While in Peru for retreat ministry in January, Sister Helen Therese Mack traveled to Ecuador to visit the INESEM program operated by members of the Korean Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.
Sister Helen Therese, who now works with migrants in Kansas City, Kan., had served in the Peruvian missions of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCLs) for more than 40 years. She was aware of the INESEM program in west Ecuador, but had never seen the ministry in action. Further piquing her interest was that Sister serves on a committee of the Charity Federation that is exploring opportunities to better engage international members. Hermana Laura Rumiche Morales, director of the SCL St. Vincent de Paul Pastoral Center, Piura, Peru (center in photo at left), accompanied Sister Helen Therese to learn about INESEM.
The Korean Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill extended its ministry to Ecuador in March 2008 by sending four sisters to serve in a clinic and school for physically and mentally-challenged children in Cantón Pedro Carbo. The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill are a community distinct from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; both communities are members of the Charity Federation and trace their roots to Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac.
Sister Helen Therese describes INESEM as a marvelous ministry with four distinct parts:
• A day school that serves 120 physically and mentally challenged youth, ranging in age from 3 to 25, and learning study skills and receiving physical, occupational and speech therapies.
• A vocational center where these same students learn a trade such as baking, sewing, working with computers or doing arts and crafts. (In photo at top of page, Sister Helen Therese admires items made by students. Pictured with her is Sister Francisca, a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill.)
• A library and learning center open to the community.
• A clinic with 15 specialists.
INESEM is the only project in west Ecuador providing these types of services. In addition to their native language, the Korean sisters speak Spanish and English. They administer and staff the various programs with one sister in charge of each project. Normally, five Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill serve at this location. With a population of approximately 55,000, Cantón Pedro Carbo is a rural community with tropical temperatures.
Sister Helen Therese says there are increasing numbers of sisters from Korea ministering in Latin America. While they come from different cultural backgrounds and experiences, they gain the love and respect of the people they serve. Leadership of the Korean Church in Latin America convenes regular meetings of Korean missionaries to provide opportunities for discussion and exchange.