Africa – Maryknoller works with women to restore basic health and dignity

| October 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

Maryknoll Sister

Liz Mach, 58, has been a Maryknoll Lay Missioner since 1976. She grew up in Pine City and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1975 from the College of St. Catherine, now St. Catherine University. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in public health in 1991 from the University of Minnesota. She has served at Maryknoll missions in Tanzania and Southern Sudan.

Who or what inspired you to start doing missionary work?

I graduated from St. Kate’s and was deciding where I wanted to be working when I heard a Maryknoll priest speak about Tanzania and the need for nurses. He invited people to “come and see” and I realized this is what I was looking for. I ended up serving the first three years at the same mission in Tanzania — a place called Ndoleleji — with Father Dan Ohmann of the St. Cloud Diocese.

We established maternal health-care clinics, delivered babies and taught basic nutrition and health care to women in the villages. Throughout my 35 years in mission, I have worked in the health care field with HIV/AIDS patients, women suffering from obstetric fistula and am now helping a diocese in Tanzania to end female genital mutilation.

Tell us a story about how a person in your mission experience has made a difference in your faith journey.

I work within the Diocese of Musoma and there is one parish — Rogoro — where a group of parents and girls have come together to end female genital mutilation, which is practiced in that area. The parish is supporting them through the protection of the young women who choose not to be mutilated. It is a courageous group of folks who are standing up to a cultural custom that denigrates women. I am honored to work with these parents and young women and the Sisters of the Daughters of Charity who staff the parish ministries.

Bishop Michael Msonganzilla was part of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2009 for Africa. At the synod, he raised the question regarding the termination of female genital mutilation — the first time this has been addressed at a synod. He called for raising the dignity of each woman and he continues to work for the termination of this custom within our diocese. Working with all of these folks continues to inspire me and challenge me in mission.

What have you learned from the people you work with or serve?

I feel that I have learned to be more non-judgmental in my life. I live in a country (Tanzania) where one third of the folks are Christian, one third Muslim and one third traditional religion. We need to live in harmony with all or there would be great difficulties within the country. Our health clinics within the Diocese of Musoma (where I work) are open to all. We never ask what religion people are but we welcome all. One of the things I have learned in mission is that oftentimes our presence is enough. We do not always have to “do.” Just to be there in solidarity is the most important thing.

Maryknoll notes 100

Maryknoll, the U.S. Catholic mission movement, is celebrating 100 years of mission work throughout this year and 2012. For information about the continuing festivities, visit


Category: World Mission Sunday