Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Sister Lucia Mao, SC Interviewed by Sister Pat Saul, SC




Interview with Sister Lucia Mao
Interviewer: S. Pat Saul
NOTE TO READER: This interview seems to have been conducted in a restaurant.
The background noises are very loud and make it difficult to
understand at times.

The interviewer began by asking: “How did you get connected with the
Through a Franciscan priest. First I have to start with the fact that I was a
convert. I was baptized in July of 1946. After that I had to leave the city and
come to the South where there was no church, of course. When Spring came
I saw the trees and flowers, I realized that it was time for Easter. So I
thought I had better go to find a church to fulfill my Easter Duties. That’s
where I met a Franciscan priest. He asked me if I would like to go to
Confession. I told him then that this would only be my second confession
since I was baptized. He invited me to come back in the morning and he will
be having Mass here. There would be only a handful of people there. So I
went. When it was time for Communion, I kept on going, but he told me to
wait until I was the last one to receive Communion.....and he gave me five
hosts!!! Later I asked him why he had given me five hosts. He answered that
this was his last Mass, and that he was leaving and he didn’t know when
another priest would be coming... he was a Chinese priest. Then he asked
me what I was doing. I answered that I would be graduating in May, and I
have to get a salary. So, I would like to go to nursing school. He then told
me that he knew somebody in Wuchang, Sister Francis Maria. I asked what
kind of sisters are they? He said that he didn’t know. You see, he was a
refugee from the North also, and he was not familiar with the Sisters.

Interviewer: Did your whole family come with you?
No, not my whole family, just my aunt. You see, my mother was dead by
that time, she had been killed by the Japanese, so I lived with my aunt. So
my aunt, my uncle and my little niece came to the South, just the four of us.
Interviewer: Did they convert to Catholicism, too?
No, I am the only one and my younger brother. We went to Catholic school
but we were not Catholic. The reason why we went to Catholic school was
because, during the Japanese occupation, the Catholic school was the only
decent school there was around there. They decided that they would build a
dispensary. My grandmother had connection with the dispensary. When we
were sick, she always dragged us there to see the Sisters. The Sisters there
were not even nurses, they just dispensed ordinary medicine. They also had
a school. That’s where we went to school, even though we were not Catholic,
but they always had a religion class first, two hours in the morning. They
didn’t ask if we wanted to attend, but we went and that is where I learned
about religion. Then, we asked to be baptized. They wouldn’t want to
baptize me, because I was a girl—in China when girls marry you have to go
with your husband, whatever religion he is--. My brother was younger and
he got baptized because he was a boy. When I was 16 or 17 we had a big
war going on. The Japanese, where we lived, inside the city and the National
Chinese outside the city. I went to the priest and said, you have to baptize
me . He asked why. I said if I get killed by one of those guns, I won’t be
baptized. He said, well, you could have the Baptism of Desire. I said, I know
but I’d like to have the real thing. So, he baptized me. I had no one for my
Sponsor, so he went to the dispensary and asked one of the Sisters. The
Sisters were not supposed to, but that was an emergency . So I got baptized
there. It wasn’t even a feast day.
I told Father, if I don’t get baptized and I die, I’ll come and get you! Later,
Father gave me the address of Sister Francis Maria. So, I thought, I’d better
go and take a look and see if I’d like to go there. If not, I should make
arrangements to go to another school. So, I went just to look. I told them
that I wanted to be a Sister, but first I wanted to be a nurse. I would
become a nurse and then I would go to become a Sister.

They said that they were building a hospital at that time. They suggested
that I reverse, enter first, and then become a nurse later after you become a
Sister, and I agreed. I had not told my aunt or uncle. At the time that I had
left, my aunt had given me enough clothes for two weeks. I didn’t tell them
what I was going to do. So, I decided I wanted to enter, and I did.
I entered in September. In November, the Mother General sent a word for
us. The Professed Sisters, the Novices had to come to the States. But we
who were Postulants did not have to go, we had a choice, stay or come. At
that time there were seven of us and we talked it over. We thought that it
would take about 3 years and by that time we would finish our novitiate and
then we would be back home. And so we decided that we would come.
When we got to Shanghai, we had to wait for Pauline and two other young
ladies who were joining us. They still had to get their passports. While I was
there, I wrote to my aunt and uncle and told them that I had entered instead
of nursing. Then, my uncle wrote me a long letter saying that I didn’t know
what I was doing, didn’t we treat you right? And he said, if you don’t like it
you can come home. We thought at that time, that we wouldn’t be gone not
more than three years, we didn’t think that the war wouldn’t last that long.
But it lasted longer than anybody expected.
You asked about my parents. They are not Catholic. But, one thing, my
father did have a connection at one time. He went to Bejing and he studied
with an order of priests who spoke French. So he spoke French. The priests
came to our little town later, and they did not know how to speak English, I
mean Chinese. When they spoke French, my father would interpret for them.
When people found out that he was not even Catholic they were surprised.
AT THIS POINT THE INTERVIEWER ASKED ABOUT HER FAMILY. don’t want to know, there are a lot. I had one father, three
mothers (she laughs ....there’s a whole bunch of us). My first mother, she had
one boy. The other mother she had one older girl that died. And then the
third wife she had six boys. Right now there are only three of them left.
They are really my half brothers because my mother only had me. My
younger brother and I went to school. Boys went to boys’ school and girls
go to girls’. He was only nine months younger than I am. He is Catholic.

