Sister Christine Ortis

Sister Christine Ortis is a “Missioner without Borders.

cortis_lg“I consider living and being here with the Nepali people a blessing from God.”

Sister Christine Ortis herself is a blessing according to one of the Jesuits at St. Xavier School who remarked, “A Maryknoll Sister who comes in as a mature religious—what a support she is to the whole system.” Sister Christine arrived in Nepal in 2000 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.

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

Nepal, which was the only Hindu kingdom in the world, became a secular state in 2005. After three weeks of popular protesting, 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 gives 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 is part of the program and the students tell her this helps their concentration and peace of mind. Week-ends find Sister Christine sharing workshops with the students.

She also did counseling one day a week at a large girl’s high school in Kathmandu, and is a member of the Conference of Religious in Nepal.

Sister Christine was born in New York City and attended grammar school and two years of high school at Holy Rosary, Seattle, WA. She graduated from Holy Names High School in Oakland, CA and entered Maryknoll in 1951 from California.

Before going to Nepal, Sister Christine spent forty years in Korea, starting with nutrition needs at the Pusan Clinic for destitute refugees who had fled south to escape the Korean war.

She returned to the States in 1968 to earn a B.S. in Community Development from Mary Rogers College 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.

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.

Her 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 to 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 meetings 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-one countries in Asia and the Pacific to connect with one another. Yes, through all her ministries, Sister Christine has been a blessing.

Sister Christine has returned to the States and since November, 2008, she lives in the Maryknoll Sisters Community, Monrovia, CA.