Maryknoll Sister Barbara Masterson was born on August 20, 1928 in Syracuse, NY, the eldest of three girls and two boys born to her parents, Charles F. and Florence E. Masterson. She grew up in Springfield, MA, where she attended Holy Name School, graduating in 1942, and Cathedral High School, graduating in 1946.
Attendance at a missions exhibition in Springfield in 1944 stirred a desire in Sister Barbara to “save souls,” and on October 5, 1946, she entered Maryknoll Sisters from Holy Name Parish, Springfield, receiving the religious name Sister Rose Christelle at reception.
Following her First Profession of Vows on April 6, 1949, Sister Barbara studied nursing at St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing, Hartford, CT, from 1949-1951, then spent three years caring for elderly and infirm Maryknoll Sisters at Bethany House, then the congregation’s health care facility in Ossining, NY.
Sister Barbara was then sent to Monrovia, CA, where she worked at a tuberculosis hospital run by the congregation until 1959. She was then sent to Hawaii, where she worked at the Maui Children’s Home and St. Anthony’s Convent.
In 1968, she returned to Maryknoll, where she enrolled at Mary Rogers College, earning an Associate of Arts degree in 1970. She continued her studies at Brockport State University, Brockport, NY, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 1973.
Sister Barbara was then sent to Bolivia where, after completing language studies, she worked at the Riberalta Hospital in 1974, then did public health work in Pando Vicariate, contacting and developing health care promoters in rural areas. Here she learned the great generosity of the poor, who often gave their last egg to their honored visitor. “Helping to train health promoters for the rural areas is more difficult
In 1979, Sister Barbara moved to Cochabamba, a city 8,500 feet above sea level and Bolivia’s jungle lowlands, where she had worked for the past six years. In Cochabamba, she would work for eight years at the Archdiocesan Family Life Center, in a program which focused on responsible parenting and natural family planning, family life programs for secondary schools, marriage preparation programs, and family counseling. Many parishes requested help of family problems and the four areas of focus were in direct response to their felt needs. Sister Barbara and her colleague, Sister Marcelline Yurkovic, whose study on parish needs for the diocese, conducted at the request of Archbishop Jose Armando Gutierrez Granier, laid the groundwork for the Center’s programs, were assisted greatly by many of the laity. Among these were young doctors who gave time out of their busy practices to help teach family planning.
In 1987, Sister Barbara returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, where she gave service in the congregation’s Congregational Health Services Department until 1990, returning to Cochabamba in 1991. There she worked with prayer groups, women in health services, and children in health education, living and working at the same time at Cristo Rey Parish, located in a poor barrio on the outskirts of the city. Part of her work with families and women included sharing Scripture reflections and discussing together how they might apply it to their daily lives. Women would also come to talk with Sister Barbara when they came to the parish for arts and crafts work or justice and peace meetings. The stories they told shed light on the abuse some women faced in their families, as well as substance abuse problems which contributed toward abusive behavior. Joy came when Sister Barbara worked with local children. Collaborating with Cathy Breen of the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, the lay missioner program, and two Bolivian women, the group worked with ten-year-old children who were often the main care givers of the family, helping them develop leadership skills, teaching them health promotion and accident prevention through use of dramatic skits, music and song.
Sister’s work among these Bolivian poor continued until 2001, when she retired, living first at the Maryknoll Sisters Convent in Monrovia, CA, until 2008, when she moved back to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY, where she currently resides.