MICHELLE N LYNCH
| The Reading Eagle | Extracts
READING, USA - Bushwhacking her way through the jungles of the South Pacific was just the sort of adventure Sister Dorothy Fabritze, now 72, imagined when, as a young teen, she felt called to join the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The international order, known as MSC, was founded in 1900 to work in the island area of Papua New Guinea.
As a student at St. Michael’s, the girls boarding school run by the sisters in the Hyde Park section of Muhlenberg Township, Fabritze learned the story of the five young Missionary Sisters killed in 1904 in the Baining Mountains of New Britain, the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago and Papua New Guinea.
But that was long before she entered the convent in 1965, and it did nothing to deter her.
At age 29 in 1977, Fabritze embarked on a mission to Papua, where she shared her faith while doing humanitarian work.
“My first four years, I travelled the jungles of New Britain and canoed around the island,” she said.
As part of her duties, she oversaw 150 small village schools, many little more than thatched-roof huts.
After taking the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1968, Fabritze, who earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from, at the time, Alvernia College, taught in Catholic schools for several years before accepting the mission to PNG.
For 16 years, she worked with the indigenous people, sleeping on bamboo mats, slogging through seasonal rainstorms and mucking from village to village through the deep mud.
Back in the US in 1993, her creativity, drive and public-speaking skills were tapped for duties as a fundraising and development director.
While she embraced the role, she sought outlets for her true passion as a missionary by serving several weeks at a time on a Native American reservation in New Mexico, among the poor in Appalachia, and later, building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala.
Sisters never really retire, the remaining sisters of the Villa like to say, and Fabritze is not sure what work lies ahead.
“This is a spiritual journey that I am on,” she said.