Sister Mary Ellen Kempken is the Mission Education Coordinator for Maryknoll Sisters. That means she gets out and about quite a lot, introducing many people to Maryknoll Sisters, whether that’s at a professional gathering of catechists in California, a national youth rally in some major city, or writing about us for mission-minded parishioners affiliated with the Just Faith organization.
Before Sister Mary Ellen came to assist us here at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in mission education, she was doing mission herself in Bolivia.
Born in Hartford, WI, Sister Mary Ellen entered Maryknoll Sisters at our Center near Ossining, NY, in 1975, following graduation from Marian College of Fond Du Lac, WI, with a B.S. in nursing in 1974. After her entrance, she attended Maryknoll Seminary, where she studied the Scriptures, ethics and international affairs, later earning an M.A. in theological studies from Maryknoll School of Theology in 1985.
Sister Mary Ellen’s major mission assignment has been Bolivia where she served for over 30 years, first working with the Cristo Rey Parish Mothers Club, operating a well baby program from 1978-1979, then working at the Caritas Diocesan Office, where she again worked with the Mother-Child Clubs of the diocese, and continued to work with two local clubs, from 1979-1980.
She then became involved with a project assisting the people of the Altiplano in La Paz in 1980, and following a year at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York, returned to Bolivia where she served as administrator/head nurse at the Saavedra Hospital from 1981-1984. She also did pastoral work at St. John the Baptist Parish in Saavedra during that time.
Following a Year of Reflection at Maryknoll, Sister Mary Ellen again returned to Bolivia, and did parish work at Capinoto Parish from 1986-1991.
She then worked with Maryknoll Mission Archives and in Mission Promotion for the Maryknoll Sisters, followed by more than 10 years in Riberalta, Bolivia working with the handicapped, as a Eucharistic minister, with Community Animators of Faith and the Rural Pastoral Institute River Team.
Sister Mary Ellen continues to bless the Maryknoll Sisters Center, not only with her knowledge of mission but as director of the Sisters Choir who fill our Main Chapel with joyful sound at Mass.