Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-maryknoll, NY
Sister Mary Ellen was born January 11th, 1937 to Sarah Kerrigan and Thomas Kerrigan in Leadville, CO. She had 4 brothers and 1 sister. Sister Mary Ellen graduated from Leadville High School, Leadville, CO in 1954.
Sister Mary Ellen entered the Congregation at the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate in Valley Park, MO December 30th, 1958 from Leadville, CO, after receiving her RN from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver in 1957. She pronounced First Vows August 22nd, 1961 and Final Vows August 22nd in 1957, both in Valley Park. Following her First Profession in 1961, she served on the nursing staff at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY for three years. She received her first assignment to Taiwan in 1965.
After two years of Mandarin language study, she worked as a clinic nurse in Wu She until 1969 when she nursed in Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei.
Returning to the States in 1971, she completed undergraduate studies at Mary Rogers College at the Maryknoll Center, and a B.S. in Nursing at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY, and her Master of Arts in nursing from New York University of Education in 1976.
After these studies, in 1976 Sister Mary Ellen returned to Taiwan to work as Nursing Supervisor in the 120-bed St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kaohsiung in the south of Taiwan. After six years, she decided to leave this work in the capable hands of trained Taiwanese nurses.
In 1983, she studied the Taiwanese language in Taichung and then joined a team of three doing pastoral ministry in Chunan parish. She immersed herself in the language and the many opportunities she had to learn more about the life of the people outside the hospital milieu. Sister Mary Ellen deeply appreciated the mutual evangelization in this pastoral ministry. As she grew in her appreciation of the people, she discovered that “the importance of personal relationships rather than the importance of work has affected the way I approach life.”
Called by the congregation to serve in vocation ministry on the admissions team at Maryknoll, NY, in 1987, she had the opportunity to share how she saw God working in her life in mission.
In 1991, after taking courses on HIV/AIDS and the care of those infected and affected by this infection, she returned to Taiwan. In 1992, she returned to the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei to help the nurses and doctors there. Many of them were very afraid and knew little about the prevention of HIV infection and the care of people with AIDS. As true then as it is now, compassion was sorely needed in the care of patients and family members who suffered greatly because of their fears and the stigma that accompanies HIV/AIDS. IN 2007, Sister Mary Ellen was still involved as a volunteer with the nursing department at this same hospital striving to help nurses, doctors, patients and family members – anyone who had been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Although there had been a marked improvement in the care of people with HIV/AIDS in Taiwan, there was still much to be done because stigma continues to plague people with HIV/AIDS and their caretakers.
In 1994, Sister Mary Ellen was invited to go to the Taipei Prison in Taoyuan to help answer questions of prisoners living with HIV/AIDS. Before long, it became obvious that, besides learning about HIV/AIDS, their coming together accomplished even more – relationships were formed and soon they were meeting together weekly. This was how this particular ministry for prisoners living with HIV/AIDS began.
In 2015, Sister Mary Ellen was assigned to the Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY where she works in the Maryknoll Home Care unit with elderly and infirm Sisters.