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Mission & History

Our Mission

A Community of dedicated women with over 500 Canonical members and 100 Associates, we share life and our own unique expertise with women, children and men on five continents today. We are committed to promote healing and wholeness in all aspects of life.


Medical Mission Sisters were founded in 1925 in Washington, D.C., by a young Austrian doctor named Anna Dengel.  Working in what was then North India in the early 1920s, she experienced first-hand the unnecessary sickness and death of countless Muslim women and children whose customs isolated them from the only medical care available because it was administered by men.  Anna’s loss of her mother at a young age had a huge impact on her life.  She attributed the compassion she had for women and children to this great sorrow.

Anna had a vision that a group of women health professionals who dedicated their lives to God could make a difference in helping women have access to the health care they deserved.  She saw this not only as a work of charity, but also one of justice.

After about a year of “Making the Cause Known” throughout the United States, Anna was joined by Doctor Joanna Lyons, Mary Evelyn Flieger, RN, and Marie Ulbrich, RN, and on September 30, 1925, the Medical Mission Sisters began.  Our headquarters was in Washington, D.C. until the late 1930s when we were invited by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty to Philadelphia.  It remains our North American Headquarters today.  Our International Headquarters is in London, England.

Over the past 94 years, Medical Mission Sisters have offered care and compassion to millions of individuals in our world.  As the times and the needs have evolved, so too has our focus in mission — from curative, to preventative, to promotive, to community-based, to holistic health care.  We also advocate and work for the health of our Earth and for a just sharing of our world’s limited resources. In every ministry, each of our Sisters strives to be a healing presence in the community of life.

In addition to our  500  Canonical members — Sisters who make life vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — Medical Mission Sisters have had Associate members for over 30 years.  They share our mission of healing presence and commit themselves to live it purposefully in their own individual areas of service and ways of life.

Above photograph: Our First Four members:  Mary Evelyn Flieger, Anna Dengel, Joanna Lyons and Marie Ulbrich