Nominated by the U.S. Embassy in the Holy See, Sister Maria Elena Berini was born on December 9, 1944 in Sondrio, Italy. When she was 15, she dropped out of school to work in a textile factory to help her father support their family of six. There, she discovered firsthand the difficult working conditions for laborers, as well as a strong sense of worker solidarity. Out of a deep commitment to service, at the age of 19, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Anthide Thouret. From 1963 to 1969 she undertook religious, biblical, theological, and teacher training. She became a children’s teacher, but felt a calling to go to Africa. In 1972, she went to Chad where she discovered a love for the people, their traditions, culture, language, and religion. She also witnessed war, hate, injustice, and “indescribable horrors.” She continued her work in rural “bush” schools until 2007, when her congregation sent her to the Central African Republic (CAR). Sister Maria Elena has been working at the Catholic mission in Bocaranga, CAR since then and lived through the war in 2013 and 2014. Most recently, in February and September 2017, the rebel movement “TROIS R” attacked Bocaranga. Thousands of internally displaced people fled their homes and sought shelter at Sister Maria Elena’s mission, where they were welcomed and given refuge. Sister Maria Elena remains hopeful that peace in the CAR is possible.