Nun-Pilot Missions’ First

Date: June 28, 1963
Location: Seattle, WA
By: Larry Anderson
Newspaper: Catholic Northwest Progress
Page: 8

While the rest of the world has been following the orbital space flights of Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshova, the Catholic missionary world looks expectantly at what Sister Michael Therese of the Medical Missionaries of Mary will do in Kenya, Africa.

The slender, 33-year old Religious. Hailing from Worcester, MA, will become the first missionary Sister-pilot when she arrives in the desolate desert area of the Turkana in the Diocese of Eldoret next September. Her assignment of piloting a two-seater Piper Super Cub, purchased mainly from donations throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle, is “kosher.” Giving the green light from Rome is Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith.

Sister Michael Therese and her superior in the order’s Winchester, MA, novitiate, Mother Helana, were both in the Seattle area to thank all those who made it possible through the archdiocesan office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith for the Medical Missionaries for Mary to use the plane in the service for the sick in the Turkana Desert.

“Sister Michael Therese is the first in our community to become a pilot only because of the Archdicese of Seattle,” Mother Helena said.

A surgical technician before she completed her novitiate training recently, Sister Michael Therese has always been interested in flying. Practicing daily if possible, she has now 30 solo hours to her credit. Her first passenger was Mother Helena, who herself spent 14 years in Tanganyika. In Kenya, Sister will commute between central hospital in Eldoret and three out-camps, some 800 miles apart. Her cruising speed will be 105 miles per hour at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The plane is equipped with a radio and is modified in the cabin for stretcher space.

Sister Michael Therese is the second oldest child of six daughters and one son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Ryan of Worchester, MA. The Medical Missionaries of Mary with motherhouse in Ireland conducts 25 missions between east to west Africa and another in Formosa.

The Eldoret project is the first to employ a plane and the first among all missionary groups to use a Sister-pilot. Purchase of the plane had been the initial task. The second phase is the continuation of necessary supplies and maintenance.

CAPTION: Seattle Visit – Luggage were being packed by Jerry Fay for Sister Michael Therese (center) and Mother Helena of the medical Missionaries of Mary from Winchester, MA, during the brief visit of the two Religious to the Archdiocese. Sister Michael Therese has been assigned to the Eldoret Diocese in Kenya where she will become the first Sister-pilot in the foreign mission field. The plane, a Piper Super Cub, was made possible through the efforts of Fay, assistant chief pilot of Pacific Northern Airlines, and Bud Donovan, another PNA pilot, by donations from Pacific Northwesterners in cooperation with the archdiocese office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

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