Just five years ago, Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub was inducted into Modern Healthcare’s Health Care Hall of Fame for her lifelong achievements as a pioneer in the industry. This year, she’ll be celebrating another milestone as a testament to a lifetime of good health; June 28 will mark Sister Mary Maurita’s 100th birthday.

Sengelaub’s journey is filled with contributions to healthcare and accessibility. A career spanning over 60 years started from humble beginnings after graduation in 1940 from St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Nurses were respected, appreciated and trusted for the education they received and the experience that enabled them to give the best of care,” Sengelaub said of her education. Despite what nursing school may have prepared graduates for, her administrative peers quickly took notice of her unique leadership potential as she was elected for multiple roles within the Sisters of Mercy, with whom she took her final vows in 1951.

Sister Mary Maurita will celebrate her 100th birthday on June 28.Sister Mary Maurita will celebrate her 100th birthday on June 28.
In 1970, she became the first woman and first non-cleric to be appointed president of the Catholic Hospital Association (now the Catholic Health Association), where she developed plans to create healthcare systems. While at the CHA, Sengelaub tackled transitioning medical practices through education by co-founding the Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research and Education Center to provide a space for Catholic hospitals as well as other providers to discuss ethical-care issues regarding developing technological advances, such as artificial insemination. Today, the school has been relocated to Philadelphia as the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

After her six-year tenure as president, Sengelaub continued to lead projects outside of the CHA. Some of those memories remain the strongest.

“(I’m most proud of) working with the Sisters of St. John of God in Australia to build a health system for their hospitals that led them to continue to work with other small Catholic hospitals,” Sengelaub said. “And the opportunity to work with other religious communities to create an organization to serve migrant workers and their families (in America).”

Two years of work as interim executive director with Catholic Health Australia resulted in the country’s first established multihospital Catholic healthcare system.

And what once began as the National Migrant Worker Council in 1978 to serve migrant farmworkers on the East Coast soon led to the Migrant Health Promotion project in 1983, known today as MHP Salud. This not-for-profit recruits and trains members of the community from six states to provide healthcare advice and teach at-home birthing practices to local residents who are far from urban care.

Both the Australian health system and migrant organizations remain in operation today, continuing the legacy of Sengelaub’s work.

“What’s important is to be able to live our lives enabling others to live healthy, happy lives—especially the poor,” Sengelaub said.

She currently resides in Farmington Hills, Mich., where she continues to pray for those in need and celebrates what she knows to be the only constant throughout her 100 years: faith. Sengelaub’s advice seems simple when compared to a lifetime of service for the Catholic health community, but it also reminds us that the gifts she has shared both at home and worldwide came from genuine good intention: “Do what you love.”

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