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Obituary | Sr. Justine Church, MMS

A funeral Mass for Medical Mission Sister Justine Church was celebrated March 29 in the chapel at her community's North American headquarters in Philadelphia. A St. Louis native, Sister Justine died March 21 at age 83.

She attended St. Louis University after graduating from Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves. She entered the Medical Mission Sisters in 1953, made first profession of vows in 1956 and final vows in 1961.

Sister Justine studied at O'Connor Hospital School of Medical Technology in San Jose, Calif., where she became a registered medical technologist. She was missioned to Pakistan and was in charge of Holy Family Hospital laboratories in Karachi, Dacca and Mymensingh. In 1971, she returned to Philadelphia, and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She then served as laboratory supervisor at Holy Family Hospital in Berekum, Ghana, for three years.

Sister Justine received a master's degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, then oversaw development projects with UNICEF and USAID for Catholic Relief Services in Tanzania and Rwanda. She earned a master's degree from King's College School in London, England, in the field of theology and philosophy in relation to corporate ethics, and returned to the United States in 1990. Sister Justine served three years as administrator of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In 1995, she was elected to a three-year term as Western District coordinator for her community members in mission West of the Mississippi and moved to San Diego.

A passionate advocate for worker's rights for the past 20 years, Sister Justine served on the executive committee and as treasurer of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice which mobilizes the San Diego community to the needs of low-wage workers. In a talk at a church in 2014, Sister Justine said she learned what it's like to be a poor worker by taking a job as a hotel maid. She cited the long hours and few work breaks while being required to heft the weight of heavy mattresses. She said of her ministry: "Passion is part of the religious experience. You hear it in Jesus and in the prophets as they bear witness to the goodness of God and the sinfulness of humanity. My desire, like theirs, is to see that God's way is fulfilled." 

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