“Why are you going back again?” “Don’t think I haven’t asked myself that same question! I believe that this is my mission in life and that our being there makes a difference and that God will use us as His instruments to show these beautiful people His love. During the years I have often been aware of the evil that exists in the world and I believe that our job is to bring the Good News of God’s loving care and presence to His people. It fills me with joy to be a part of that mission in this way and I am happy and blessed in doing it. What more could I ask?”
Maryknoll Sister Mary Ellen Manz of Jamaica, New York, entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1950 after having graduated from the Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica and having worked some six months with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City.
After having earned her B.S. in Education from Maryknoll Teachers College, Sister Mary Ellen was assigned in 1956 to Santiago, Chile, where she served as a teacher of general science in a primary school, taught physical education to junior high school students, and was choir director in both the parish and school until 1965.
Sister Mary Ellen was then assigned to Chillan, Chile, as superior and school principal. She also taught religion and English in seventh and eighth grades as well as adult religious instruction and directed the school sports program from 1965-1976.
In 1969, Sister Mary Ellen earned her M.A. in English pedagogy from Catholic University in Valparaiso, Chile. From 1976-1979, she served in mission education efforts in the United States, then worked in an administrative position at the Maryknoll Sisters Center from 1979-1983.
That same year, Sister Mary Ellen was assigned to join four of our Sisters in the Archdiocese of Juba, in Southern Sudan, the same year that a pending civil war broke out. Sister Mary Ellen was to establish a primary and intermediate school in Kworijik Village with the Bari tribal group, seven miles outside of Juba. In 1988, having been forced to flee because of warring factions in the area, the Sisters went to Juba Town, where they began again to establish a school, which continued until 1992, when once again they were forced to leave.
They were then welcomed to the Diocese of Torit, southeast of Juba, to a place called Chukudum in the Didinga Hills. They were commissioned by Bishop Taban to open a Diocesan Pastoral Center for the training of catechists and primary school teachers. In 1997, groundwork was laid for the building of the first parish pre-school in Chukudum, and classes began in 1998.
Sister Mary Ellen said during the time: “My experience has taught me that in spite of the pain and suffering, the insane and brutal murders of good and innocent people–somehow God has not abandoned us and good will prevail.”
She is also the Sisters’ liaison to Maryknoll Magazine and has written many articles about the Sisters for the publication.