"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

Dispensario Elizabeth Seton Turns 30

Dispensario Elizabeth Seton in Duran, Ecuador, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.

Dispensario Elizabeth Seton in Duran, Ecuador, celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.

It is indeed a small, but connected world! The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati established a clinic to serve the health needs of the poor in Duran, Ecuador, 30 years ago this month with the willingness of Sisters Charles Miriam Strassel and Barbara Padilla to serve there. Recently S. Tracy Kemme heard from her Facebook friends working in the clinic, Dispensario Elizabeth Seton, asking for materials to use for their celebratory anniversary. As SC Archives and Communications began looking into the early days of the clinic, treasured memories and pictures were discovered.

The story begins with S. Charles Miriam Strassel, who first served as director of the medical dispensary. S. Barbara Padilla arrived a few years later to begin her 10-year ministry there, spending the first three months with S. Charles Miriam, learning her dispensary duties – filling prescriptions, dispensing medical equipment, and talking to parents about using the medications they had received for themselves or their children. During those 10 years S. Barbara learned how to measure and make eye prostheses; collaborated with volunteer doctors to care for patients with oral and facial deformities; and participated in ‘jungle missions’ to distribute eyeglasses and medications. These years were a valued time for S. Barbara.

Sisters gather at the Motherhouse Front Entrance to send S. Barbara Padilla off on mission to Ecuador.

To add to the story S. Tracy worked with the volunteers in Dispensario Elizabeth Seton from 2008-’09. Small world! Enrolled in Rostro de Cristo, an after-college volunteer program, S. Tracy was assigned to the Duran, Ecuador region for one year. This was before she had met, or knew, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

While there S. Tracy was visiting local nonprofits to discern where best to serve. She felt drawn to Dispensario Elizabeth Seton despite no background in health care. She ended up shadowing the child psychologist, doing health care promotion presentations and accompanying people living with HIV/AIDS. S. Tracy shared, “Every day, I walked past a statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, but I knew nothing about her or the origins of the clinic. In November 2008, while ministering at the Dispensario, I sensed for the first time that God might be calling me to religious life. I had one of my strongest ‘Annunciation’ moments while working at the Dispensario one day, when a child asked me out of the blue if I’d ever considered being a Sister.”

It was later that year, as the call intensified, that S. Tracy reached out to S. Janet Gildea to inquire about discernment with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. When S. Tracy moved into Casa de Caridad on the U.S./Mexico border in 2010, she learned for the first time that Dispensario Elizabeth Seton was founded by the SC Community, Sisters from the very congregation she was now considering. Small world indeed! Everything came full circle when S. Tracy returned to Ecuador with S. Janet to visit the clinic where the seeds of S. Tracy’s vocation were planted. Thanks be to God!

S. Barbara Padilla served at Dispensario Elizabeth Seton in Duran, Ecuador, for 10 years.

S. Tracy Kemme volunteered in Dispensario Elizabeth Seton from 2008-’09 through the Rostro de Cristo volunteer program.

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