Board Members

Kim Pham

Kim Pham, founder and elected President of the Samaritan House, a 501 (C) (3) nonprofit organization, was born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam. After the American troops left Vietnam in 1973, the North Vietnamese took over following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Kim was imprisoned in a Vietnamese concentration camp and his only “crimes” were that he was born into an educated family, that his father was a Medical Doctor, and he was Catholic who wore glasses, a sign that the person is an intellectual. Kim was forced to do hard labor and suffered significant physical and mental strain during his time in concentration camp.

Kim was finally released following negotiations and payments from his wife family and of Chinese descent. After many failed escape attempts, he was able to travel by small precarious fishing boat to Hong Kong in a heralding series of dangerous travel scenarios. While in Hong Kong, Kim was able to get his feet on the ground and he arranged to move to Canada where he was able to complete his education and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. He started his career and family after a successful profession in engineering. He was approached by his wife family to open a food distribution company to supply produce, seafood, and meat for their chain of Asian restaurants in the US. He made a move to St. Louis to operate and head the distribution business.

After several very successful, yet extremely hard-working years in this capacity, Kim felt a calling to get closer to God; he sold his business and he earned a post graduate degree in Spiritual Direction at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Kim is now an “Ignatian spiritual director” with an active client base and serves as spiritual director at St. Anselm’s Catholic Church, which is attached to a Benedictine’s Abbey. He also serves as co-leader of the Ignatian Men’s Prayer Group for the parish. Kim is also involved in Christian Life Community – USA and is the National Coordinating Council (Regional Chairperson) for the Missouri Region. He is also a member of the CLC-USA Formation team.

Christian Life Community (CLC) is an international association of lay Christians who have adopted an Ignatian model of spiritual life and is based in Rome. The Community is present in almost 60 countries and receives spiritual guidance from the Jesuits, with our top Ecclesiast Assistant is Fr. Arturo Sosa S. J.

Carlos Saenz

Carlos Saenz retired at the end of 2021, as Vice President of Business Development for Mercy. Currently, he assumed a part time job handling executive recruiting duties for Mercy. He is a respected and well known healthcare business development executive and has been successful as an individual contributor and as a creator and leader of major healthcare business development teams.  

Carlos brings experience in senior marketing and business development strategy in multiple segments of healthcare products, consulting, and contract management services,  He has served all facets of today’s healthcare markets including C Suite sales to Physicians, Hospitals, University Health Systems,  Integrated Delivery Systems, Group Purchasing and National Accounts, Corporate Account Management, Managed Care, Senior Living and International Clients.

In addition, Carlos’s experience comes from serving major organizations such as Mercy Health, Abbott Laboratories, McKesson, ARAMARK, Sodexo and EmCare. During his career he has been directly responsible for the close and delivery of multiple multi-million and multi-billion contractual agreements. Due to his deep understanding of the needs and expectations and requirements of the multiple segments of healthcare, Carlos has developed innovative solutions that drive the close of the complex sales process.

Carlos holds a BBA in Marketing Degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and MBA studies at The University of Texas at Arlington. Carlos is certified as a Professional in the Academy of Healthcare Management by the American Association of Health Plans and has been awarded numerous President’s Club, Chairman Awards and was the recipient of the prestigious Neal Harlan Award for his Humanitarian accomplishments. Currently, he serves on the advisory board for the Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Vice President of the board of directors for Good Shepherd Children and Family Services. He is an active and lifelong member of the St. Louis Executive Connections organization supporting senior executives with networking support while they are in career transition. Carlos is very active in Catholic Men for Christ and other church activities at St. Anselm Catholic Church.

He is married to Becky and has two children, a stepson and two grandchildren. Carlos enjoys the outdoors including snow skiing, flyfishing, travel and woodworking, and time with his family.

Sister Claudia S. Ward, RSM

Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany

Education: Bachelor’s in education from Southwest Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, 1981; master’s degree in mathematics education from Southwest Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, 1984; certificated in Education Administration, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2000.

Service in the St. Louis Archdiocese: Assistant Principal, Bishop Healy School in St. Louis, 1994-1996; Specialist, education and organizational development, Mercy Hospital – St. Louis, 2010-2012; specialist, education and organizational development, Mercy Health, 2012-2014; specialist, talent development and optimization, Mercy Health, 2014-2017; clinical quality and patient safety lead, Mercy Health, 2017-2019, Program Manager, Health Leads 2019 – present.

Service outside the St. Louis Archdiocese: Assistant Principal at St. Alphonsus Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, Principal at St. John’s Elementary School in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas.

