My Health Care Ministry

FarmworkersBy Mary Lee Englerth, MM

“The Greatest Gift Is Compassion”

This past year has been a busy year and also a challenging one. We were able to extend access to health care into five new counties located in northwestern Pennsylvania near Erie County.  We now have five sites serving the migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families in 30 counties in Pennsylvania and a few camps we visit in Maryland. This is an increase of 11 counties during these past 4 years. We have also been able to establish working contracts with additional federally qualified health centers – one in Erie and one in Lancaster, giving us a total of 12 clinics that provide health care to our migrant and seasonal workers. Besides clinic visits, the staff in these various sites during the picking season, also attends patients in the migrant camps 3 evenings a week during the months of June through mid-November.

Last year, over 2,600 patients were seen during the farm season–with over 3,550 visits. These include clinic visits seeing patients who work at orchards, produce farms, vineyards, dairy farms, poultry farms, nurseries, packing houses, mushroom farms, and Christmas tree farms.

The U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care has many requirements regarding the operation of this program, and due to this, I must travel a good bit around Pennsylvania seeing that all of these requirements are in place. Many times during these trips, though, I do have the opportunity of going out with our local staff to visit the workers in the camps, and I have gotten to know workers from many areas of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Haiti. We have had also an influx of refugees from Bhutan and Nepal recently.

However, the best part of my health care ministry is when I have the time and the opportunity to go out in the evenings to our local Adams County migrant camps with our team of nurses and interpreters to see patients. These men and women are not accustomed to have health care workers come to them and, above all, to have someone actually sit down and listen to them. I believe this is the greatest gift we can give to them – showing compassionate listening, besides providing treatment. Believe me, this gift also is reciprocal.

Recently, I went up to the five northwestern Pennsylvania counties surrounding Erie to conduct health screens on the workers in the dairy farms. We went with a staff member from the local Migrant Education staff. As you know, Erie is in a snow belt. The week we were up there it was very cold, a mixture of rain and snow, and as we were literally sloshing through the mud to get into these places, I really felt at home. It was so much like the paths in Peru and Guatemala. The amazing part for me is that in each of these dairy farms, all of the workers were men and women from Guatemala. Many were from aldeas in which I had worked, so you can imagine the great conversations we all had. I even had to get some of the men to translate for me into Mam for some of the workers. This was the local language of the people where I had worked in Guatemala.

I laughingly asked the women where their beautiful huipils (blouses) and lovely woven cortes (skirts) were. They all laughed and some of the women said that they wear their local dresses in the house. It was strange to see these Guatemalan women dressed in sweatshirts and jeans. They were carrying heavy pails, lifting hay, and leading the cows in from the fields. It was a great week.

Every year in October we have the East Coast Migrant Stream meeting. Each year it is held in a different city along the East Coast. At this meeting, much time is spent on the Affordable Care Act and the need to enroll legal workers in the new health care insurance plans. This is presenting a great challenge to us. Many of our workers are legal residents and now by law they must be enrolled in one of the health care plans. The challenge for us is how to make them aware that they must comply with this new rule, and how and where to go to enter into the enrollment process for their insurance.

We also do many health screens with parents’ groups who have children enrolled in the Migrant Headstart program. We work especially with the women who come together for classes in English as a Second Language. They’re employed in the packing houses during the day. It affords us an opportunity to be able to sit down and also talk with the women, and needless to say they are grateful to have some of us who speak Spanish to answer their many and varied questions.


The Assumption: Mary’s Feast And Ours

Assumption1By Betty Ann Maheu, MM

From Maryknoll Magazine: Every year on August 15 thousands of Catholics in China make their way up the steep hill in the village of Donglu in Hebei Province to the country’s most popular Marian shrine there. They are remembering the day in 1900 during the anti-Christian Boxer Rebellion when the Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel reportedly appeared in the sky as soldiers were attacking the village and attempting to kill its Christian residents. In fear of the apparition, the soldiers fled and the Christians were saved. The victory was reported on August 15, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not surprising that years before Pius XII in 1950 proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Assumption, Chinese Catholics celebrated the feast.

