religious Sisters in India is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In January, 2011, Sisters Irene Fernandez, Josita Myladiyil, Rose Kayathinkara and Rowena Miranda attended the 46th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Religious Women (CRWI) in Kochi, Kerala, India. 450 Sisters in leadership from across India, representing 100,000 Sisters, reflected on the theme, “Our Consecrated Life: Our Mission.” They spoke of their desire for a re-formation and re-orientation for religious congregations.

Our Sisters share, “We were accompanied in different religious houses. The Eucharistic celebrations were in the Syro-Malabar rite, the Syro-Malankara rite and the Latin rite – one on each day. The morning and evening prayers were creatively done.”

In her keynote address, CRWI president Sister Prasanna Thattil, CHF, appealed to attendees to meet the challenges of today, and to seek ways to deepen consecrated life “without compromising the Gospel values in the Indian context.”

The group encouraged inter-congregational collaboration in helping the poor and oppressed, and in safeguarding the dignity and lives of women and children.

At the concluding session, Father Stephen Alathara, Deputy Secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, acknowledged the importance of Sisters, saying, “The Religious are the most integral part of the Church…the Church depends on them heavily for everything…and they have great impact not only on the Church, but also on society.”

May 15, 2011

Celebrating 300 Years in Mission

The six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating Golden Jubilees in 2011 represent a combined 300 years in mission.

On June 5th, we are honoring six Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are marking the 50th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows in 2011. A Mass and reception is being held at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia in recognition of these Sisters’ service:

A native of New Brunswick, Canada, Sister Jacinta Conlon served in Mandar, Mumbai and New Delhi, India, as a midwife and staff nurse, and in administrative and supportive positions. From 1975 to 1985, she worked in public health, social service and care of the elderly in Ottawa; cared for our Foundress, Mother Anna Dengel, in Rome; and helped take care of our elderly Sisters in Philadelphia. She then moved to Florida for 15 years, where she offered assistance to the elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled in St. Petersburg, and was a hospice volunteer and senior companion in Tampa. She has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years, and volunteers in our Development Office.

Sister Anne-Marie Desroches, who grew up in Syracuse, NY, did nursing work at Holy Family Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and with Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Kentucky. She served as a nurse practitioner in the Greene Family Health Center in rural Standardsville, Virginia. After moving to Boston in 1984, Sister Anne-Marie became involved in caring for persons with HIV/AIDS. She worked as the nurse practitioner at the Addiction Treatment Center of New England, an outpatient methadone clinic in Brighton, MA, for 13 years. She is now retired in Boston.

Sister Mary Grace (Kenne) Froehlich, from Johnstown, PA, has managed our print shop, post office, and maintenance office. A professional photographer, she has traveled around the world recording visual images of our ministries. She spent six years doing volunteer work with the International Red Cross, and helping refugees near the Thailand-Cambodia border. After moving to the Southwest in the 1980s, Sister Kenne became a physical therapy assistant. She worked for six years at Memorial Medical Center Hospital in Las Cruces and at Alliance Care of Texas, El Paso. Since 2000, she has been doing pulmonary rehabilitation with lung disease sufferers at the Atrium Physical Therapy in Las Cruces, NM.

An obstetrician/gynecologist, Sister-Doctor Myrtle Keller grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. She was in mission for 17 years in Africa, in Uganda, Tanzania, and Milawi. When she returned to the U.S. in 1988, she settled in Las Cruces, NM. There she helped to open the First Step Women’s Health Clinic for low-income women, where she served as an obstetrician for 11 years. She also worked at the nearby Memorial Medical Center. Sister Myrt then moved to Chula Vista, California, to work as a rehab and health care coordinator. Retired from active medical practice, she is involved in administration within our Community, and in a variety of volunteer positions.

Sister Mary Em McGlone, who grew up in Drexel Hill, PA, served as a nurse-midwife and nursing supervisor in Uganda, and as a staff nurse at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. In the 1970s, she worked in a variety of administrative positions for our Community. After learning about “Touch for Health” she became a holistic health educator. She founded the Center for Human Integration (CHI) in 1981 in Philadelphia, and served as its director for many years. In 2000, CHI was licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to offer a program in Integrative Body/Mind Therapies leading to a diploma. Sister Mary Em currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is engaged in creative healing arts.

