by Mary Flynn, Archivist
In 1970, Sister Catherine McGowan was missioned to Bani, Dominican Republic. With degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University and Cornell University, she felt prepared to share her knowledge about nutrition with those in need. Over the years, Sister Catherine’s view of her role in the DR changed. In 1978, Sister Catherine reflected on this shift, writing:
“When I first heard of Bani with its poverty, malnutrition and improper health care, my response was linked with my knowledge of nutrition. I felt sharing that knowledge could really do something for the people.
Once here and faced with the reality of the situation, I came down with a jolt. My great ideas of teaching nutrition looked absurd in the face of hungry people.
As I became more in touch with their lives, their problems, their hopes, the questions came— Where does one get food? How does one find money? How can one practice basic hygiene and avoid medical bills? How can one realize his personal worth before God and man? How can one bring about change? How can one be freed from injustices and oppression?
Soon, too, came the realization that it was not a doing for but a being with, a sharing with that was essential. It is the active presence among the people that has real value.
Our life among them is a counter witness to people who for centuries have been exploited and tricked by foreigners, who have seen the Church as part of the political power and associated with the government, the wealthy, and the unjust status quo.
We are members of the Church; we are foreigners. We choose to live among them and sincerely share their lives.”
Read more about Sister Catherine’s four decades of ministry in the DR.