This precious little girl, Megan, was born in Maternidad de Maria in Chimbote, Peru this week. She is the 98,000th baby delivered in the maternity hospital the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids helped start more than 50 years ago. Her birth fell during an auspicious week as the community celebrated and blessed a new building.
Many of our Sisters have served in this region of the world where mining and fishing are the main industries. And where life is hard and hearts are large. Spanish is the spoken language and Catholicism is the predominant religion. Our Sisters have served as administrators and accountants. Others have taught and trained. All have returned to the United States enriched.
Two Dominican Sisters have spent more than half their lives in Chimbote providing health services, training personnel, and helping build a medical and social services hub for the community: Margaret Mary Birchmeier, OP and Lillian Bockheim, OP.
They are lovingly referred to as the “Madres” by the people, nurses and midwives who help care for and deliver mothers and children. They travel far afield into the mountains to check on families who live too far away or have no transportation to the main hub of healthcare in this region.
Orphaned children live in the complex and are cared for by trained staff. The Sisters have helped care for children since the orphanage opened in recent years at the request of the Church.
The Sisters work beside local women and men, many born at Maternidad de Maria, who now staff most of the service areas. There are well over one hundred healthcare professionals and administrators. They work in a compound, Centro de Obras Sociales, that consists of the maternity hospital, as well as a medical clinic, clinical laboratory, physical therapy, an orphanage, and a convent.
Sisters Lillian and Margaret Mary gathered in celebration with employees, friends, and officials for the blessing of a new clinic in the compound. Sr. Lucianne Siers travelled from Grand Rapids for the celebration. The day after the celebration she wrote home: “Sisters Margaret Mary and Lillian were recognized for their leadership. Over 600 people attended the liturgy with a procession to the Maternidad for the blessing and speeches and dances and food! A wonderful day in the history of the people of Chimbote. The new clinic is serving 1,000+ patients a day since it opened in mid-January.”