My views on missionary life have certainly changed over the years, since at the beginning I thought I was ministering to the poor in Pamplona, but as time went on I realized that I was being ministered to by my Pamplona friends. Several theologians and writers are asking the same question: What do we learn from the poor of the world?
These words are found in the life story of Sister Mary K. Duwelius, who spent more than three decades ministering in the Dominican Republic and Peru in addition to serving migrant populations during her many years in south Florida.
Dorothy Catherine Duwelius was born on June 26, 1920, in Elkhart, Indiana, to John and Mabel (Ness) Duwelius. She was one of four children, along with her brother Kenneth and two younger sisters who were identical twins, Eileen and Arlene. “Both our parents were happy, holy, and hard-working,” she said. “Mother kept everything under control and we children knew how to settle down when advised to do so.”
Sister Mary K.’s lifelong commitment to social justice and the poor may well have come from her Depression-era upbringing, instilled by her parents. A railroad track ran directly behind their home, and those riding the trains often knocked on the back door asking for something to eat – and could always find a meal there.
Life in the Duwelius home revolved around activities in the family parish, St. Vincent’s in Elkhart. John was an usher and active in many church groups, while Mabel “was a great organizer of ice cream socials, dinners and card parties” in the parish. All the children attended the parish school. “Each day we would devoutly pray before class and then break forth loudly singing ‘Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame,’” Sister Mary K. said. “I didn’t find this strange and for years thought that this was done in all Catholic schools in the world.”
Read more about Sister Mary K. (pdf)
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