SISTER TERESA CHANG
From the Yangtze to the Ohio
Sister Teresa Chang is seated in front of me, exuding a quiet dignity. The 92-year old tiny woman – she has never weighed more than 90 pounds -- has lived a long life of mettle as a nurse and a nun, both in China and the United States.
Veering from her family’s pagan traditions, she entered the convent in 1940, tirelessly active in her calling as a nurse. In 1948 during the Communist takeover of her homeland, she and her fellow sisters were directed to flee China and re-establish themselves with the Sisters of Charity in Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio.
After years of hard work, she now spends her restful, prayerful, and grateful days in Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing care facility. “I thank God for all that has happened to me,” she says.
The last twenty-two years since retiring have given Sister Teresa ample time to pray and rest, though she confesses that she greatly misses working. “I am happy to be a Catholic and have been so fulfilled by my mission to serve the people of God,” she adds.
After years of being cut off from her family, in 1988 she miraculously made contact with her brother’s son in China. She did not write her nephew that she had joined a convent, concerned that her non-Christian family would not understand about the Catholic Church, but did tell him about other aspects of her life. Her nephew wrote back with details about Teresa’s grandmother, mother, brothers, and sister, many of whom had died.
After receiving the letter, Teresa says she thought a lot about her mother’s love and felt guilty that she had run away from her old home and culture to choose a different path. Yet she feels strongly that “God called me for some reason” and feels good about her ministry as a nurse. “I have taken care of so many sick people,” she says, “and have helped the dying on their last journey to their eternal home.”
From her nephew she learned that her sister was still alive. Teresa wrote her to tell her how she had entered the convent and had come to America. When her sister responded, Teresa was overjoyed. “I never thought I would ever have news about my family,” she says. “For forty years I have prayed to find them, and now my prayers are finally answered.” In 1991 she returned to China and reunited with her sister, who has since died.
Teresa now marks 68 years as a sister. Her religious prayer life is crucial to her. “As sisters, we pray individually and in community that our lives may be a fruitful response to the Word,” she expresses. “In prayer we both nourish each other and are nourished by the liturgical life of the Church.”
Though she now tires easily, has eye and teeth problems, has had a hip replacement, and now endures slowed mobility, her memory is sharp as she details the events and names all the people she has known through the years.
Thinking only of others, she says her thoughts often go to her family and to all the people of China who have suffered so much. She prays for them to have an easier life now.
Teresa says her earthly journey is not yet over. “With God’s help I will persevere the rest of the way,” Teresa notes, “until I reach my eternal home and will be reunited with my dear family.”