About Sister Claudia: Sister Claudia Silke Ward, a native of Germany, has been in the United States since 1973. Her early years in the U.S. involved extensive travel across the country due to her father’s military career. This experience of a deep appreciation and love for other cultures became core to Sr. Claudia’s quest to be about advocacy, direct service and love for peoples of the world.  Through her educational pursuits, she was drawn to delve into multiple aspects of mathematics, technology, religious studies and history.  Diversity in all of its forms has become central to Sr. Claudia’s involvement in ministry, community service in governance for both education and healthcare entities, and dedicated service with women’s issues, racism and other Critical Concerns.  For enjoyment, Sr. Claudia – in the spirit of her dear Mom – cherishes time in gardening, and she has worked tirelessly on efforts involving creation, physical fitness, cycling and hiking.  Above all, Sr. Claudia is passionate about her vocational call to the Sisters of Mercy and the rich heritage and legacy shared among her Community.  Her commitment to personal prayer and service to those most in need has found her volunteering when possible and embarking on providing opportunities to include others in a deeper appreciation for the legacy of Mercy by providing opportunities to visit Dublin and the founding House of Mercy.  Sister’s deep sense of joy about the blessings of each day give witness to her heartfelt gratitude for the privilege to be a Sister of Mercy and her vibrancy in sharing those gifts with others.

Sister Elizabeth Bui-Thi-Nghia, RSM

Sister Elizabeth was born in North Viet-Nam.  The seventh child of a family of nine children, she grew up in a loving Catholic family and her parents were leaders of the local church & village where they lived and were very devout Catholics.  As a child, she was brought up to believe in God, to be good to each other, respect senior citizens, and help to those who are less fortunate.

The war in Viet-Nam caused extreme distress for the entire population, especially for her own family, who was forced to flee to the South from North Viet-Nam, when she was only nine years of age.  Her father was a high-ranking military officer and in danger from the Communists.  The family lost everything in this journey, yet her parents never gave up and worked twice as hard to provide a good education for her and her siblings. As she grew up, she went to a boarding school operated by the Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross (LHC), which has helped her made the decision to become a nun, she then took her final vows in 1969.   

When Saigon fell and the American military left in 1975, the suffering of the Vietnamese people was horrendous.  As the tragedy continues, family members got separated with two brothers ended up in concentration camps while three of her other brothers successfully escaped to the US. Their family suffered greatly as wives and children were left alone to fend for themselves as part of these difficulties.  Sister Elizabeth had to flee herself as well, as it was too dangerous if she stayed.  Thanks to the arrangement of her parents and her mother superior, she escaped on a small fishing boat  with 31 other people.  The boat was chased and fired upon, yet no one was injured but during the chaotic shooting event, the boat captain lost the navigation system by accidentally dropped it into the water.  They aimlessly wandered into the open sea without any sort of navigation system and had enough food and water for only five days.  On day 10, already suffering from seasickness and starvation, she fervently prayed every minute for the safety of her fellow passengers and herself. Then large cargo ships from Russia passed them by, yet they were on their way to Vietnam and completely ignored them. Finally on the 12th day at sea, another ship appeared, they desperately waived or asked for help, but the ship kept on sailing away.  Out of desperation, an older Buddhist man asked Sister Elizabeth to put on her nun’s habit and to stand high at the head of the little fishing boat.  The captain of the ship called the “Hai-Lee” saw a nun in her habit and decided to turn the ship around to pick them up at sea as refugees.  The captain was a Catholic man and revealed later that he had a brother as a priest and a sister as a nun.  At the time they were rescued, she felt God’s presence and that she belonged to God.  God showed mercy to all of them and at that moment she vowed again to serve God  with all her ability for the rest of her life. 

On September 24, 1976, Sr Elizabeth landed into Australia. She resettled and learned English in her new country and furthered her Education with a master’s degree in social services and a post- graduate degree in Family Counselling (1986-1992).  During that time, she was recognized in 1984 by Australian Prime Minister Robert James Lee Hawke with the Medal of the Order of Australia, the highest civilian medal of honor.  The Government of South Australia also appointed her as a member of the Ethnic Affair Commissioner for a 6-year term. By 1989, Sr Elizabeth officially joined The Sisters Of Mercy of South Australia and together with many good Australians and Vietnamese people, she established the Indochinese Australian Women’s Association Inc. to support the fellowship of Vietnamese Refugees. She became the first president and welfare director of this organization for over 20 years.  She was also a founding member for Vietnamese Ethnic school in South Australia for Vietnamese Refugee children to help them to keep their own mother tongue. At the beginning, the student population was blessed with a humble and meek twenty-three souls. But it grew exponentially and now the school has almost two thousand students. In addition, Sister Elizabeth has been blessed with two audiences in 1984 and 1986 with Pope John Paul II, in recognition for her amazing leadership and achievements.  She also been blessed with face-to-face encounters with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Rome, a privilege that she can only dream of. She thought that it only happened with God’s Merciful Love, for He always journeys with suffering people.

Sr Elizabeth came to the US and studied at Loyola University in Chicago from 2003 to 2005 to prepare for her new ministry as chaplain.

From 2006 to present, she served as chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MO, where she still delivers spiritual care, journeys with suffering people, provides God’s loving care to those who are terminally ill. She believes that God is participating fully in her human condition and struggles, for God is continually being incarnated in every situation in her daily life and makes her ministry humbler and more meaningful. 

Sister Elizabeth now also serves on the Samaritan House’s Board of Directors. A 501c3 charity organization dedicated to support the ministry of the Sisters of the Lovers of the Holy Cross and other religious orders providing healthcare and education to the poor and indigenous mountain villagers in Viet-Nam.