Maryknoll, NY: Sister Jean Pruitt died suddenly on September 10, 2017 while on mission in Tanzania. She was 77 years old and a Maryknoll Sister for 58 years.
Jean was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 17, 1939 to Beatrice (Johnston) Pruitt and Dorcie Pruitt. She had two brothers: Harry and Joseph and four sisters: Mary, Margaret, Beatrice, and Donna. She is survived by: Harry, Joseph, Mary, and Margaret. Her parents and two of her sisters Beatrice and Donna have predeceased her.
In 1957, Jean graduated from Bishop Conaty High School in Los Angeles, California. She then entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in Valley Park, Missouri on December 30, 1958 from Santa Ana, Ascension Parish in Los Angeles, California. From 1959-1967, she attended Mary Rogers College in Maryknoll, New York where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. While attending Mary Rogers College, she made her First Profession of Vows on August 22, 1961 at the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate in Valley Park, Missouri. From 1967-1969, she attended the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. While attending Buffalo University, she made her Final Profession of Vows on August 22, 1967 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Maryknoll, New York.
For the past 49 years, Sister Jean has devoted her life to her mission in Tanzania working on several projects and ministries, with a main focus on art ministry and the well being of impoverished youth. In 1968, Sister Jean received her first overseas assignment to Africa, where she studied Kiswahili for one year in Makoko and worked as the Liaison Officer for Catholic Relief Services nutrition program in Dar Es Salaam. From 1972-1993, Sister Jean worked at Nyumba ya Sanaa-Craftsperson Coop, where she was an advocate for fair tax laws for craftpersons. This program began with three people and ended up employing more than 150 youth artisans and artists. In addition to working at the Craftsperson Coop, Sister Jean worked in the first paper mill in Sub Saharan Africa (Nyumba ya Sanaa-Handmade Paper Mill), where she was an advocate for youth involvement in this small scale industry from 1979-1983.
In 1981, Sister Jean and several youth artists pooled their resources together and opened a small artist’s shop called Nyumba Ya Sanaa (House of Art) Center. Sister Jean designed and supervised the entire construction of the center; it has held more than 15 exhibitions of artists in eight different countries. In 1983, Sister Jean received a national award from the President of Tanzania for her contribution to the development of small-scale industry in Tanzania. At that time, she became one of the founding members of Amnesty International of Tanzania. From 1988-1992, while working at the House of Art Center, Sister Jean directed human resource activities for TAMOFA (Tanzania Mozambique Friendship Association) in Southern Tanzania for 100,000 Mozambique refugees. She also initiated the Friendship Ferry Project between Mozambique and Tanzania and advocated for Mozambique refugees with the Ministry of Home Affairs in Tanzania.
Since arriving in Tanzania, Sister Jean has always worked hard for children rights advocacy. She passionately believed that poverty reduction begins with children, especially the most excluded and invisible who are children living on the streets. From 1992-2017, Sister Jean has been working on her Nyumba ya Sanaa’s Street Children Project-Dogodogo Center. Sister Jean founded the center with her vision to give homeless kids a chance at something more than what they see on dirt roads and pavement. The center serves to raise funds for services to street children and offers medical care, counseling, family reunification services, and classes in basic skills. It also offers vocational training in the arts including: arts and crafts, painting, clay, wood, and metal sculpture.
Since 2001, Sister Jean had been working on a Global Network of Religions for Children in Africa (GNRC). This peace building project is part of a global network that is sponsored by the Arigatou Foundation in Japan. It runs a vibrant peace building program addressing the issues of children and their right to peace.
Sister Jean was called home to God on September 10, 2017, up until her last breath she remained very active on her mission in Tanzania with impoverished youth.
Funeral Services will be held on Wednesday September 20th in Tanzania. Memorial services will begin at 10:30am at Karimje Hall, organized be the Ministry of Culture, Art and Sports; the cremation will follow.