Sister Joyce Burch

Sister Joyce Burch

Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY

Sister Joyce, from Memphis Tennessee, entered Maryknoll in 1955.  She had already earned an A.A. degree from St. Catherine College in St. Catherine, KY, and a certificate in medical technology from St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis.  In 1959, a year after her she made her First Vows, Sister Joyce was assigned to work at Queen of the World Hospital, the first racially integrated hospital in Kansas City, MO and one of only a handful in the nation at that time.  There Black nurses and doctors could practice medicine along with their White counterparts.   After working there for a year, Sister Joyce was sent to Bon Deux Hospital in New Orleans, LA to study tropical medicine.

On January 6th, 1961 Sister Joyce left for her first overseas assignment to Tanzania, East Africa.  She first went to Mwanza for a year of language study with a private tutor while also assisting in training the cooks, who did not speak English.  After this, she was assigned to Kowak, where she served as a lab technician, as well as clinic supervisor, diagnosing and treating patients who came to the clinic.  In addition, she also helped deliver babies in the Kowak hospital.

Sister Joyce returned to the United States in 1968 and earned her B.S.N degree at Cornell University’s School of Nursing.  In 1972 Sister Joyce was assigned to Kenya.  She worked as the head nurse in both the male and female wards of Kinango Hospital, as well as being the head nurse in the maternity ward.

In 1976, Sister Joyce returned to Maryknoll for two years of Congregational Service.  She served in the Chi Rho Arts, and then in the Central Health Unit.  In 1978, Sister Joyce returned to Kenya, and together with Sister Elizabeth Gormley they set up the African World Section House in Nairobi.  It was a place for the Sisters to rest, receive any medical aid they needed and to pick up supplies.

In 1980, Sister Joyce returned to Tanzania and was supervisor of the Santa Maria Village Dispensary in Kung’ombe.  She also worked with women’s groups and gave classes in Health Care.  In 1989, Sister Joyce moved to Arusha and was appointed to be the Diocesan AIDS coordinator for the Arusha Diocese.  In that capacity she organized a team that would go out to villages for a week at a time to do counselling and HIV/AIDS education in schools and government offices.  When they returned to Arusha, they would also do counselling and give HIV prevention classes in local schools, encouraging behavior change in the young people.  By 1993 other groups had come in to do the outreach work, so Sister Joyce and her team concentrated on visiting homes of people affected by AIDS.  This involved helping families meet the challenges of dealing with family members with AIDS.  Often, grandparents were left raising their grandchildren, and needed financial help for food, school fees, medicines, etc.  This assistance was made possible by the generous support of donors in the States.

Sister Joyce returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1999 and worked in the Congregational Service Office.  At that time she began taking courses in Sacred Energy Therapy.  In 2004 she moved to the Maryknoll retirement community in Monrovia, CA where she put into practice what she learned.  She began giving foot to knee massage with Essential Oils and Integrated Energy work.  After 14 happy years in Monrovia, Sister Joyce returned to Maryknoll, NY where she continues to offer these services to the Sisters at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.