Sister Lorraine Ryan, who was raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, has degrees in medical records science, nursing, midwifery, and public health. Sister Lorraine spent 15 years in India, where she coordinated hospital education and outpatient services; taught nursing; helped train village health promoters in a tribal area; and supervised the ministries of over 100 Sisters. Returning to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, Sister Lorraine worked as a staff nurse with chemically dependent patients. In 1999, she co-founded Women’s Circle in Boynton Beach, FL, to help lower income women achieve financial stability by providing assistance with education and job development. She continues in this ministry today.

June 1, 2011

Integrative Medicine in the Philippines

Empowering poor communities to reclaim their right to health is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister-Doctor Dulce Corazon Velasco serves as Executive Director of Integrative Medicine for Alternative Health Care System (INAM), a non-government organization in the Philippines. Sister explains that in her country, “Many have been deprived of their capacity to choose the kind of healthcare they need because of socio-economic constraints.”

INAM has responded to the needs of the people through education and training using a curriculum composed of: 1) Community Organizing, 2) Training of Community Health Workers, and 3) Training in Management of Community Health Programs.

The community organizers learn to mobilize people in the area into collective action toward the health situation they envision for themselves. Community health workers are taught how to treat common diseases, and to explain to family groups how to recognize the top ten diseases in the area. The health program managers learn to mobilize local resources and work in collaboration with other organizations and agencies to further develop their programs. Each community’s experience is documented and shared.

At the end of 2009, INAM had trained over 600 participants from 42 municipalities in the first level. Of these, nearly 400 went on to become community health workers, and dozens then went on to be managers. Over the past year, the training was expanded into some of the poorest areas in the country. Sister Dolce shares, “Poor and marginalized communities participating in these trainings will be able to generate health services according to their needs and available resources…they will be able to reclaim their right to health and be responsible for the sustainability of their health programs and services.”

June 15, 2011

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Working for the rights of the world’s indigenous people is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

From May 16-27, 2011, the United Nations held its tenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a landmark for the indigenous peoples of the planet. Sisters Katherine Baltazar and Celine Paramundayil attended this event.

There are over 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries today. These people constitute 5% of the world’s population, yet make up 15% of the world’s poor. Of the some 7,000 languages in use today, it is estimated that 4,000 are spoken by indigenous people.

The Forum, an advisory body to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council, has a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

The Forum officially opened with an Iroquois chief invoking the Great Spirit in his own native tongue. Sister Katherine shares, “I loved it when the indigenous people spoke up — their words pouring out from their hearts with such poignancy. This is perhaps why their cause resonates so strongly with me — the power of their words is very moving.”

The group has formulated a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN member states. This document sets a standard for countries to acknowledge the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith. Sister Katherine says, “As we all sat in the great General Assembly chamber, all listened with rapt attention to the American spokeswoman, a Cherokee, giving a report on the progress made under the Obama administration.”

Sister Katherine, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who has visited native peoples in New Zealand and Australia and served among the Lakota Sioux, said she was delighted to see a woman elected to chair the Forum. “I relish hearing the men publicly acknowledging the importance of role of women in indigenous cultures.”

For more information about the Forum, please visit:

July 1, 2011

The 2011 World Health Assembly

Participating in international health meetings is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In May, 2011, Sister-Doctor Elizabeth Vadakekara, our Assistant Society Coordinator, attended the 64th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland. She also participated in the annual meeting of the NGO (non-government organization) Health Forum.

The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). About 2700 delegates from 193 countries attended the Assembly. Opening remarks were given by Doctor Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discussions focused on:
–    A framework to improve global preparedness for future pandemics.
–    The prevention of noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, which contribute to more than 60% of deaths worldwide.
–    Strengthening health systems to achieve the Millenium Development Goals.
–    Vision, strategy and progress in achieving global immunization goals.
–    A plan for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition.
–    New resolutions on child injury prevention.
–    Sustaining and expanding gains made on the problem of malaria.
–    Support of the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.
–    A new, comprehensive strategy to combat HIV.
–    Work on the problems of cholera, water-borne diseases (which kill two million people each year), guinea-worm disease, and polio.
Young people (10-24 years old) currently represent one quarter of the world’s population, and Member States agreed to focus on preventing health risks specifically associated with this age group. They also welcomed the priority the WHO has placed on protecting health from climate change, and acknowledged the need to better handle chemicals and waste management to protect public health.

