As a Maryknoll Sister armed with an R.N. degree from the Long Island College Hospital of Nursing in New York, Joan Sauvigne has ministered as a nurse under many conditions–for thirty-one years in Korea and fourteen years in the Sudan.
Assigned to Korea in 1953, Sister Joan worked as a nurse at the Maryknoll Clinic and Hospital in Pusan and in an outpatient clinic in Chung Pyung. She then did both teaching and nursing at Blessed Andrew Kim Hospital on Pengyong Island. She ministered to leprosy patients at the National Leprosy Hospital on Sorok Island. Sister Joan served in Korea for more than thirty years when she returned to Maryknoll, NY, where she worked as a nurse for seven years at the Maryknoll Nursing Home–to the delight of her Sisters.
In 1993, she was assigned to the Sudan, a country where the Maryknoll Sisters were driven from their mission numerous times because of the ongoing war. Sister Joan worked as a nurse in Chuckudum until 1999, when all the buildings in the mission compound were destroyed and the Maryknoll Sisters left amidst gunfire and mortar shells. The Sisters then moved to Nanyangachor, living among Toposa tribal people in an area with very little influence from the outside world.
Sister Joan worked in both a rustic clinic and now a new health center. Her work included gunshot wounds, cerebral malaria, infectious diseases and, happily, the births of babies. The nearest hospital was fifteen hours away by road in dry weather.
Sister Joan’s amiable sense of humor comes out as she tells her famous story about a surprise encounter with a snake in Nanyangachor. One evening when her companion was away on an overnight medical trip, she went outside to catch a little rainwater in a pail. Sister Joan was sitting with a cat listening to the radio when suddenly she noticed that the pail moved. So she took her flashlight and focused it in the area of the pail, and that’s when she saw a cobra standing erect about nine feet in the air. Needless to say, Sister Joan was in the house in a flash. Within two days, some boys found the snake, killed it and buried it and Sister Joan has lived to tell the tale.
After returning to the States, Sister Joan became a member of the Rogers Community at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in November, 2008. She is working in Pastoral Care in our Maryknoll Residential Care.