The declaration of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into heaven did not surprise most Catholics around the world. It was not a matter for debate, but a moment for rejoicing. For the Catholics at Donglu, the declaration was a confirmation of what they already held dear. Mary, their mother, was very much alive in body and soul. Had she not saved them from the swords of the Boxers? Had they not triumphed repeatedly over those who would destroy their shrine and forbid them from celebrating her feast? Yearly they gathered at her shrine to say “thank you.”

Leaders in the Universal Church were aware that the declaration of the dogma was a teachable moment. It was important for the laity everywhere to understand the meaning of Mary’s Assumption. The declaration was a confirmation of a long held belief that Mary had been taken body and soul into heaven, where she shared in the glory of her son’s resurrection. It was the fulfillment and culmination of her immaculate conception, and what her “yes” to the angel Gabriel could mean for everyone. To the faithful pilgrims of Donglu, who would never forget what she had done for them, she well deserved to be assumed into heaven! No privilege the Church accorded to Mary would ever suffice.

By declaring the dogma of Mary’s Assumption, the Church was making an implicit statement: the human body is holy; it is not only for time but for all eternity. The Assumption signifies that Mary was assumed body and soul into God’s wholeness. Mary has already received what is true for all believers. We, too, will live with God forever. We have it on Jesus’ word: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

God entered the world of human beings through a human mother, Mary. By virtue of her life-long openness to all that God asked of her, it was inconceivable to the Church Fathers that her body should be corrupted in the grave. They believed that Mary’s body must already have the eternal quality of the complete human being, that is, one who has achieved full stature in Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

It was not just by coincidence that the pope declared the dogma of Mary’s Assumption on the feast of All Saints. On this feast we celebrate the millions of unknown nameless friends of God, among them surely hundreds who once climbed the steep hill to Donglu to celebrate Our Lady’s feast. Like Mary, they too have “reached their full stature in Christ.” The dogma of the Assumption confirms our hope that death does not end in corruption but in a transformed existence, the likes of which we cannot imagine. Paul told us as much: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered the human heart to know what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Corinthians 2:9).

The feast of the Assumption is a missionary feast, a feast of Christian hope, a hope that heralds good news to the poor and to all who live peaceably in our global village believing in the promise that Mary’s Assumption is for all people, for all eternity.


Leading the Way for Peace

esalmon380x240How many of us can remain true to deeply-held principles when the forces lined up against you include your country, church and family? Sister Elizabeth Salmon saw firsthand what opposing a world war did to her father, Ben.

Ben Salmon was subjected to torture, forced feeding after a hunger strike, hard labor, and prison time for refusing to fight during World War I. Sister Elizabeth has just returned from Austria for the war’s 100th anniversary in August 2014, where she shared how her father’s example can bring peace to today’s global conflicts.

“Long before Mahatma Gandhi, Franz Jagerstatter, Dorothy Day, Dr. King or Thomas Merton,” wrote peace activist John Dear, a columnist at National Catholic Reporter. Ben Salmon “stood and said that because of Jesus, he would not be a soldier. Right here in the United States.”

Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector from Denver who was arrested and sentenced to death (which was eventually reduced to 25 years of hard labor). Believing that killing is immoral, Salmon, who died in 1932, claimed that no Christian should carry a gun. Because of that stand and a lifetime of Christian acts, a Catholic group is now advocating Sister Elizabeth’s father for beatification.

“Yes, our dad did leave an example of mighty courage and of stick-to-it-ive-ness and, as well, an adherence to the letter of God’s Word in the Ten Commandments, ‘Thou shalt not kill,'” Sister Elizabeth said. “He also stuck to his own principles with no deviation, as chaplains of five or six different prisons found out.”

To take that kind of stand when the nation was at war was considered criminal. The U.S. entered World War I in 1917, and by then the war already had been raging for three years. Ben Salmon’s example as one of the first Catholic conscientious objectors in a time of war stood in contrast to a Church that was late in adopting that stance. “The Germans are my brothers. I will not kill them!” Sister Elizabeth said her father once said.

