Poverty and Catholic Social Teaching

Maryknoll Sisters Leading Children out of Poverty

Over one-third of the world lives in poverty. Every tenth person in the world lives in extreme poverty or on the equivalent of less than $1.90 a day

At the core of the Maryknoll Sisters mission is the idea that every life is sacred, has been created in God’s image, and should share in the goods of the earth. Through Maryknolls Sisters’ work as nurses, doctors, teachers, theologians, social workers, environmentalists, and more, we serve the needs of the poor and vulnerable that constitute over one-third of the world’s population.

How does Maryknoll Sisters help those living in poverty?

Maryknoll Sisters work diligently to help underprivileged children break free from the cycles of poverty that have lasted for generations.

Our sisters fight poverty through: 

            • Education: building schools, teaching, tutoring, covering expenses for supplies, uniforms, books, meals and funding scholarships that allow impoverished students to go to university.
            • Healthcare: providing primary care, opening healthcare clinics and training local healthcare practitioners.
            • Nutrition: feeding malnourished children, educating parents on proper diet, and securing sources of clean drinking water.

Make A Difference

Sister Story: Sister Jane Buellesback, M.M. and Sister Mary Lou Daoust, M.M.

Sister Jane providing healthcare services to a newborn baby.

Sister Jane and Sister Mary Lou, both physicians, have spent the majority of their ministry in Guatemala. They have a combined spiritual and medical healing in their ministry with the poorest people.

Sister Jane said, “My one desire is to help make life more bearable for the people. Before we came (Sister Mary Lou, also a physician, is with me) little or nothing was being done in the diocese to provide even basic health care for the people living in villages along the coast. Our main focus has always been preventive medicine. We are convinced that education and prevention are essential for improving the health of the poorest people in rural areas.

“What we do is not rocket science. Because the need was so great we knew we could not impact the region by ourselves. So, we simply teach health volunteers how to diagnose, treat, and prevent the most common diseases. We follow up with them after they pass a six-week course. They go back into their communities with 20 medicines recommended by the World Health Organization to treat the diseases they have studied. We visit them and work with them and the people they serve. Overall we have 200 volunteers in this small but powerful program. This is what Jesus would do. Teach. Support. And send out to minister.”

Poverty in Guatemala is widespread and deeply entrenched. Approximately 51% of the population lives in rural areas, and most are the poorest of the country’s poor. Curable infections are an everyday problem. One of the causes is poor sanitation, especially contaminated water. The indigenous population is especially affected because of their lack of access to health, education and economic opportunities.

This is why Sister Jane and Sister Mary Lou’s ministry is so very important and vital to people desperately wanting a better quality of life but unable to get even basic health care.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the God, and he will reward them for what they have done.”
-Proverbs 19:17

Sister Story: Sister Celeste Derr, M.M.

In the nation of Tanzania in East Africa, Maryknoll Sister Celeste Derr, M.M. has been working to give children in need a truly wonderful gift: that of a brighter future through education.

The children in this area live in conditions that are hard for us to imagine. A  large number of them are orphans who have been abused, they live in dirty and unsafe conditions, with no electricity or running water. In addition to malnutrition, many have diseases like HIV.

Mercy Montessori offers a sliding scale for tuition based on what each family can afford, including those who can afford nothing. The need, and the demand have been very great…the school now has more than 200 students! The resources to educate and care for so many students in this impoverished area can be hard to find. The school is always financially vulnerable, and only through the dedicated support of our benefactors can it continue to operate.

How You Can Help

With your financial support, the Maryknoll Sisters will be able to provide:

  • Educational programs that are the key to breaking the cycle of poverty
  • Healthcare and nutrition programs that are critical to educational attainment


Pray With Us

Maryknoll Sisters Prayer for the Poor

God of Justice,
open our eyes
to see you in the face of the poor.

Open our ears
to hear you in the cries of the exploited.

Open our mouths
to defend you in the public squares
as well as in private deeds.

Remind us that what we do
to the least ones,
we do to you.