While doing some research on our sisters’ ministry in Peru, we found some information about Sister Edith Mary Selik, from Millvale, Pennsylvania who served in Peru and died in the massive earthquake of 1970 that claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people and left 800,000 more without homes.

Sister Edith Mary had been a Sister of St. Francis in Millvale for 30 years and was working as a nurse anesthetist at Presbyterian-University Hospital when the Diocese of Pittsburgh put out a call for nurses to minister at its mission in Peru. Sister Edith Mary received permission to her request to minister in Chimbote, 200 miles from Lima. At age 53, she joined several Dominican sisters already ministering at a clinic in the city.

Conditions in Chimbote were primitive. Food and water were often scarce and thousands lived in straw huts; however, Edith Mary embraced her work at the clinic, saying that she would remain in Peru “As long as I am needed and hope that will be as long as I live.”

Just 18 months after she arrived, a massive earthquake shook Peru. Sister Edith Mary had joined with a group of sisters for a day of recollection and prayer. According to reports, they had just finished the Franciscan Crown when the first tremors hit; S. Edith Mary stayed to help one of the older sisters down the stairs of the house; they both died.

In 2012, Sister Cristina Florez wrote that she had found Sister Edith Mary’s grave. She is buried in The Angel Cemetery, Lima, Peru.

Photo: S. Edith Mary Selik