Two decades have passed since Sisters Madeline McHugh and Theresa Baldini flew to Juba, Sudan, in March 1987 at the invitation of Bishop Paride Taban, who asked them to begin a Sudanese contemplative community in his Torit Diocese. Asked why the bishop invited missioners for this venture, Sister Madeline commented, “The bishop sees us as missioners who will allow the community to develop in an expression of contemplative life that is true to the Sudanese culture.”
Sister Madeline responded to this invitation because “it is a call to overseas mission, which is so much a part of our Maryknoll vocation and our foundress’s vision…The poverty and deprivation of the Sudan, a fifth world, draws me very much, and all this means living out a very simple, poor life with more total dependence on God.”
This dependence on God and the Sudanese people became very real as the Maryknoll Sisters have shared these years of war and devastation. A beginning was made in starting a Sudanese contemplative community, but it could not continue because of the raging civil war in that country.
However, the Maryknoll Sisters answered the call to be a sign for peace in the midst of the madness of war. Although the Sisters have had to flee to Uganda and Kenya because of the fighting and famine, they remain today in what they named a House of Prayer and Peace in the Torit Diocese among several thousand displaced Sudanese.
Sister Madeline McHugh was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and after studies at Battin Night School, entered Maryknoll in 1939. She received her Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College and later studied theology at Iona College in New York, Spanish in Guatemala, and the Arabic language in Heliopolis (Cairo), Egypt.
Sister Madeline’s first assignment was to Hawaii, where she taught in grammar school and high school for sixteen years. Then after serving as vocation director at Maryknoll, she was assigned to Guatemala, where she did pastoral work with women in Huehuetenango, and then to Panama, where she taught high school. She served as a music teacher to grammar school students until she became a member of a contemplative community of Maryknoll Sisters “with a different kind of work to do,” in the words of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, who founded the Maryknoll Sisters.
An integral part of the congregation, these contemplative Maryknoll Sisters are called to live their lives in prayer and sacrifice for the support of all missioners, especially Maryknollers, and the missionary endeavor of the universal church. On February 3, 2010 Sister Madeline said a fond farewell to all her friends in Narus, Sudan, and returned to the Contemplative Sisters Community in Maryknoll, NY.