Pope Francis, who would have a say on Ben Salmon’s possible beatification, heard arguments in favor of the proposal earlier this year, according to Sister Elizabeth. Supporters said they have no idea what the Pope will do but vowed to continue to write to Pope Francis and the Vatican about Ben Salmon’s courage as a soldier in the army of peace.

Later, during World War II, another Catholic, Franz Jagerstatter, would stand by his moral principles, too, and refuse his mandated duty to kill as a soldier in the German Army.

On August 9, 1943, Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian, was put to death by the Nazis for refusing to serve. In 2007, the martyr for nonviolence was beatified by Pope Benedict. This August, Sister Elizabeth also attended Blessed Franz’s death anniversary in Austria.

“I certainly want to be involved in anyway possible for whatever would promote no more wars,” said Sister Elizabeth.

Action Begins at Home

EarthSince our foundation, Maryknoll Sisters have focused on ministries that promote peace, justice and the integrity of creation. This task is even more crucial today because deforestation, the overexploitation of earth’s resources, trafficking in wildlife, and other unhealthy practices continually increase human suffering, especially among poor people.

In June, the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, addressed these issues to protect humanity’s source of sustenance. We, as Maryknoll Sisters, share these concerns as we continue to witness the effects of forest degradation, desertification, and environmental pollution, and poor people continue to suffer because of past practices that have damaged their lands, making them infertile.

Since action begins at home, we Maryknoll Sisters are also called to continue concretizing our agenda for the care of the earth. Every tree, every bush on our grounds is an oxygen factory that preserves our health and for which we must care. As we grow in the awareness of our interconnectedness with nature, we begin to realize that it is our duty to care for the earth as God’s precious gift to us and not an object to be exploited. We must join hands in order to change the attitude of dominance that is destroying our planet and over-exploiting its finite resources. The example of groups from around the world who have participated in shaping the UN’s post-2015 development goals inspire us as Maryknoll Sisters. With the help of those who share our vision for mission, we can “make God’s love [truly] visible.”

At the environmental assembly in Nairobi, the UN Secretary General said, “Protecting humanity’s life support system is integral to sustainable development. And it is a duty for all. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that grows our food are part of a delicate global ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from human activities.” Ecosystem degradation affects not just human life but all of Earth’s bio-systems. Therefore, the Earth’s community, including Maryknoll Sisters and all those who share our mission values, is called to find effective solutions to today’s problems. Restoring a clean environment, providing sufficient clean water for consumption, and growing sufficient food requires the effective collaboration of all sectors that, together, are able to advocate for more effective environmental policies.

In Africa and other developing areas, many people continue to depend on solid fuels, biomass and open fires for heating and cooking. Household air pollution from such fuels affects the health of children and of the elderly. Industrial, automobile and other air and water pollutants affect human health and their capacity to contribute to the development agenda. Air pollution now ranks as the world’s biggest cause of respiratory illnesses most prevalent in slums where people live in deplorable conditions. Our mission as Maryknoll Sisters is not only the elimination of poverty but to address its root causes and a development agenda that has created a new kind of waste.

Technological progress has created a new kind of trash, electronic waste, which is a health hazard for those who go through the garbage looking for objects that they can re-sell for a living. Electronic waste is a danger to children who play with it and are exposed to such heavy metals as mercury, lead and arsenic among other hazardous substances. E-waste also infiltrates the soil, drinking water as well as the air we breathe.

September 23 is the beginning of the United Nations Climate Summit which will bring together heads of state, civil society leaders, and other stakeholders. This will be a time to link with other groups as well as a time to lobby government officials for effective policies on climate change, and UNEA can provide the overarching policy guidance needed within the UN system.

Our commitment to the promotion of justice, peace and the integrity of creation calls us to urgent action to engage in earth-preserving practices. True collaboration is imperative if we are to succeed in eradicating poverty and in promoting a life of dignity for all God’s people. Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10), which for us means promoting the dignity and integrity of life for all peoples.

Healing Broken Lives

Gonzalez_TanzaniaFrom Maryknoll Magazine: Dar es Salaam is a rapidly expanding city. In the coming years this capital of Tanzania is expected to expand even more, with increased building and more economic opportunities. However, development is taking its toll on the environment as well as human lives and I am working to heal both.

