Liz Mach visits NEFL Affiliates, September 17, 2011
As part of the centennial celebration, Northeast Florida Maryknoll Affiliates enjoyed a special gift. Liz Mach came to town and recounted some of her adventures as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner—the longest serving lay missioner in active service. My expectations for the evening were of an ancient little old lady, who might tell us a little about the good old days. Obviously, I hadn’t paid sufficient attention to the pre-visit publicity. Ms. Mach is definitely not in the little-old-lady category and we heard nothing of the old days.
Liz Mach grew up in Minnesota in a large family of eight siblings. After becoming a Registered nurse, she was off to the US Air Force to be a flight nurse. Then she flew in one of their planes, was airsick the entire time and decided this was not to be her chosen profession. Next a Maryknoll priest came to town looking for nurses to go to Africa as lay missioners. Well of course she determined that she could surely survive one enlistment of 2 years and return home to Minnesota to continue her adult life. After a short training schedule she was in Africa. Soon after she arrived she was bending over, lifting up out of mud, 2 newborns and immediately started to care for them. She had found her calling.
Almost thirty-five years later, she is still serving in Africa—in Tanzania. Most of her work has been in health care, which today includes AIDS treatment and prevention and maternal and child health at all levels. Early in her Maryknoll career, Liz was part of a Maryknoll diocese. The diocese is no longer administered by Maryknoll, but by a local African bishop, with whom Ms. Mach works closely to improve conditions for women in Tanzania. She has many stories to tell and I hope more people get to hear some of them before she returns to Tanzania. She has a wonderful smile and a fine way of telling her story.
The shrapnel which she says is still in her body shows that her tour of duty has not been without its hazards. She has a great deal of energy and determination to make a difference. God bless and protect her. We had a gathering of perhaps thirty affiliate members and guests who provided a covered dish dinner for all. Liz answered many questions in a very informative and gracious way. The evening was a pleasure socially, and also as a learning experience in yet another aspect of Maryknoll history and current activities.