July 15, 2011

Honoring 480 Years of Healing Presence

The eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America who are celebrating 60-year Jubilees in 2011 represent a combined 480 years in mission.

Eight Medical Mission Sisters from North America are marking the 60th anniversary of their First Profession of Vows at a special Mass on August 15, 2011. Please join us in congratulations, prayers, and thanks for these Sisters’ many wonderful years of service.

Sister Celeste DiGiorgio, a native of Philadelphia, worked for many years in internal administration and service positions within our Community. After completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at Temple University, she ministered in Baltimore as a social worker. Upon her return to Philadelphia, Sister was the Social Work Supervisor at Women of Hope, a residential program for homeless women. She also taught reading and English as a Second Language, and was involved with groups advocating for justice.

Sister –Doctor Fernande Pelletier, a native of Maine, attended Trinity College and Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C. She completed her internship and surgical residency at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, N.J. Fifty years ago, she began serving at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum, Ghana, where she is still in mission today. She is the recipient of a Papal Award from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, the Grand Medal of the Ghanaian government, and the Ghana Medical Association’s Fellowship Award.

Sister Isabelle Harmon grew up in Maryland and studied X-ray technology at Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital in Upper Darby, PA. She worked as an X-ray technician in Venezuela, Jordan, and Ghana, then earned her R.N. at New Mexico Community College. She served for 24 years as a member of a Primary Health Project in the village of Abease, Ghana. In Oaxaca, Mexico, she worked with PROSA (Promatores de Salud, or “Health Promoters”), under the auspices of the Commission for the Indigenous in the Diocese of Oaxaca. Sister Isabelle now resides in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she helps low-income women in our Women’s Circle program.

Sister Margaret McKenna, from Teaneck, New Jersey, earned a B.A. in English from Chestnut Hill College, M.A. in Liturgy from Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in Christian Origins and Religious Thought from the University of Pennsylvania. She also studied at Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Sister has been a Director of Novices, a La Salle University professor, a writer, art director, and peace activist. In 1989, she founded New Jerusalem Now, a treatment and housing center for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in North Philadelphia. She has received many awards for her work and remains involved in this ministry today.

Sister Teresita Hinnegan, a Philadelphia native and nurse-midwife, received her R.N. from St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing. She was a nurse supervisor and administrator in Bangladesh. Throughout the 1970s, she worked in nurse-midwifery in the Philadelphia area, and in leadership in our Community. In 1981, she graduated from Temple University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Social Work, and began 22 years on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. Sister became a local and state advocate on maternal/child health issues, and received many honors. She founded the Center for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Philadelphia, and is active in fighting human trafficking.

Sister Janet Gottschalk, a native of Chicago, graduated from Misericordia Hospital in Philadelphia and served as a nurse supervisor in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She later earned a B.S. in Nursing from Case-Western Reserve University, M.S. in Regional and Community Affairs from the University of Missouri, and Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health. She has had eleven academic appointments, and has served in a variety of leadership positions for our Community. As an international public health specialist, she has traveled the world as a consultant, represented us at the UN, and directed our Alliance for Justice Office in Washington, D.C., which she continues to do. She also has received many awards for her work.

Sister Marie Schmids, who grew up in Philadelphia, attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She served as a medical technologist in Pakistan and Bangladesh for many years. She returned to the U.S. in the mid-1970s and earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina, where she also worked in a primary health care/community development project She served in several parts of the South; in Thailand, aiding Cambodian refugees; and in a number of departments at our North American Headquarters in Philadelphia. She also worked for a dozen years in New Port Richey, Florida, in the Connections Job Development Program. She recently completed her term as Membership Promotion Coordinator in Philadelphia.

Sister Rosemarie Leier, from Saskatchewan, Canada, has her B.S. in Public Health Nursing from St. Louis University and Master’s in Community Health Nursing from Boston College. She was a nursing supervisor in Pakistan, where she began a nurse/midwifery school, and she also started a school for midwives in Bombay. She worked as teacher and nurse in Utah, California, and Canada, then served in nursing education for ten years in Africa – in Swaziland and Malawi. She now lives in San Diego, where she is involved with a number of volunteer activities and is a member of a centering prayer group.

August 1, 2011

Ecological Awareness in Venezuela

Joining others in caring for the Earth is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

As our Sisters and Associates in Venezuela celebrate 60 years of our healing presence in that nation, they are deepening their healing charism from the ecological perspective.

“Ecological living is a call to take care of our Mother Earth,” says Sister Therese Cheruvallath, a Sister from India who has served in Venezuela for eleven years. “It calls for a radical change and a conversion of heart with deep convictions.”

“Being in community with the people, we are trying to deepen our consciousness of taking care of the Earth and to live in harmony with the whole of creation,” Sister Therese explains. Some of the activities our Sisters have begun include:

– Incorporating the topic of ecology into their family health program and sharing their knowledge of ecological living with groups of women in the barrios.

– Producing organic manure by putting household waste products in a pit, covering it with dried leaves for few months, then using the manure for plants.

– Making use of the small space around the Sisters’ house, cultivating bananas and lemon trees, capsicum, beans, and some herbs. In front of the house they have few rose bushes. Sister Therese says, “It was so beautiful to see one rose plant with 50 flowers!”

– Preparing the soil and planting a variety of shrubs at the Centro Formación – at the request of, and with the help of, some of the women in the community who wanted to green and beautify the space.

Sister Therese shares, “We continue our journey with our people…committing ourselves to ‘promote healing and wholeness in all aspects of life’…weaving care and compassion into the web of life.”

August 15, 2011

“Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving”

Helping underserved women with education and employment is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Medical Mission Sister Lorraine Ryan and Sister Joan Carusillo, a Sister of the Holy Cross, co-founded Women’s Circle for underserved women in Boynton Beach, Florida, eleven years ago. They are both interviewed in a thirty-minute documentary that will soon air on WXEL Public TV: “Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving.”

The film begins with a look at the history of Boynton Beach and its renewed vibrancy. Sisters Lorraine and Joan share their stories with Father John D’Mello, parochial vicar of Saint Ann’s Church in West Palm Beach. When they founded Women’s Circle, they created its mission statement: “To empower women made poor to become all they can be, by assisting them to gain enhanced employment, becoming self-sufficient, and leaders in a culturally diverse community.”

Educational classes, job preparation programs, support groups, a community garden, and many dedicated volunteers are all part of the program. Sister Joan explains that one of their goals for the women is to “help not only themselves and their families, but to raise the level of the community while doing that.”

For the first ten years, the Sisters operated out of a space shared with the Community Caring Center of Boynton Beach. With a large increase in the number of clients being served, they needed larger quarters – and were able to move to their own duplex with the help of an interest-free mortgage from city leaders and pro bono contributions from volunteers. The documentary contrasts the early computer training room, with one computer, with the current roomful of donated computers.

The Sisters greatly appreciate the support of many volunteers and benefactors. 250 people attended the Women’s Circle annual fundraiser in February. As The Coastal Star newspaper states, “It’s great to see the good work get broader recognition…‘Women’s Circle – A Spiritual Life of Giving’ not only is must-see TV. It’s a fitting tribute to two ladies, and a ton of volunteers, who avoid the spotlight except to champion the women the Women’s Circle serves.”

For more information, please visit:

September 1, 2011

Pastoral Care with the Elderly in Germany

Caring for older persons in Essen, Germany, is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Sister Mechthild Driesch has spent many years in pastoral care ministry. She served as a hospital pastoral care worker for 15 years, and then was employed by the Diocese of Essen, Germany, in 1998 as the person in charge of pastoral care in nursing homes for the elderly. In this position she trained and accompanied pastoral workers, geriatric nurses, volunteers, and pastoral teams in parishes. Her work included visits, consultations, seminars, and facilitating reflection on such topics as communication and conflict management.

“After retiring from my responsibilities in the diocesan department for senior citizens at the end of 2009 I was invited by our Bishop to take up pastoral care of senior members in our parish,” Sister Mechthild explains.

The focus of Sister’s work now is pastoral care for the elderly living in the St. Martin residential care home. She explains, “There I prepare liturgies for special occasions, accompany relatives in crisis situations, and give workshops/reflections on relevant topics for the staff. I am also a member of the advisory board and can influence the happenings in the home.”

Sister Mechthild adds, “In the meantime, I have started a reflection group in our parish…I am also organizing a course for professional care givers and social workers, training them for pastoral activities for the elderly in their institutions. The Church does not have enough workers in this field. This will help the people get the needed assistance.”

People of different ages and life experiences take the course. When they successfully complete it, they get a certificate and a commission from the Bishop for their work.

September 15, 2011

25th Anniversary of Our Philadelphia Peace Hermitages

Sharing our home as a quiet place for prayer, solitude and reflection is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

At our North America Headquarters in Philadelphia, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our Peace Hermitage Program on Sunday, October 9, 2011.

Sister Jane Burns began our Peace Hermitages in the mid-1980s, when she realized that she was being called into a life with more solitude. Several small, simple cottages and a lovely stone chapel are available to individuals seeking a place for quiet prayer and reflection. They are located in a wooded grove on our grounds in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia.

Sister Jane and Sister Edna Villafuerte, now Director of the Peace Hermitages, have organized a celebratory brunch on October 9th for past hermitage retreatants, Sunday worshipers, and Medical Mission Sisters and Associates. Kathryn Voit, a poet, and Father John McNamee, a city priest and author, will be featured, along with local musicians.

Bordered by two large parks, the hermitages are ideal for getting in touch with nature. Guests bring their own food and linens and stay for as long as they wish. They have an opportunity for Eucharist, and for communal evening prayer, if they choose. People of all religious traditions are welcomed.

“The wooded grounds are filled with deer and rabbits, and in summer the twilight air is alive with crickets and fireflies,” wrote a reviewer in Delaware Valley magazine. “There are trees as far as the eye can see, and the air smells of freshly-cut grass.”

Describing the hermitage guests in The Other Side magazine, Sister Jane explained, “Many of them work with the poor, the homeless, or for peace … people of all sorts share this solitude, and I find that the more varied the people, the better.” She added, “To get in touch with the silence of God is necessary for everyone.”

For more information on our Peace Hermitages, please e-mail: or phone 215-342-2039.

October 1, 2011

“Sustainable Societies: Responsive Citizens”

Participating in international conferences to help societies worldwide is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

October 15, 2011

2011 Justice Co-Mission

Collaborating on our work for justice in North America is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2011

Outreach to Poor Families in Faisalabad, Pakistan

Ministering in a poor neighborhood of Faisalabad is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

November 15, 2011

In Union in Mission

Sharing with fellow Catholic missionaries from the U.S. is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2011

Celebrating Two Jubilees in Ghana

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2011

​New Leadership Team in North America

Serving in leadership is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

January 1, 2012

Assisting Typhoon Survivors in the Philippines

Reaching out to victims of natural disasters is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 15, 2012

Loving You: Sacred Folk Songs by Sister Miriam Therese Winter

Sharing the healing gift of song is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

February 1, 2012

Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE)

Networking with others against human trafficking is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please visit:

February 15, 2012

Bringing Teens Together to Talk About Dating Violence

Creating an environment where teens can talk together about dating violence is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

Medical Mission Sister Teresita Hinnegan founded the Center for the Empowerment of Women in Philadelphia five years ago. Its mission is, “To stop the silence and put an end to all violence against women and girls.”

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

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

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

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

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

March 1, 2012

The 120th birthday of our Foundress, Anna Dengel

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

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2012

Sister Yumiko Nobue’s Healing Presence in Japan

Accompanying families suffering from the tsunami is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

April 1, 2012

Helping African Youth Develop a Spiritual Foundation

Offering religious and values education to young people in Ghana is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

April 15, 2012

Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Networking with people from many faiths who share one vision of justice for all people is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1, 2012

Holy Family Hospital, Techiman, Ghana

Ministering at Holy Family Hospital in Techiman is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2012

Celebrating Two Jubilarians and Two New Medical Mission Sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2012

50 Years of Healing Presence in Uganda

Honoring and continuing our 50 years of healing presence in Uganda is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 15, 2012

Indigenous Peoples Forum at the United Nation

Learning from information shared at the U.N. is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2012

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

Helping older people grow fresh food is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters and our Associates around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

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

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

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

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

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

July 15, 2012

From Drug and Alcohol Addiction to Healthy Living

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

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

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

August 1, 2012