Much of Tanzania’s landscape is surrounded by large boulders, which entrepreneurs are removing to construct buildings. The process is leaving huge holes, like craters, rendering the land unusable, causing massive erosion, and pushing out wildlife, flora and fauna.

Added to that is the plight of the women who labor to break up the stones to construct the buildings.

Trucks transport the boulders to a site where the women’s task is to cut them into small stones about three inches in diameter. They do this by hand, using large, heavy sledgehammers. The women then deposit their work into 10 kilo sacks (a little under 23 pounds), which the truckers haul away. The women are paid 200 Tanzanian shillings per bag, the U.S. equivalent of about 13 cents. They labor all day for perhaps $1.

Many of the women have lung problems. Many are completely blind or have impaired vision caused by the stone chips, particles and dust covering not only their faces but their whole bodies as they work day after day under a blazing sun. They have no hope of ever leaving this work until their bodies completely give out. I am working to help them heal holistically, that is, restoring their whole being, body and spirit, to health.

During my 18 years as a missioner in Tanzania I have discovered the importance of holistic healing working not only with women’s groups but also youth groups and children with hiv. I started out as a high school math teacher. At first it didn’t occur to me that I could go deeper than just dealing with the students’ minds in the learning process. The mind is just one part of the person as a complete system—physically, psychologically and spiritually.

Gonzalez2_TanzaniaI came to understand that the whole person is involved in any activity. That is what is meant by holistic. So I moved from formal teaching to informal teaching and the art of holistic healing. I believe that through nurturing, listening and responding to the deeper wisdom of our whole being, we can heal ourselves and our world.

Some of the practices I use are taken from a program developed in Central America and based in Watsonville, Calif., called “Capacitar,” meaning “enabling,” in which I have been trained as a practitioner. The program encourages meditation, body movement, visualization and breathing, active listening, simple psychotherapeutic skills, acupressure for alleviating pain and stress, and indigenous healing herbs as medicine and food. The arts, including dance, music, sculpture and painting, are all important tools in the process of helping people heal.

I am bringing these tools to the women who cut stones for a living. I meet with them for approximately four hours each week. Half of that time we spend learning and practicing different healing exercises and meditation to restore their energy that has been depleted by the difficulties of their everyday lives. The rest of the time we do art projects as a tool for healing as well as income-generation.

HealingAs a Maryknoll Sister, I am committed to carry on our charism: “to be an active participant in the mission of God: a mission of peace, healing, wholeness and love.” Therefore, even as I work to help the women, I also fight against the practices that are not only threatening their lives but also destroying their environment.

My work with these women is just a tiny beginning, but at least it is a beginning. Prior to this project, they were unaware of life outside the only one they knew. Although the four hours a week that I provide for them will not radically change their lives, it does allow them to view a different horizon; it enhances their self-esteem.

In order to compensate for their lost wages while these women attend our weekly meeting, we began a microcredit project with funds I had raised. We have been able to generate a little money from the artifacts and cards we make during our sessions.

I am always touched and humbled by the life and endurance of such women. They are not poor! They are rich inside; they simply have been denied their rights. They have taught me more than the knowledge I have shared with them.

What gives me hope is that the women who come to our weekly meetings are committed to having their daughters attend school. This may be the greatest outcome for their future.


Now They Have A Hope & Vision


By Steve Lalli

A new art gallery has just opened in Tanzania’s largest city, and a country’s once-hidden artists, long championed by the Maryknoll Sisters, now have hope and vision to  transform and share their lives.

The Vipaji Gallery is a dream three years in the making. It might not have been possible without the determination of Sister Jean Pruitt, a Maryknoll Sister who has advocated for the importance of artists in east Africa for more than forty years.The vision of the new art space is to enlarge Tanzania’s deep pool of talent and creativity. Both the artists and the surrounding community would benefit from the enhanced cultural expression for which people hunger.

“It is the hope of this project to take these artists out of the shadows and empower them to share their creativity and talents in schools, in museums, in exhibitions, and on the Web,” Sister Jean said.

