Health and wellnessCare for the sick and dying was crucial for the early community both in France and in America. Hospitals were few and medical care was rudimentary at best. When typhoid or smallpox struck, as it did in Ottumwa in the 1880s, religious women such as the CHMs, sprang into action.

They visited the sick in their homes, walked the railroad begging money for medicine; comforted the dying until their last breath. They were the first wave of home health care workers, bringing such common sense practices as boiling water and washing hands.


St. Joseph Hospital in Ottumwa was the Humility community’s full-service hospital and was renowned both for its medical care and for its nursing program. Later, Marycrest College helped pioneer the 4-year nursing degree, graduating thousands of certificated nurses and medical professionals to serve a multi-state region.

Institutional ConnecionsToday, facilitating the health and well being of persons of all ages is central to the mission of many Sisters of Humility:

  • Medical technologist Sr. Marie Vittetoe has a special commitment to Hospital Sacre Coeur in Haiti. She supervises the training of technicians in a medical lab built from equipment she transported from the biology department of now-closed Marycrest College.
  • Srs. Sue Sellers and Lillian Stevens, provide care, comfort and a smile to the CHM retired residents at Bishop Drumm Care Center in Des Moines.
  • Sr. Elizabeth Thoman, an artist and cancer survivor created Healing Petals Photography, a ministry to promote prayer and healing through images of Creation.


Wellness is more than the absence of disease; it empowers individuals to take charge of their psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being. CHMs are massage therapists, 12-step counselors and nutrition advisors. To keep their own life in balance, they participate in yoga, Tai Chi, gardening, music and a variety of fitness activities from swimming to biking to power walking. Among their number are:

  • Sr. Lynn Mousel, MD – a child psychiatrist with a special gift for working with abused and neglected children, children of substance-addicted parents and those affected by domestic violence.
  • Sr. Marilyn Berger, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist working with developmentally disabled adults.
  • Sr. Mary Penelope Wink, psychotherapist and pastoral counselor who works among the poor in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico.