There are many individuals, lay organizations, and religious communities that are involved in missionary work throughout the world, even in the United States. Missionaries share the tasks of all Christians: to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and to serve the needs of the world. Missionaries, following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, leave their homes and often travel great distances and enter cultures foreign to their own in order to follow God’s call.
Below is a portrait of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan. The IHM sisters are a religious community of sisters who work throughout the United States and as missionaries in Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Uganda. For more information on the IHM sisters and their ministries, visit their Web site at www.ihmsisters.org.
Many IHM sisters have chosen the challenging opportunity to minister among some of the world's poorest people in other countries. They have served several Latin American and African countries since the 1940s. IHM sisters minister overseas to reduce suffering and to improve people's quality of life through education, social justice work, health care, economic development, self-help entrepreneurial cooperatives, and pastoral ministry. They are also involved in pastoral ministry, the formation of faith communities, and the training of catechists and lay apostolic leaders to continue teaching Catholicism in areas where there are few religious available.
Sister Sandrita Poupart Valentin is a teacher at Dr. Hernadez y Gaetan School in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where her students come from many areas of the Caribbean: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, St. Kitts, and the Lesser Antilles.
“My students are so special, and it is with special care that I treat them and love them. Their struggles, wounds, hopes, and aspirations all become my own.”
— Sister Sandrita Poupart Valentin
Sister Janet Hill is a teacher at Sagrada Familia School, San Juan, Puerto Rico. This Catholic elementary school was founded in 1964 by two IHMs, Sisters Juanita Bernard and Catherine Senia, and is in the Llorens Torres public housing project.
“Despite their daily life that is often in an environment of drugs and violence, many of our students' families have strong Christian values. I choose to stand with them, preparing them educationally to achieve their goals and lead full human lives now and in the future.”
— Sister Janet Hill
Five other IHMs serve in Puerto Rico in a variety of educational, pastoral, and counseling ministries.
There are several IHM sisters in Africa, serving in a variety of ministries. Sister Annette St. Amour serves in Durban, South Africa, as archdiocesan coordinator of religious formation. She works with a Zulu partner and team developing HIV/AIDS education and prevention materials in both Zulu and English, integrating this information with catechetical curricula in all parishes. Sister Annette, shown here with Sibongila, also volunteers in an orphanage for children with AIDS.
“My critical concern is assisting children, youth, and families to form Christian attitudes and respond to the South African AIDS crisis through prevention and outreach. A faith response by families and youth to the AIDS crisis has the potential to bring people together across racial barriers that once divided communities."
— Sister Annette St. Amour
Four other IHMs serve in educational and pastoral ministries in South Africa. Another IHM serves in Kampala, Uganda, as an associate professor at Uganda Martyrs University.
Tapologo Hospice was begun by Redemptorist bishop Kevin Dowling (standing, third from right) to help AIDS victims in his South African diocese of Rustanburg. The IHM sisters provide funding for his work in training nurses and volunteers (pictured here) to be home-based caregivers for AIDS victims and orphans.
“Several IHMs have devoted their ministries to alleviating the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. As a member of the National AIDS Management Committee of the South African Catholic Bishops Conference, I am deeply concerned that we develop programs to offer care to those with AIDS, as well as preventing the spread of AIDS, especially among women and vulnerable young girls. Because 50% of those now age 15 are projected to die of the disease, we are impelled to act!”
— Sister Joan Mumaw