March 10, 2014
I was so blessed to be educated at a time where there were many Sisters working in most Catholic schools.
I attended elementary school in East Los Angeles, where my grandparents on both sides raised their families. My school, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was a small school with about 300 students in attendance. Class sizes were larger than now; I remember my class having anywhere from 38-42 students throughout my eight years. The Columban Sisters knew how to keep us in line, though…they were amazing women! I remember the sisters being loving and kind, while still very strict and firm.
The first inkling that the Sisters lived a very different life than we did came in third grade. Sr. Mary Anna was a sister originally from China, and aside from her teaching, she was known for selling candies, usually Now and Laters, from her desk drawer. She donated the proceeds to poor children in other countries. Once a child in my class questioned where the money went to, and said that she must use it to go to the movies or buy herself things. Sr. Mary Anna then told us that all her money went to her convent, and that she never had more than a dollar or so with her. She even took out her wallet and showed us that she barely had 75 cents in her coin purse. We were all astonished, as she shared with us how she left home and hardly saw her family, but even though she missed them, she was happy teaching us and doing what God called her to do.
What an impression that made to 42 third graders! We heard from an early age about these sisters who gave up their families to be with us, and by the time we made it to eighth grade, we were so grateful for their presence with us.
From there, I attended Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello, CA, where the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary taught, and they encouraged me to continue on to a university where their sisters were also very present, at Loyola Marymount University.
I credit the RSHM sisters for recognizing gifts and encouraging us to follow our call. Sr. Catherine Mary encouraged me to sing in the choir, and even had me join her adult choir at her parish when I was a junior in high school. Through her, I realized my love for music had found a home, and have continued singing to this day. Sr. Rapheal saw my writing in class and encouraged me to write for the school paper. I eventually became the editor my senior year. They also not only encouraged me to go to LMU, but when I was accepted, they contacted the sisters there and told them to look out for me! I was welcomed by the sisters my very first day! For a shy girl who had never been away from home, and the first to go away to college, this was a wonderful comfort.
After graduating from LMU, I returned to my home parish in East LA, and was hired by Sr. Maura Ryan, my former principal when I was a student, to teach at the school. In addition, I became involved in parish ministry and worked side by side with Sister Maura, who also directed liturgy for the parish and Sister Teresa, who taught me the ropes of RCIA. I ended up taking Sr. Teresa’s place when she decided to retire and move back to Ireland for her remaining time on earth.
Working in parish ministry has given me the opportunity to meet even more sisters and get to know them on a personal level. Hearing their stories and seeing how they respond to God’s call in their daily lives has been life-giving to me, especially in my own chosen profession. I have been so blessed, as their influence has made a difference in my life, as I am sure in the lives of many of us.
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