A branch of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts,
a Catholic medical order that provides free health care to the poor.
HOW THE MEDICAL BRANCH BEGAN
Ten years prior to the medical branch becoming an official branch of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, I had been discerning with the help of Sr. Philip Marie Burle, C.PP.S (who was my spiritual director at the time) my own religious call. I felt the need to be a part of a community that would be living the traditional religious life; that is sisters living in community, having a strong spiritual foundation including daily mass, praying the liturgy of the hours and daily Eucharistic Adoration. I also desired to use my medical training (I am a Family Practitioner who was in the middle of a general surgical residency in 1994) to serve the poor as a religious sister. I believed this is what God wanted. I was having difficulty in finding a medical missionary community that fulfilled all these needs that I had yearned for: a medical community that was staying true to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.
Through some miraculous events I was able to spend some time with Mother Teresa of Calcutta here in Washington and in Calcutta. I even proposed beginning a branch with the Missionaries of Charity, though the urgings of Sr. Philip Marie. This was in 1994 and again in 1996, and I was beginning my Chief year of General Surgery at Georgetown University. During this year His Eminence James Cardinal Hickey was in need of open heart surgery and I was the chief resident who happened to be on the cardiac surgery service at the time (nothing is ever by accident) and thus assisted on his coronary artery bypass surgery as well as caring for him postoperatively. He was our Cardinal here in Washington, DC. After his recovery I met with him several times to discuss my spiritual calling and the difficulty in finding a medical missionary community with a good spiritual life much like the Missionaries of Charity. He understood my dilemma and felt concerned that a “feminist virus” had infected many religious communities in the United States and Europe. He became a very good spiritual friend and even supported the idea of beginning a new community if this is what God was calling me to. I did not feel this was His call for me, but rather I felt the need to begin a branch of a good, holy community…to enhance the medical aspects of an already existing community.
Although Mother Teresa died before a definite decision could be made regarding a medical branch of their community, the MC sisters in Washington “took me in” for almost 2 years as per the wish of Cardinal Hickey, i.e. upon completion of my surgical boards to spend a day in prayer and a day in service to the poor. I did this medical service in Africa, Middle East, Caribbean through the incredible support of the volunteer coordinator of the Catholic Medical Mission Board, Ms Rosemary DeCostanzo. She is the medical missionary “guardian angel”. She helped me to find hospitals that could use short-term surgeons, and even assisted is emergency healthcare support, medicines and more.
On the Feast of the Sacred Hearts in May 2001, Sr. Licia Lupinacci, POSC Piccole Operaie dei Sacri Cuori Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts after learning that I had been desiring a small house to begin what Cardinal Hickey first called “the Medical Missionaries of the Poor”, she graciously gave us a beautiful home next to their Little Worker convent. When I was not overseas doing missionary work I would be home, sharing in the prayer life of the POSC sisters. They were not only contemplatives in action, living the rich spiritual life that I had yearned for but they were Italian sisters with the greatest gift of hospitality I had ever experienced. Sr. Licia would share the life of the founder of her community, sgr. Francesco Maria Greco who will be beatified in 2005… his life, his work, his holiness, his love for the poor, and for the Holy Catholic Church. He had felt the need to catechize a faithless people in southern Italy. And now the community has grown to India, Albania, Argentina and the United States. We both felt the calling and desire to explore the possibility of beginning a medical branch of the Little Workers and thus spoke to Mother General, Mother Alma Franco. She and the council members accepted the concept and presented it to the Vatican.
In November 21, 2002 the Vatican accepted the Medical Missionary branch. I then began writing a ‘Holy rule’ for medical sisters of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts and I began formation as the first medical missionary religious. I made first vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, (and a private vow of free, loving medical care of the poor and uninsured) on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Sept 15th 2004 by the grace of God, great support of my parents and family (especially my brother Fr. Bill see www.catholicterps.org ) friends and the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. I invite you to “come and see” Gods sweetness here with us if you feel God is calling you to a consecrated life as a medial missionary.
In The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
"Jesus looking on him, loved him" (Mark 10:21) "You have not chosen me but I have chosen you" (John 15:16)