Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY
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 Vocational Training Center several times to assist the handicapped getting out and also to carry a paraplegic woman on her back from the sixth floor 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 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. She joined Maryknoll Sister Louise Elling, Sylvia Chu, a medical social worker, and Amy Wu of the Changhua Women’s Club who had begun to address the needs faced by Taiwan’s physically-challenged people, including those who had become disabled after contracting polio. This small group of women was not put off by the many difficulties encountered. They succeeded in helping to establish a grass roots vocation training center, one the community itself would develop and promote. The goals of the Bo-Ai Organization were to focus on the individual and not their disability, always conscious of working to restore the dignity that was taken away or never allowed to develop; to initiate society into a fuller understanding and concern for the needs of the handicapped and to encourage physically challenged persons to begin a new and better life by providing vocational training, guidance and counseling and assisting with physical therapy.
During those beginning days, many of the early trainees were teenage boys and girls with a history of poliomyelitis and had little or no education. However, now in Taiwan, there is greater acceptance of the physically challenged and they are able to get better education and jobs.
Although Sister Katrina left the Center in 2000 and moved to Taichung she continued her outreach to the physically challenged, visiting them in their homes or jobs to give moral support, encouragement, accompany them to doctors, government agencies or whatever assistance they may have needed. Her goal continued to be to help them gain dignity and respect from others and to find ways to support themselves and their families. Most were 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 also taught English conversation to Sisters of other religious communities, as well as other adults who needed English for travel, business or to represent their country when attending international conferences abroad. Faith sharing and Life enrichment classes to build confidence and raise consciousness of world issues also kept her busy.
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 wanted to express the gratitude of its citizens to their foreign friends, who are an example for generations to come.
In May of 2018 Sister Katrina returned to the Motherhouse in Ossining, NY and will be helping out in one of their offices there.