When I went home to Taiwan, his wife saw us going to church, and she said
when you are not here your brother doesn’t go to church. See, they work 6
½ days a week, they only get a half day off on Sunday, so he doesn’t always
feel like going to church.
Not in Taiwan. In the Peoples Republic of China, I don’t know that much
about it. When I went home in 1985, the church was open, but I understand
that they are not under the jurisdiction of the Pope. So, my family won’t take
me to church...I didn’t want to go, but the rest of the Chinese Sisters, they
go. Now I think that Rome does recognize them. In Taiwan there are no
restrictions . In Taiwan I have two brothers, cousins and nieces and
nephews. The reason they are there in Taiwan is because they are all
military people. My cousin in the navy, my brother in the army, my older
brother is with the police, so they went there. They are all having a hard
time right now.
Yes. Mary Pauline and I both made our final vows and most of the time we
worked in Mother Margaret Hall. After we made our final vows we thought
we would spend the rest of our lives there, so we couldn’t go back to China.
At that time, Mother Mary Romana was in office. When we got our Mission
Letters we said you made a mistake that’s not for us...she said, yes, isn’t
you name Lucia? I said yes, but I’m ready to go back to Mother Margaret Hall
for the rest of my life. She said, well, you’d better go look in your letter and
see what is in there . We were missioned to Good Samaritan, Dayton. After
we read our letters we went to see Mother individually. She said to us, it
takes an American girl three years to finish nursing, but now you can take
four years, five years, since you will not be going back to China for a while .
We made it in three years, with a very low score. Psychiatry was the worst
part. We didn’t know the language our mistakes were mostly in multiple
choice, we had to know the language in order to read it. But we made it in
three years and then Mary Pauline and I were missioned out like the rest of

No, we were separated. She went to Kenton and I went to St. Joseph Infant
Home. Later, I went to Trinidad, she went to (noisy, could not understand)
Her specialty was psychiatry. She was so good! She was almost as good as
the doctor.
I would say operating and/or emergency room. That’s where I started in
Trinidad, it was a small hospital. Sister Jeanne Roach was there. She
worked what seemed like 33 hours in a 24 hour day...she did everything, OR,
ER, nursing service and sometimes, she even had to take charge of a floor.
After she left, there was no one for OR so I went there, but I was still on
night duty. I liked it there very much. I like the Emergency Room, I even
like OB. I wasn’t very good with OB, but in Trinidad they had few doctors
and it was not easy to get a doctor during the night. They would claim that
we did not know what we were talking about. When they give me a hard
time, I would say, just go back to sleep, I’ll go deliver my own baby. He
would say, don’t you dare, don’t you dare! and I always managed to get them
One doctor signed the birth certificate and the woman said she would not
pay the bill, because she told the Doctor, you didn’t do anything for my baby,
Sister did!
Yes I like Trinidad, I was there for 7 years. We often laughed when the
people who didn’t have money would pay their bill with chickens, goats. One
day when I was in the emergency room and was told that I did a very good
job. The man came back with 12 eggs and he said that that was not in
payment, it was for me.

We had three tables full...close to 30, but not all in nursing ... Jeanne and
myself... whenever anyone came, they didn’t stay very long so it changed
often... at times we were three nurses, an Administrator and Superior at the
same time. The doctors in Trinidad practiced good medicine, very much up to
date. I was there 7 years, and I liked it.
I became good friends with Sister Jeanne, she worked all the time. Her Dad
came to see her, but she never had time to visit with him. She was in
emergency, OR, ER and every other place. So I visited with him. So after she
left, her Dad still came back to visit me. Her Dad sort of adopted me.
I was there for 8 years. The Japanese killed my mother. They had their own
government in the South. My uncle became the mayor of that town. In
China the mayor is a very big shot. He even had a bodyguard. Many of the
Japanese officials came to see him. Then we saw them too. One of the
Japanese soldiers had received a package from his mother with toys and
other things and he would bring it to our house to give to the kids...that was
OK, but when they got drunk, we all had to hide we didn’t know what they
would do. Other than that they were good. In school part of the schedule
was that we had to learn Japanese two hours a week. We learned a few
words, like “good morning” and “good afternoon”... in between time, we
were taught English.
Because we were not Catholic at time, we were left alone. My grandmother
became a Catholic later. My uncle did not because he did not like to kneel. In
China there was only a bench to kneel on and that was hard to do. But every
feastday like Christmas and Easter, my uncle would always go to church with
us there was much pageantry and he liked that. He often had a big banquet
delivered to the convent for the Sisters. He thought that the Catholic church
saved his life otherwise he would have been shot.

