Sister Justine Nutz: Helping Children in Vietnam

Sister Justine Nutz

During the Vietnam War, Sister Justine Nutz helped care for hundreds of babies and young children in Vietnam. Read about Sister Justine’s time in Vietname and her flight home back to the US:

“In 1974 I had the privilege of working in Saigon(Ho Chi Minh City) in a large Connecticut-based orphanage, Friends for All Children. When St. Theresa’s School in Trumbull Ct. sponsored a fundraiser, I learned that the orphanage was short-staffed.

I called the Provincial House and Provincial Councilor Sister Barbara Dewey answered. When she heard about my desire to work in South Vietnam, she said, “Dear, don’t you know there’s a war going on over there?” I answered, “Yes, but don’t worry. I’ll be careful.” And she answered, “Well, I guess it will be all right.”

A very short but sincere discernment!

Fortified with typhus, tetanus, yellow fever and bubonic plague vaccinations, I worked among 400 infants and children to age 6, native lay staff, the German Red Cross, Australian Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Loretto from Kentucky. After a bombing we would go into the villages to find infants and children whose parents were killed. We would name the infants with saints’ names; Thomas More, Thomas Aquinas, Theresa Avila, Catherine Siena.

Each week, 30-40 of these children, 5 at a time, would be escorted by a staff person to their new homes in England, France, Germany, and the US. Sometimes prospective parents said they would take a crippled or blind child, because God had already given them several healthy children. Air France paid all travel expenses of this Operation Babylift.

Sister Justine in Vietnam

In August of 1974 I brought 5 infants ages 6-10 months, back to JFK airport with me. Together we spent 33 hours en route, changing planes in Paris, and changing scores of diapers while keeping the babies hydrated. No one helped me change diapers, but some passengers would hold the bottles and play with the babies. The adoptive parents from Canada, New Jersey, Long Island, and Pennsylvania were eagerly waiting for me to give them their new son or daughter, and some kept in touch for years.

Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of taking children out of their native land, but war is hell. I will always be grateful for the memory of my time in Saigon among the beautiful and courageous Vietnamese people.”

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