Story and photos by Dave Eck
People don’t always know what God has in store, but His plan for Our Lady of Kilimanjaro Sister M. Daria Mushi seems to have worked out perfectly. After a decade-long journey that saw her earn a bachelor’s degree and complete medical school, Sister M. Daria this summer returned to her native country to start a year-long medical internship at a hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania.
Within a year, Sister M. Daria will begin treating the poor in her homeland, carrying out the mission of the Sisters of the Precious Blood and Precious Blood Missionary Father Bill O’Donnell. It is through Missionary of the Precious Blood Father Bill O’Donnell and the CPPS Sisters, that God made possible Sister M. Daria’s journey from college and medical school in the United States and back to Tanzania East Africa.
It’s a story of love, drive and compassion. It’s also an ending Sister M. Daria never expected for herself.
She came to the United States in 2001 at the request of her community to study and become a science teacher in Tanzania. In her heart, however, she wanted to return home as a doctor to heal and comfort the poor in her region, particularly women and children. It took years of prayer, study and determination, but Sister M. Daria was able to follow her dream.
Her odyssey began when she and another Our Lady of Kilimanjaro Sister arrived in Steubenville, Ohio, to study, but after one semester they were out of money and didn’t have a scholarship. They were considering going back to Tanzania when they met Precious Blood Sister Eileen Monnin (M. Emerentia) and spent Christmas 2001 with the Sisters in Dayton for the first time. Sister Florentine Gregory heard about these two nuns and contacted Missionary of the Precious Blood Father Bill, then-pastor of Precious Blood Parish, to see if he could help them.
It was the beginning of Sister Daria’s journey.
Father O’Donnell encouraged them to leave Steubenville and took them to study in Rensselaer, Indiana. Father O’Donnell and Precious Blood Sister Patricia Dieringer (M. Agnes Claire) took them to Indiana in January 2002 and got them registered for classes, purchased school supplies helped furnish their apartment.
After a semester they transferred to the University of Dayton. Father O’Donnell found a sponsor in the Mathile Foundation, which covered Sister M. Daria’s tuition for her undergraduate and medical school studies. Her fellow Sister eventually transferred again, finished her degree and returned home. Sister M. Daria, meanwhile, struggled to learn English, write class papers and make it through the various elective courses at University of Dayton. She also received permission from her order to become a doctor.
Through it all, the Sisters of the Precious Blood were right with her.
“There were a lot of changes. I knew very little English from high school,” Sister M. Daria said. “The Sisters really helped me. I started reading books and understanding.”
After graduating from UD with a bachelor’s she tried to get into medical school in the United States, but the competition was too keen. She ended up attending medical school at St. Eustatius in the Caribbean, passed her boards and completed her clinical training at the American Global School of Medicine in Belize. She was awarded her medical degree during a private graduation at Salem Heights on June 8, 2012.
During the rigors of medical school, she found inspiration and care in Precious Blood Sisters and Father O’Donnell. A room at Salem Heights was always available to her for refuge and breaks. In times of crisis, self-doubt and visa problems, the Sisters were by her side. Precious Blood parishioners prayed for her and sent her letters of encouragement. The Sisters and others maintained contact with Sister Daria.
“It was extremely, extremely love beyond,” Sister Daria said. “There is no way I could have become a doctor without their support.”
Sister Daria left the United States in June and began her internship August 15. After a year, she will earn a license to practice in Tanzania. It will also enable her to network with other doctors.
“Physicians in Tanzania are very intelligent by their own means because they learn from each other and they don’t have the facilities we have here,” Sister Daria said. “We do things together. We share knowledge and that’s our library. That’s how we work.”
Sister Daria will minister to the poor and needy patients in the region, treating such maladies as malnutrition, dehydration and malaria and HIV. A key element of treatment, she said, will be educating patients on their conditions and how to take care of themselves in case they are not able to return to the hospital for follow up visits.
To improve the care she can give, Sister Daria is working with MedWish, a non-profit organization in Cleveland that repurposes medical equipment discarded by hospitals and redistributes them in developing countries. Precious Blood Parish paid the $5,000 cost to ship the first container of medical equipment. Sister Daria will use the equipment to furnish a clinic for her order. She has more equipment from MedWish and is raising money to pay for a second shipment.
With her resources, contacts in the United States and the Sisters of the Precious Blood, she sees God working through her to reach others less fortunate.
“I’m going to just try my level best to work with God,” Sister Daria said. “I’ll say ‘God, I just want you to touch people today through me.’ I’m going to try my level best to meet these people and show them God. I’m thinking I will be able to make people happy.”
One of six children, Sister Daria was still a teenager when she first entered Our Lady of Kilimanjaro Sisters and discerned for nearly a decade before making her final profession. The last decade has helped her understand her call to religious life.
“Today I’m 100 percent sure this is where God wants me,” she said. “If I didn’t become a Sister, I could never have been in the United States. I could have never become a doctor. I could have never done all this.”