In 1920 Mother Mary Cleophas Foley made the decision to send six Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., on mission to China at the request of Bishop Joseph Tacconi. The Sisters of Providence were the first congregation of American women religious to send missionaries to China. Sister Marie Gratia Luking led this group of sisters to Kaifeng, China, to open an elementary school and a junior middle school for girls. The other sisters that were a part of this first band of missionaries were: Sisters Marie Patricia Shortall, Winifred Patrice Oâ€™Donavan, Eugene Marie Howard, Mary Elise Renauldt and Clare Mitchell.
The sisters arrived at Kaifeng, China, in the afternoon of Nov. 24, 1920. The sisters were in China only a few months when Sister Mary Elise died. She contracted smallpox from the patients she was treating and died April 21, 1921.