Sister Susan Gubbins

Current Ministry Location: Maryknoll Sisters Center-Maryknoll, NY 

Sister Susan was born April 30th, 1938 in Evergreen Park, IL to Helena (Cleeson) Gubbins and William B. Gubbins and talks about many happy times with her two sisters and four brothers. She graduated from St. Xavier Academy, Chicago, IL in 1956.

Sister Susan entered the Maryknoll Sisters at their Center in NY on September 2nd, 1957. Sister Susan pronounced First Vows at the Center June 24th, 1960 and Final Vows June 24th,  1966 again at the Center. She earned a B.A. in Sociology in 1967 from the College of St. Catherine’s, St. Paul, MN. That same year she was assigned to Hong Kong where, after Language School, she was Coordinator of the Group & Community Department of Caritas-Hong Kong as well as supervising youth activities in a Catholic Welfare Center.

In 1974, Sister Susan earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago and was assigned to Indonesia in 1975 where she set up a community-based health program, was a consultant for social work in Bandung hospitals and a teacher in the National School for Social Welfare. As always, Sister Susan made friends everywhere and especially in her own neighborhood of Muslim families.

In 1991, Sister Susan and four other Maryknoll Sisters opened a new mission in East Timor, an island in the Indonesian archipelago. They were invited to East Timor by Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili. On Mardi Gras they arrived in the mountain parish of Aileu, with 24 villages. They were the first Sisters ever assigned to that parish. Slowly they got to know the people and their language and the many basic needs as they began their work.

As Sister Susan became aware of many people unable to walk, she and other trained technicians opened a shop for making special shoes and braces, run on a profit-sharing basis among the workers.

In 1999, during the countries struggle for independence from Indonesia, the Maryknoll Sisters had to evacuate East Timor and boarded the last plane to Australia.  While in Australia for six weeks, the Sisters worked with Timorese refugees. When the Sisters returned to Aileu, they found that the shop for shoes and braces, the community based clinic, the school, and their home had all been destroyed. With help from friends in the States, Sister Susan started to rebuild the shop for aiding those with special needs for shoes and braces.

After serving in East Timor for 26 years, Sisters Susan and Dorothy turned over the Clinic to local staff. In 2017, Sister Susan returned to Maryknoll, NY to retire. She resides at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Maryknoll, NY and volunteers in the Sisters’ Communications Office.