Sister Betty Mullane

May 6, 2024

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Responding to the needs of persons who are poor and in need of medical care has been the major focus of Sister Betty Mullane’s life. Like most Sisters in the 1950s, her first ministry was teaching in elementary Schools. However, her true desire was to become a nurse. After six years as a teacher in various parish schools, her hopes were realized and since she had already earned a BS degree, she was sent to the BOCES program for her LPN.

Once she had this, she cared for sisters who were retired and ill at St. Joseph Convent and in 1968 she became part of the first nursing staff at Maria Regina Convent. She also earned her RN from Molloy College.

Sister Betty’s commitment to people who were dealing with poverty and illness began as a summer volunteer with the Dominican Sisters of the sick poor who worked with many patients who were so poor and uninformed, they lived in cars or other makeshift shelters without running water and were unaware of available services. Some were migrants with lung disease from the dust of sorting potatoes on the LI potato farms, or from injuries due to poor working conditions. It was among them that S. Betty learned of oppressive systems and medical issues afflicted those in poverty and how to find services available to them.

After completing her RN, S. Betty worked with the Brooklyn Visiting Nurse Services and then with the Nursing Sisters of the Sick poor in Bedford Stuyvesant,

Brownsville, East New York.  At the Agency Betty had her skills broadened to cover supervising Home Health Aides, Physical Therapists, and Social workers. Eventually she became the Coordinator of the consolidation of the three Brooklyn offices.

In 1979 she was one of four CSJ who founded Providence House to serve and advocate for women and children who were homeless, abused or

involved in the criminal justice system and provide a transition to stability. There she also met some women and children with AIDS.

In 1988 the Board of Directors of St Vincent Services, a foster care agency asked the Director to do something in response to the AIDS crisis. S. Betty was asked to design the program. This included identifying and training foster parents in the medical and emotional needs of dying children. The program was named Positive Caring. Very quickly services were needed for the siblings, the dying parents and those who in the end were grieving. Support groups and bereavement sessions were developed; planning with mothers identified parents who would adopt the surviving children and activities to provide memories of  happy, shared times with mother, siblings and adoptive parents were undertaken.

Because of the life style of birth parents many were disenfranchised from their family, their church, it became necessary forSt Vincents to provide appropriate Services and burials and so S Betty conducted the funerals. As treatments evolved Children were being denied access to funding for needed treatment, S Betty spearheaded the effort to provide funding and all children in NYS were given access to needed AIDS medication.

Bereavement counseling was a major component of working with AIDS patients yet there was little or notraining in bereavement counseling in master program curriculum.

Betty worked with NYU School of Social Work in planning and executing their post –Masters certification in End-of-Life Care. She also lectured on Spirituality and Children School of Social Work NYU. S Bettylectured at many HIV conferences throughout the United States on issues affecting Families touched by HIV.  In 2001 She was the pediatric expert accompanying SW Team to Namibia S. Africa to assess the needs of Orphan of AIDS and made recommendation to the Government regarding the care of these children.

In 2004/5 she assisted Doctors of the World training on Orphan of AIDS in Russia toDoctors, Nurses, Administrators and Social Workers from Russia.

After twenty-two years at SVS, in 2010 S Betty was asked to go to Stella Maris Convent which had been established as an assisted living residence to provide for the medical needs of our retired and ill sisters.

As the years past and all advanced in age, services were expanded to include many professional staff personnel to add to the quality of life of the sisters.

Volunteers who were kind and helpful in assisting Sisters dealing with aging, diminished abilities and illness. Their presence  was unfortunately impacted by the Covid pandemic and volunteers became fewer.
 It is her hope now that people once again be willing to help others and reach out with kindness, understanding and compassion. Her own life has been a testimony to this.

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