In fact, Sister Jean gave the Vipaji Gallery’s opening-night remarks when it welcomed the public for the first time on May 14 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city.

The country has more than 150 active artists who over the years have contributed to several schools of art that have emerged on the Tanzania art scene over the years. “Henry Likonde, John Kuchele, Balozi, and Msafiri are all artists who have been painting for more than 35 years in the southernmost town of Mtwara,” Sister Jean said. “Msafiri has been the teacher for two of the painters showcased in this exhibition–Evarist Chikawe and Johnson Mjindo.”

ArtistsVoice062314dThe names may not ring a bell to you now, but Vipaji’s opening could soon change that and “ignite the passions of Tanzanian artists through a journey of connectedness in image, form, color, body, lines and shapes,” Sister Jean says, “that spiral and dance in the lives of all who connect with their dreams.” Their names have already been celebrated through the Sisters’ book, Inspired: Three Decades of Tanzanian Art.

Many of the artists exhibiting at Vipaji also have been touched by Nyumba ya Sanaa, the first-ever art gallery in Dar es Salaam, founded by Sister Jean in 1972. The center’s mission was to support local artists, and to help them display and sell their works, among other cultural activities. It also offered vocational training in the arts, including arts and crafts, fine art paintings, clay, wood and metal sculpture.

The new Vipaji Gallery is continuing in that eclectic tradition, bringing together artwork from Tanzania’s henna painting and sculpture communities, among others. The gallery is exhibiting some of the henna artists’ more recent works, while some of the sculptures on display will remind people of some of the great artists of Tanzania’s past.

“The work of ten women (whose Henna art is being exhibited at Vipaji) heralded a renaissance moment in color, style and technique in east African art when these women artist first created and exhibited their work in 2007,” Sister Jean remarked.

– See more at:

In Solidarity with the Iraqi People…

We are all very aware of the violence and suffering being experienced in Iraq at this time.  Many have had to flee but many remain in their communities experiencing anxiety and fear as violence erupts all around them.  In solidarity with the Iraqi people and with the minority Christian Community, the leader of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna in Mosul, Iraq has called her sisters throughout Iraq to a time of intense prayer for peace and the protection of people of all faiths in Iraq.

We, along with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), call our sisters around the world to join the Iraqi Sisters in a time of prayer on Thursday, June 19 at 6 p.m. (in your time zone) to pray for an end to the violence and for the protection of all faith groups in Iraq.    We encourage you to participate in this act of contemplative solidarity in the privacy of your heart, in your local community or chapel.   Let us pray that there may be peace in Iraq and peace in the hearts of all peoples.

In the spirit of solidarity and gratitude,


The Congregational Leadership Team of the Maryknoll Sisters

Click here to add your prayer.


Help Is On The Way For Myanmar’s Sick

aidsinmyanmarWorld AIDS Day may already have passed, yet the efforts of Maryknoll Sisters who care for AIDS patients live on. In Myanmar’s remote mountains, AIDS victims and their families make up the ministry of Sister Mary Grenough.

Late last year, Sister Mary was busy conducting a health workshop in the Myanmar city of Mandalay. Being able to travel throughout Myanmar is key.

Sister Mary’s program, made possible by the contributions of Maryknoll donors and sponsors, enable people on the ground to get life-saving information into the hands of AIDS patients and caregivers, especially those in the remote areas of Myanmar’s mountains, where doing so can be a challenge.

“We need support groups here because the discrimination based on ignorance, fear, and negative judgment of those who are HIV-positive is so strong,” Sister Mary said.

Many Burmese people even refuse to read materials about HIV/AIDS for fear that others might think they have the disease. Discrimination keeps people from getting tested.

Sister Mary started the Myanmar Catholic HIV/AIDS Network to forge a connection among the country’s many AIDS patients. But reaching the country’s churches and social organizations with facts about AIDS can be hard if they’re not used to welcoming people with the disease. The group is slowly (but surely) changing Myanmar’s timeworn attitudes.

In fact, Sister Mary, a trained nurse from Kentucky, just hired someone to help with the network’s latest effort: starting support groups for AIDS patients in Yangon’s Catholic community. Elizabeth was hired for the job as a “part-time volunteer” because she is uniquely qualified for the work. Elizabeth is HIV-positive.

