Sister Katrina Eggert, M.M.
Current Ministry Location-Taiwan
When a devastating earthquake hit Taiwan in 1999, someone described Sister Katrina as a “reluctant heroine” after learning she risked her own life and re-entered a building to carry a paraplegic woman on her back from the sixth floor of the Vocational Training Center to safety. Sister Katrina doesn’t think of herself as a heroine, but she does live by that “boundless love” which she shared with more than 700 graduates who lived at the center over the years.
She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1961 and after completing a Bachelor’s degree in community service in 1969 at Mary Rogers College in New York, Sister Katrina received her assignment to Taiwan.
As soon as her initial language studies were complete, Sister Katrina began home visiting, hoping to see how best to use her social work skills. A year earlier, Maryknoll Sister Louise Elling and two other women, Sylvia Chu, a medical social worker, and Amy Wu of the Changhua Women’s Club had begun to address the needs faced by Taiwan’s physically-challenged people, including those who had become disabled after contracting polio.
“I was new and they shared with me what they had learned, and from then on we worked together,” said Sister Katrina.
This small group of women was not put off by the many difficulties encountered and succeeded in recruiting more members to “make life easier and more meaningful for physically-challenged people.”
Their dream developed into a grassroots organization, one the community itself would develop and promote. Early trainees were teenage boys and girls, but today they are older, and very few now have a history of poliomyelitis. They have other physical challenges. Now, they’re able to take classes so they can earn a living and live independently.
In Taiwan, there is greater acceptance of the physically challenged, and since there are also fewer individuals who have the need for the original program, the Taiwanese government asked that the training center focus on assisting the blind. Sister Katrina left the center in 2000 although she continues to serve on its Board of Directors.
In Taichung, where she now lives, Sister Katrina continues her outreach to the physically challenged, visiting their homes or jobs to give moral support, encouragement, accompany them to doctors, government agencies or whatever may assist them. Her goal continues to be to help them gain dignity and respect from others and to find ways to support themselves and their families. Most are on the lower end of the economic scale, struggling just to have enough money to pay the rent each month. Sister Katrina has made a difference in many lives.
Throughout the years, Sister Katrina has also taught English conversation to Sisters of other religious communities, as well as other adults who need English for travel, business and to represent their country when attending international conferences abroad. Sister Katrina’s English coaching also helps Taiwanese mothers to better support their children who are also learning English.
As part of its celebration of the country’s 100th birthday in 2012, Taiwan’s Cultural Affairs Ministry included Sister Katrina and two other Maryknoll Sisters in a book series honoring foreigners who have given many years of dedicated service to the people of Taiwan. The government said it wanted to express the gratitude of its citizens to their foreign friends, who are an example for generations to come.