Religious Sisters of Mercy fill important diocesan positions

Office of Christian Formation, St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic ministries receive assistance from new Alma Sisters

By Jim Wogan

Bishop Richard. F. Stika has appointed three members of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., to serve key positions in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Sister Mary Lisa Renfer, RSM, DO, is the new medical director of the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic. Sister Mary Lisa succeeds Sister Mariana Koonce, RSM, MD, who was the clinic’s medical director since its founding by the bishop in 2013. The clinic first began seeing patients in January 2014.

Sister Mariana recently was assigned to a new academic program at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

Sister Mary Lisa started her work with the clinic in July and has traveled to all six of the communities in East Tennessee where the clinic visits on a regular basis.

“I am very excited to be here. It has been nice to meet all of our volunteers and to get to know our patients,” she said. “East Tennessee is a great community, and I see this as a huge privilege working for the mobile clinic.”

Sister Mary Lisa is a Michigan native who studied at Franciscan University in Ohio before receiving a degree from Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Prior to her arrival in Tennessee, she served a residency and taught at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City, Iowa.

“I think the St. Mary’s clinic is an amazing facility, and it has a great mission,” she added. “I hope to build on the foundation of what was established here and continue to provide good care for our patients.”

Sister Maria Juan Anderson, RSM, is the new director of Christian Formation for the Diocese of Knoxville. She replaces Sister Anna Marie McGuan, who served in that position for four years and who has been assigned to a teaching position in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sister Maria Juan is a native of Idaho and has been a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy since 2012. She is scheduled to make her final vows in August 2021.

“I have very positive early impressions of the Diocese of Knoxville,” she said. “I have met many parishioners who really are on fire for the faith. The Church here might seem small in number, but it has a great degree of faith.”

Prior to coming to Knoxville, Sister Maria Juan was on academic assignment in Washington, D.C., studying for her licensure in philosophy.

“I really am excited to work with all of the people in the parishes of this diocese who are committed to catechizing the faithful, but also reaching out to those who do not know the Lord yet,” she said. “My goal is to support them, but also to provide faith formation as well because we all need to be fed by the Lord in order to feed others.”

Sister Maria Juan also has accepted an invitation to participate in a project started by Sister Anna Marie before her departure in July. The podcast Scripture and the Spiritual Life was created by Sister Anna Marie in 2019 and has grown in popularity since then. She will continue to host her segments from Edinburgh, with Sister Maria Juan joining her from Knoxville. The first episode was recently posted to the Diocese of Knoxville’s podcast platform, which can be found at dioknox.org.

Sister Maria Juan arrived in Knoxville in July along with Sister Joan Miriam Nelson, who is in the second year of her novitiate with the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Joan Miriam is volunteering as an administrative assistant with the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic and has a degree in human sciences from Oklahoma State University. She is scheduled to make her first vows with the Religious Sisters of Mercy next summer in Alma.

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