Sister Carolyn White has lived and served on five Marshallese atolls in the midst of 772,000 square miles of ocean.
Sister Carolyn White was born in Richmond, VA, and received a B.S. in liberal arts from the University of the State of New York. In 1961, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation, and after her novitiate, worked in an office at the Center before being assigned to the Maryknoll Sisters Contemplative Community in 1970. Five years later, she was teaching fifth grade at St. Brigid’s School in the lower east side in New York City. Then she was assigned to the Central Pacific region.
From 1977 to 1981, Sister Carolyn served as a teacher and coordinator at Assumption Elementary School on the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands. Majuro is the district center of the Marshall Islands and boasts an international airport that’s the size of the entire width of the island.
From 1982 to 1986, Sister Carolyn took courses in special education and taught emotionally disturbed children in Honolulu, Hawaii. Then she returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York to spend four years sharing her talents in the Treasury Department, returning to the Marshall Islands in 1991 to work in the “outer islands” of the island nation.
Important to any understanding of life in the Marshallese Outer Islands is that they are small and scattered. The population of the Marshalls is 56,000, scattered over 32 atolls, which is 70 square miles of land amidst 772,000 square miles of ocean. Each atoll is the coral growth atop an underwater volcano.
Sister Carolyn was one of two Maryknoll Sisters who have visited five of the atolls on a rotating basis. These islands are smaller and less populated, and a priest can only visit a few times a year. Their ministries were primarily educational with an emphasis on Christian education and the development of teaching skills among Marshallese teachers.
Sister Carolyn also has helped promote the raising of chickens and native foods and taught budgeting, cooking and emergency medical care. Few in the Marshall Islands have electricity except for some islands that now have generators and solar power.
Sister Carolyn presently is assigned to the Center and giving Congregational Service.