Elizabeth’s husband died three years after they were married. He had AIDS and then passed it on to Elizabeth, who’s left with supporting a 12-year-old son. Meanwhile, Sister Mary’s group can only pay Elizabeth for two days of work per week, for which she’ll be paid less than $70 a month.

“We hope Elizabeth can help us to start support groups in the Yangon catholic community,” said Sister Mary. “She has excellent experiential knowledge of what it means to be HIV-positive and knows people and groups.”

Sister Mary is seeking your help so Myanmar’s AIDS victims can get the support they need. “People can’t even afford transportation to come to a meeting, food to serve during the meeting, and funds to start their own group activities, some of which would be income-generating projects.”

Learn what else Maryknoll Sisters are doing to help AIDS victims through Maryknoll’s Office for Global Concerns and find more reasons to support our work, both financially and in prayer.


‘It Just Breaks My Heart’

Winter is approaching in northern Japan. Millions who lost their homes in the March tsunami now have another worry: radiation that’s been spewing from their damaged nuclear plant. The health risks aren’t stopping Sister Kathleen Reiley. She fears what will happen if she doesn’t volunteer.

Sr. Kathleen Reiley ministers among Japanese children with long-term illnesses.

“I work with children with cancer and it just breaks my heart to think how many more children are threatened with getting cancer because of this accident,” says the Maryknoll Sister who is based south of the where an earthquake caused the massive tsunami here only months ago.

Because of the widespread radiation, officials near the Fukushima nuclear plant have discouraged visitors from entering the area. In this month’s Maryknoll Sisters blog post from Japan, read why Sister Kathleen is volunteering in the region anyway.

Those most at risk from the contaminated soil are people under 40 years of age, though anyone can breathe the dangerous air. Families here are concerned for their small children. Children with cancer make up the special ministry of Sister Kathleen, a counselor who is prepared to take on Japan’s latest victims.


Emusoi Center Fills a Thirst for Knowledge

Maasai girls who study at our school in Tanzania share their struggle.

At a Maasai boma recently, Naha Shuaka told the Prince of Wales that the world should know about her struggle to get an education. Maasai custom ties girls to the land and to early marriages. Instead, Naha managed to become a student at the Emusoi Centre, a Maryknoll Sisters school that’s giving hope to girls like her.

emusoigraduation2 Students and staff from the school greeted the visiting Prince and his wife inside a traditional Maasai boma, or homestead.Tanzania celebrated 50 years of independence in 2011, and the school joined in to call attention to the needs of people in the region.

Drought is overtaking much of Tanzania, and pastoral herders are feeling the effects. Every day, women trek up to 20 kilometers as they carry 20-litre containers of water on their backs. The east African nation is a major presence for Maryknoll Sisters.

emusoistudentAt the Maasai village, Prince Charles also met Sister Mary Vertucci, who brought Naha and other students to meet the Prince.  She heads the Emusoi school, which welcomes Maasai girls like Naha who are determined to get an education. Naha is in her last year of diploma studies in banking and finance.

Two years ago, the British government funded a book written by Naha and other students at Emusoi to get the word out about education’s benefits. The young authors wrote their book, Emusoi: Maasai Girls Tell Their Stories, to raise awareness of their struggle to go to school.

On their visit to Tanzania, the Prince and Duchess are touring projects funded by Great Britain’s Department for International Development.

During their time with the royal couple, the Emusoi students sang and sat in a small hut with the Prince and the Duchess. Then Sister Mary described the place of learning that is Emusoi.  Naha was one of two students who told their stories. Many girls resort to running away from their families so they can go to school.

The students then presented the visiting royalty with copies of their book.

The Emusoi Centre, named after a Maasai word that means “discovery,” helps girls break from the strict traditions of their Maasai families and begin basic studies. The school is so popular that girls have had to be turned away for lack of enough space.

Of the 35 girls at Emusoi who will enter secondary school in January, only 10 are sponsored so far. So that the rest can continue their studies, Emusoi hopes to raise at least $1,000 for each of the others.