Sister Virgeen Healey was born in St. Louis, the second of four children. In 2004, Sister Virgeen celebrated sixty years as a Maryknoll Sister, having entered from St. Rita’s Parish in St. Louis in 1944.
After working primarily in the religious education ministry in Guadalupe and Stockton, CA, Sister Virgeen was assigned to the Philippines in 1960. Her ministires there have varied: religion teacher, parish catechetical coordinator, assistant chaplain to seafaring workers, and program coordinator for the Philippine Agency for Community and Family (PACAF), of which she became executive director in Manila.
With PACAF staff, the community-based Playgroup Network, Inc. (PLAYNET) was started. This network trains and supervises volunteers from low-income communities who serve as teachers at pre-schools.
Sister Virgeen’s work has always focused on the needs of the spiritually and materially poor, both in the United States and in the Philippines. In 1994, Sister Virgeen opened the Mindanao chapter of the PACEF in Davao City, Philippines. Community organization (leadership training) is PACEF’s main focus, but since low-income families can suffer from health problems and a lack of education and employable skills, it is difficult for families to earn enough money to provide good nutrition and education for their children.
For this reason, an integrated program at PACAF was designed. The agency offers short courses in auto mechanics, computers, electronics, food processing, sewing, and other fields. A course in the construction trade implemented the concept of “Training With Production.” This project combined PACAF’s need for a larger training center with an opportunity to teach construction courses.
Another program offered by the agency involves local businesses who help train apprentices in the hotel and restaurant industries, printing trades, computer repair, and others fields.
Sister Virgeen is now working in the United States, visiting churches and schools as she shares her experiences in mission, together with her deep appreciation and love for the people of the Philippines.