A busy 100 years for Sister Paulina

By Megan Marley

Sister Marie Pauline de Ste. Hélène, lsp

In the year 1918, the signing of the Armistice of Compiegne effectively ended World War I; locally, a committee headed by J.C. Nichols and Robert A. Long formed to create a memorial for those lost in the war.

In 1918, the ‘Spanish flu’, some of its first recorded cases being at Fort Riley in central Kansas, infected over 500 million (nearly one-third of the world’s population at the time) and killed an estimated 50 million worldwide.

In 1918, Tzar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, as communism rose in Russia.

And in 1918, almost at the end of that year, Ana Felisa Medina (now Sister Marie Pauline de Ste. Hélène, lsp) was born December 30 in Medellín, Colombia.

Sister Pauline celebrated her 100th birthday on December 30, 2018 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Center. The day featured Mass celebrated by Fr. Andrés Moreno, a lunch party, musical entertainment and traditional Colombian dance in honor of the centenarian sister. Over 60 residents, family and friends were in attendance—including family from Florida, Topeka and even her homeland of Columbia.

Born to a family of 10 children, Sister Pauline took her first vows with the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 6, 1940 and later that month left her beloved homeland to serve in the United States for the next 78 years.

She first went to Toledo, Ohio to minister to elderly persons, then to Indianapolis, Ind. and Grand Rapids, Mich., working in the kitchen. After being in the Queens, New York novitiate during 1944, she served thousands of elderly persons doing laundry, cleaning and reception desk work in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh until 1964. She then spent the next 13 years as a collecting sister amid the hubbub of New Orleans, and then in Evansville, Illinois for five years. From 1982-1989, she primarily led arts and crafts projects with the residents in San Francisco, where she received permission from both the NFL and MLB to use team logos in her handiwork, making several sports team afghans and scarves. In 1989 she moved to the newly-opened house in Kansas City to do arts and crafts and has been here ever since.

Noted for her humor and persistent spirit, Sister Pauline has touched the lives of many.

Her Colombian nephew, Luis Alfonso Medina, and great-niece, Maria José Medina, said she has always been very devoted to the community and service to others.

“She is very happy and smiles all the time…she is funny, and very generous…but she’s also very strict—things have to be done just so,” Luis said, translated by Maria.

“I am very happy and proud because she is a religious, and not everyone gets to reach 100 years.”

Sister Michael Teresa, lsp, a collections sister in Kansas City, has known Sister Paulina since she entered the order in 1986 in San Francisco.

“Her creativity and ability to work with her hands is amazing! When she was younger, she did collecting, and later arts and crafts—she had a huge craft room for 20, 30 people helping,” she said. Sister Michael Teresa also said that even now, the sisters in Kansas City use a Nativity set hand-painted by her at Christmastime.

So, what’s the secret to living 100 years?

“What difference does it make?” Sister Paulina said. “Only God knows.”

“Take one day at a time; yesterday is gone, today is here—we may never see it again. Just one day at a time through Jesus, that’s all I ask of you.”


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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph