Sister Christine Ortis

Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY

Christine Ortis was born January 11, 1932 in New York City to Johanna (Breidinger) and Charles Anthony Ortis. She had 3 sisters: Gail, Sr. Mary Augustin, OP and Ann and 3 brothers: Gary, Michael and Peter. Christine graduated from Holy Names High School in Oakland, CA in 1950.

Christine Ortis entered Maryknoll February 1, 1951 at the novitiate in Valley Park, MO. She professed First Vows September 8, 1953 at Valley Park and Final Vows September 8, 1959 at the Center.

Her first mission assignment was giving Congregational Service at the Maryknoll Society Seminary in the kitchen. Her first assignment abroad was in 1959 to Korea where she started at the Pusan Clinic with nutrition needs for destitute refugees who had fled south to escape during the Korean War. Later she and two other Sisters collaborated with the families of fishermen, farmers and miners to form both a Christian Community and a Health Cooperative in the remote fishing villages of Hu Po and Sam Yul on Korea’s east coast.

Other ministries in Korea included working with the physically challenged, the urban poor, Al-Anon women, prostitutes, the homeless and refugees.

Her background served her well as she set up the Asia Service Center in 1991 in Seoul and then became the Executive Secretary of the Asia/Oceania Meeting of Religious Women (Amor) from 1992 – 2000. AMOR’s Asia Service Center began in 1970 when a group of Sisters met and decided they needed a Center for communicating with each other in Asia. In this work Sister Christine made many visits with another member of the Executive Committee to East and South asia visiting the Sisters and preparing for the general meeting held every three years. With two Korean Sisters, she wrote the quarterly AMOR newsletter reaching about 60,000 Sisters in Asia and other parts of the world. Through the newsletter and periodic visits, Sister Christine helped the Sisters of twenty-two countries in Asia and the Pacific to connect with one another. Yes, through all her ministries, Sister Christine was a blessing.

Sister Christine returned to the States in 1968 to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Development from Mary Rogers College, Maryknoll, NY and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University, NY. Returning to Korea, she was Director of the Inchon Social Service Agency and received an award for the many services the agency offered to children over the years.

In 2000, Sister Christine was assigned to Nepal. She arrived in Nepal and began serving as guidance counselor for grades one through ten at St. Xavier in Kathmandu, a school so esteemed by the Nepali people that it receives more than 2,000 applications for 120 first grade seats.
According to one of the Jesuits at St. Xavier School, Sister Christine herself was a blessing. He said, “A Maryknoll Sister who came in as a mature religious – what a support she is to the whole system.”

Most of the thousand plus students were Hindu, with a few Tibetan Buddhists and a minority of Christians and Catholics. Sister Christine, a professional social worker had an open door policy for all of them, ages twelve to eighteen.

Nepal was the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, became a secular state in 2005. After three weeks of popular protest, the king relinquished power and reinstated the parliament dissolved in 2002, ostensibly to stop a decade-long Maoist insurgency which some people called a civil war. Classes often had to be cancelled and Sister Christine saw her students through these troubled times that affected their studies, family and social life.

In addition to counseling, she also gave religious instruction to the Christian and Catholic students from classes four to twelve. She developed a program for each class for self-development, learning values for life and service to others. Meditation was part of the program and the students told her it helped their concentration and peace of mind. Week-ends found Sister sharing workshops with the students.

She also counseled one day week at a large girl’s high school in Kathmandu, and was a member of the Conference of Religious in Nepal

In 2008, Sister Christine returned to the States to retire at the Maryknoll Sisters Community in Monrovia, CA. Today, she resides at Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY.