By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Ask her why she chose to begin a new institute of consecrated religious women and Mother Adela Galinda will quickly correct you.
“It was not my choice,” she said. “It was a gift from God.”
Mother Adela and seven Sister Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary came to Kansas City March 29 to lead a day-long “I Will Give You a New Heart” Conference, sponsored by the Bishop Helmsing Insitute, for some 400 Spanish-speaking Catholics who came as far away as Iowa and Nebraska.
Founded in 1990 in the Archdiocese of Miami, the institute Mother Adela founded has grown to 40 women who are present in three additional dioceses besides Miami — Orlando, Fla.; Peoria, Ill.; and Military Ordinariate of Italy in Rome.
Herself a native of Nicaragua who fled the Sandinista revolution in 1979 with her family, Mother Adela said the sisters are both Hispanic and Anglo. But they all have one thing in common.
“The community is fully bilingual,” she said. “We have sisters from Latin America and they learn English. We have some who are Anglo, and they learn Spanish.”
But to characterize their charism as service only to the rapidly growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States is to limit God’s plan for them, Mother Adela said.
“We are to be a living image of Our Lady,” she said. “Whatever the church needs of us, we are there to form the human heart.”
And they go wherever they are invited.
The fact that the Sister Servants of the Pierced Heart of Jesus and Mary are all bilingual makes them popular leaders for conferences around the nation aimed at strengthening the faith of Spanish-speaking Catholics, and encouraging them to appreciate their special gift of faith and in turn give it to the broader community.
“A lot of them don’t have a stable life here,” Mother Adela said. “They need to be fed in the faith, and the need dioceses demand of us is to continue feeding his particular part of the flock.”
The institute lists its charism in four parts:
• Eucharistic, with total dedication to the love for the Eucharistic heart.
• Marian, being the living image and presence of the Heart of Mary.
• Charismatic, receiving and communicating the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
• The Heart of the Church, placing their particular feminine genius in communion and service to the Holy Father.
Mother Adela said the sisters particularly relish the opportunity to build already strong faith within the Spanish-speaking culture so that they will evangelize and share their gifts.
She noted, but without surprise, the number of entire families, including extended members of all ages, who came to hear them in Kansas City.
“It is part of the culture to gather as a family, to be very family-oriented,” Sister Adela said.
Quite often, she said, it is impossible especially for immigrants to be with family, and at those times, they need God’s love more than ever.
“They are hungry for God’s love, which is also a hunger for every human person,” Mother Adela said.
But knowing the love of God also carries challenges and responsibilities to return that gift by sharing it. That has been the sisters’ constant theme to Spanish-speaking Catholics, even if they are fearful in a new country, with a language and culture that is not familiar.
And that is why conferences, such as the one sponsored by the Bishop Helmsing Institute are important to them.
“Here, they have the possibility of experiencing all the treasures of the church in one event,” Mother Adela said.
“It is a challenge to know we are loved by God, but that love calls us into a maturity of faith and in service to one another,” she said.
“We are speaking to them of the need to be the sons and daughters of God that the church needs today. We tell them that there is more joy in giving and sharing than in receiving, and we should be constantly giving.”
God calls us to love, and the only way to love is to serve, Mother Adela said.
“He calls us to give ourselves totally, and we are all capable of giving ourselves 100 percent of who we are,” she said.
Mother Adela said that of course, the sisters have the same practical concerns as any human for food, shelter, and bills to pay. But she also said those matters are not as important as aligning human hearts to the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
“We worry about the things of the Lord,” she said.
“When we do his work, he puts things in place and opens up paths for us that weren’t open before,” she said.
Mother Adela said she and her sisters know the suffering of the people they serve because they are among them and they listen.
“We cannot solve all the problems, but you still can change somebody’s life. You can share a meal with an immigrant family and get to know them. If we have something and share it with someone who has nothing, then they will have something,” she said.
“Solidarity is a beautiful truth,” Mother Adela said. “Solidarity means you are my brother. You have a face and a name, and the little I have, I will share with you.”