Current Ministry Location: Tanzania
Sister Rachel was born September 21st, 1937 in Loogootee, IN to Mary Alma (Gates) Kunkler and Hilary Peter Kunkler. She had 2 brothers. Rachel graduated from St. Johns High School in Loogootee in 1955.
Sister Rachel entered the Congregation from Loogootee, IN at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY on September 2nd, 1957. She pronounced First Vows June 24th, 1960 at the Sisters Center and Final Vows the same date in 1966 in Tanzania. Before entering, she had already begun pre-medical studies at St. Mary of the Woods College in Terra Haute, Indiana. In 1965, she finished those studies at Mt. St. Vincent’s earning a B.S. in Biology.
In 1965 also she received her first mission assignment to Tanzania where Sister Rachel taught biology, chemistry and other subjects for nine years in three secondary schools. When her former students returned as teachers, she changed her teaching to lay leadership training for small Christian Communities in the Arusha diocese. For twelve years the Sisters visited all the parishes and over two thousand leaders were trained in the Center. At the same time they had a small farm with ten young people working in animal husbandry which helped make the Center seal-reliant. They were able to turn this Center over to Tanzanian Sisters from Kilimanjaro and respond to the government invitation to work in the Iringa region.
Sister Rachel, in Tanzania, East Africa, along with Sister Noreen, is a consultant for women and youth groups in rural and urban Iringa Region where they arrived years ago and initiated the “Chapa Kazi” group. Presently the Sisters are consultants for women and youth groups on alternative energy – solar lighting and windmill water pumps; business and marketing skills for economic projects. They do HIV/AIDS counseling and prepare young, economically poor women for secondary and post secondary education, which includes tutoring, getting scholarships, and keeping contact while they are away at school.
In 1995, the President of Tanzania honored them with an award issued by the Ministry of Labour and Youth Development for their work in the Iringa Region. They had worked with seven groups in four districts.
Their original Chapa Kazi group eventually built eight houses for themselves plus a kindergarten and day care center. They also sent a young woman away to study and how to teach in their kindergarten. These young people are a mixture of religions, Catholic, Lutheran and Muslim as well as a mixture of tribes, Wabena and Wakinga
Sister Rachel was a delegate to four General Assemblies of the Maryknoll Sisters as well as serving full time one year as the Regional Research and Planning Coordinator for the Tanzania Maryknoll Sisters. In 2008, she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, fifty years of giving her life for others, stretching her imagination and talent to meet urgent needs in mission.
Sister Rachel and Sister Noreen take turns staffing the house of hospitality in Nairobi, Kenya for Maryknoll Sisters in Africa for retreats, meetings, medical care, etc. However, they are in daily contact by cell phone with the folks in Iringa and go back every two months for a week or so.