Franciscan Sister Pat Forster serves as a missionary in San Rafael in Galeana, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. In July 1961, she attended a retreat led by the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls and learned about world mission. She said: “It was energizing and full of invitation to serve those most in need. My parents were also missionaries, serving the sisters in their needs in Alexandria, Minn., and offering hospitality to an unwed mother. We were a Catholic family with concern for others. We prayed the rosary for vocations three times a week.”
Who or what inspired you to start doing missionary work?
The Franciscan Sisters Congregation responded positively in sending sisters to Peru in 1962. This was a response to the papal plea (1959) of assisting the poor globally but especially, in Latin and South America.
Tell us a story about how a person in your mission experience has made a difference in your faith journey.
Ruperta, in the high Sierra Madre Mountains of the San Rafael parish, is a woman in serious and constant poverty. Ruperta always carries a smile, is always present for faith and church gatherings and is always ready to help the other. Ruperta walks, talks, helps and looks us in the eye with simple faith. She has no resources, but, yes, she has hope for tomorrow. Ruperta asked for help getting water in Pinal Alto and a visitor responded by sending the needed $500.
What have you learned from the people you work with or serve? What do you believe they have learned from you?
Jose de la Cruz also made a difference when we built a “Franciscan House” in San Rafael. Without his constant presence and advice, the house would not have moved forward. Many decisions relied on his wisdom and research. It would have been impossible for me alone as administrator of the construction. We sisters worked with each other, but we did not have Jose’s expertise.
There is no end to the people in parishes who have left me grateful, teary eyed and astounded with their prayers, support and financial assistance. People understand that we are working in poverty. . . . Visitors come to be in solidarity with us, to understand the real picture of poverty, prostitution, global proportionality and education for all.
Annually, we, the sisters of San Rafael, visit parishes in St. Paul and Minneapolis. This is a treasure, a gift of solidarity. We always receive warm welcomes and responses.
Give examples of how the sisters have helped people at the mission. And, how have these people helped you as well as others?
Laura Casas is day supervisor for “Casa Franciscana,” where 14 students live in residence. Casas has been working with Sister Colette Toenies as first Communion catechist in el Uno, Nuevo Leon and has been a catechist for 14 years. She has visited homes with Sister Mary Dumonceaux and participated in Bible studies. Laura is a leader in her village, where she is concerned for the faith life of the community.
Sister Pat said Casas describes her experience this way: “Seeing the Franciscan Sisters teaching self-confidence to the resident students (ages 16-19) and seeing that already 19 students have graduated is a learning and a gift to Mexico. It is hope for the future.”
Karen Vazquez, learned her doctrine by teaching the first level of catechesis called “Acceptance of our Baptism.” Karen is 17 and loves teaching the children; this has been an entrance for her into a deeper, more profound faith life. Karen also received training to be the group leader for the teens and has worked with me and others in conducting a Teen Encounter in La Casita, Nuevo Leon.
The teens now come together in four different sectors monthly, they feel in solidarity with one another and with the teens in the diocese, participating also in Diocesan Teen Encounters. They also go to the mountains every Holy Week and offer Holy Week prayer services in villages without leadership. They are one with the church in solidarity throughout the world during this holy season.
How is life different today because of the missionary and ministry work that is happening?
Karen has been different since the Franciscan Sisters arrived because of what she learned about forgiveness, being a listener in groups, sharing faith, being a good student, working with others in collaboration, in loving and being a better person.
Laura and Karen say the workshops, the liturgy orientations, the leadership training, the freeing presence, have brought people of all religions closer to God.
They said: “The sisters have taught sewing classes, they have taught English, they have taught values and they live these values. The sisters have taught about church, the global church with whom we are in solidarity. Our lives are different because we feel we can grow and are growing and have someone walking with us. We are often made aware of global concerns and especially the immigration concerns of Mexico. We know we are the missionaries, we are the church.”
Category: World Mission Sunday