They killed my mother, but even then I wasn’t angry. We were the enemy,
and they had to do what they had to do. Every time the airplanes come, they
bombed us and even then I didn’t feel angry. When my mother died I was 9.
The family had to run away. See where we lived it was in the country and
there were no telephones and we got the news later than others. The
newspapers said that the Japanese were going to be there in like a week or
so. So we had made provisions, we were going to go to a relative’s house in
the mountains because where we lived it was wide open, so we were going
to go. In China, a new mother was not supposed to step out of the house for
a full month. So, my aunt stayed home with the baby so they couldn’t go to
the mountains. My mother and I were running, but there was shooting on
both sides. We were the last ones to leave. My mother got tired and she
said, your aunt is still home, let’s go back home. So we went home and the
Japanese came but they didn’t stay, they kept on marching on a very narrow
road. But the last group stayed in the village. They didn’t stay inside a
house, they were afraid that the Chinese soldiers come and get them, they
stayed outside. But while it was still daylight, they came into the house and
they asked my mother for money or something since she didn’t have any they
hit my mother and she fell. My aunts kept telling my mother to stay down, to
pretend she was dead. But she did not she put me into the bed with my
sister-in-law and the baby, all three of us hid in the bed. So, they finally
killed her. My mother and I were very close. Since I was her only child, I
had never been away from her for even one night, I stayed with her all the
time. Later when it got dark and the Japanese went outside, my aunt gave
me a choice, either I would stay with her or I would go with my father. I
chose to stay with her because my mother and my aunt were good friends, so
I stayed with her, she took care of me all the time.
A little history: when my grandfather was a young man he owned a cigarette
company. (at this point she is explaining a diagram) The Bishop lived here.
The Bishop had money to build a church in the city, our city. So, my
grandfather needed spices for his cigarette stuff from this city, but the
Bishop needed money to send to a place to build a church ( I could not
understand her explanation since I could not see the diagram... I think she
was explaining the relationship between the Bishop and her grandfather)
And so when they came to inspect the church, they always made a call on my
grandfather. The neighbors thought that my grandfather was Catholic
because the hierarchy came to visit but in reality, they came to visit with him
because they had had business together at one time.

No, it didn’t. Some of them spoke Mandarin but there is not that much
difference. Sister Columba and another Sister they were from Hunan, that’s
not too far . Now my dialect is all mixed up. We understood each other. We
didn’t stay together much. Some tried to stay with the American Sisters.
Some of the Sisters that we worked with in Mother Margaret Hall were very
nice, but some were not. Sister Michael Ann was in charge of Mother
Margaret Hall and she was a nurse. She once commented by saying that she
didn’t know how the Chinese Sisters put up with her. We had one Sister who
had an asthma attack real bad , we had to give her a shot of adrenalin. Sister
Michael Ann told Columba to give her a shot. But at that time we had not
had much nurses training and Columba did not know. But I had worked
there before, so I went to take care of her and that protected Columba.
I don’t mind. Yes I would. Most people have been very, very nice to us.
In Nursing School, the worst teacher we ever had was a Sister of Charity.
The best instructor I ever had was a Protestant, a Baptist, she helped me a
lot. There were a lot of nice people. NO, I would not mind doing it all over
again. I’m glad I did it when I did it, but I don’t think I want to start over.
Nobody ever pitied us...saying that we would be homesick and things. Some
times I think that they didn’t think we had any feelings.
When I went back in 1985, I asked my aunt what did she think would have
happened if I hadn’t left. She said I would be like the rest of them, miserable.


I wish they would. Most of the people have people in both parts it was like a
civil war. The Communist would like to have one people.
I think so, yes. Those people are working hard to get where they are. They
are more educated and so forth.
No. I had my nephew who was here 6 years but he had to go back because
he could not get a green card, so he got layed off . But he liked it here. They
had one baby born here. He is an American citizen, his father got him a dual
citizenship. They lived in Studio City in California when they were here.

NOTE: towards the end of the tape, Lucia reiterated some information:

she was baptized in China
she was confirmed in Santa Fe
she was 13 years in all in the West
she was 13 years in Michigan
she liked every mission

Dublin Core


Sister Lucia Mao, SC Interviewed by Sister Pat Saul, SC


Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati; Monasticism and religious orders for women -- Catholic Church -- History; Nursing--United States--History; World War, 1939-1945 -- China


An interview with Sister Lucia Mao by Sister Pat Saul. No date was noted in the transcript and this recording seems to be more of an informal conversation taken while at a restaurant or public setting. Sister Lucia shares the challenges she and her family faced in China during the Japanese occupation in World War II. She also shares about her nursing education and ministry in the United States. This recording is a part of the oral history series housed at the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives.


Mao, Sister Lucia, SC; Saul, Sister Pat, SC


Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives


Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives Oral History Series


Online access is provided for research purposes only. For rights, reproduction, and use requests or more information, please contact the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archivist






Oral History


Sister Lucia Mao, SC Interviewed by Sister Pat Saul, SC



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Saul, Sister Pat, SC


Mao, Sister Lucia, SC


Cincinnati (Ohio); Trinidad (Colo.)

Original Format



1 Hour 1 Minute 40 Seconds


Mao, Sister Lucia, SC; Saul, Sister Pat, SC, “Sister Lucia Mao, SC Interviewed by Sister Pat Saul, SC,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed April 24, 2024,


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