”I must … break the silence…speak out and about HIVAIDs and the seriousness of this dreaed disease every opportunity I have and to seek opportunities t be of help in event some small way. If I can reach even one person who will listen – and accept the reality of the situation – then my participation…will not be in vain.”
These impassioned words were Sister Andree Normandin’s reaction following attendance at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2000. The conference would prove deeply informative and impacting in the missionary endeavors of the Montreal-born Maryknoll Sister who, only six months prior to attending the gathering had begun counseling HIV/AIDS patients in Taichung, China.
Sister Andree, who joined Maryknoll Sisters in 1946, served in Taiwan for over 40 years, the bulk of her missionary career. Besides her work with HIV/AIDS patients, she taught catechumens in the mountain area of Wu She and other regions of the country, worked with young women residents of the Maryknoll Sister Hostel in Taichung and with factory workers in Kaohsiung, provided pastoral care to terminally ill patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital, also in Kaohsiung; and did social work among aboriginal tribes.
Sister Andree enjoyed becoming immersed in the culture of the people, even getting the aborigine people to teach her their native dances and song. She also taught international folk dancing. “It was one of the most enjoyable times of my life,” she reflected.
The language medium was Mandarin, a government requirement. Fortunately, Sister Andree had studied Mandarin for four years, the majority of them at Yale University from 1949-1951. She also studied Taiwanese for three years as this was the primary language for many people she worked with.
Sister Andree was named administrator of the Maryknoll Sisters retirement community in Monrovia, CA, in 1990, serving nine years before returning to Taiwan two weeks before the earthquake of September 21, 1999. It was then that her work with HIV/AIDS patients began.
Sister Andrée also wrote a history of the Maryknoll Sisters in Taiwan (1953–2003) and in 2004, moved to Monrovia, CA where she enjoyed collaborating with the Maryknoll Sisters Guild, a group of lay people devoted to partnering with the retired Maryknoll Sisters living in California.
In December 2014, Sister Andree returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, NY, where she continues her ministry in our Chi Rho community.