‘All for the love of God and as He wills it’

These three Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate arrived in June 2017, the first of their order to live in the Diocese. Pictured left to right are Sister Sol Ángel Díaz, Sister Maria Rosario Fiscal, and Sister Greta Chavarría. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Megan Marley

From the outside, there’s nothing remarkable to distinguish this little house from others on the street. But if you go inside, the Spartan yet cozy house of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate itself hints at the congregation’s charism to live the Gospel “in permanent availability to the will of God, inserted in a needy world” as educators, missionaries and in social work.

There are basic pieces of furniture and a few pictures on the wall as you enter, but the first thing you may notice is a door to the little chapel, where Jesus resides at the center of the house. Above the mantle, the foundress’ motto is spelled out in prominent letters as a constant reminder to do “all for the love of God and as He wills it”, particularly in their mission of service of the Church and in sharing the situation of the poor.

“We need to be serving the poorest of the poor, and have availability to the will of God as he wills it,” explained Sister Sol Àngel Díaz, one of the three sisters starting the new house in Kansas City.

Where did the order come from originally?

According to the foundress’ biography on the Vatican website, Bl. Mother Caritas Brader and religious sisters from the Franciscan convent of Maria Hilf in Switzerland responded to the call of Bishop Pietro Schumacher of Portoviejo, Ecuador, in 1888 for volunteers to work as missionaries in his diocese. In 1893, Mother Caritas and a small group of sisters went from Ecuador to Tuquerres, Colombia, where she founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate to face the urgent need for more missionaries.

The congregation received pontifical approval in 1933, and the order’s website notes that it has since grown to six provinces: Bogota, Pasto, Central America, Ecuador and Peru, Switzerland and, in the United States, the Province of St. Francis of Assisi.

“We have now over 800 sisters, and we are all over in Latin America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Cuba, Africa, Spain, Italy, and we are here the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and many others,” Sister Sol Ángel said. “Our presence here in the United States has been of eighty-five years, and we have here four houses: Amarillo, Tx., Fort Myers, Los Angeles, and also here.”

The three sisters came to Kansas City in June 2017. Sister Sol Àngel had previously visited in 2005 to discuss bringing sisters to the diocese, but “never imagined that it was I that He was going to call” to help launch the order’s house in Kansas City.

Each of the sisters serves Hispanic communities in Kansas City.

Sister Greta Chavarría, the youngest of the three sisters, has a youthful enthusiasm for encountering the people of the parishes at Holy Cross and Our Lady of Peace parishes as director of adult formation.

“The challenges are many—one is to revive the spiritual life of the people. The second is to awaken in them a love for the Church, which they have but it is a little bit dormant and sleepy. The other is that they know we come in the name of Jesus for the extension of the kingdom and that they feel that they are not alone, they feel they are Church,” Sister Greta said.

Before Kansas City, Sister Greta did parochial work with natives in the islands of Panama, and taught in in schools and colleges in El Salvador and Costa Rica; she is talented in accounting, drawing and music. Born in Panama, she first met the Sisters through a youth group dedicated to evangelization.

“When I saw what the sisters did, I was deeply convinced I wanted to continue to follow Jesus inside a life of total self-giving to God that I saw in the sisters. I was 16 years old, and had many obstacles with my family,” explained Sister Greta. “My family was the main obstacle, but now after 10 years, the family is in major support of my religious life.”

Sr. Maria Rosario Fiscal is a pastoral associate at St. Anthony’s parish, teaching CCD classes and working with all the ministries in the parish.
“The relationship with the priests and with the staff is a joy—when there are good relationships with the pastor, everything goes smoothly. He’s a human person and a good pastor that is always with his sheep,” Sr. Rosario said.

Before Kansas City, Sister Rosario was in El Salvador and Mexico doing parish work, and made hosts and cared for elderly sisters in Amarillo; she also is a good seamstress, and has been in her final profession for over a decade. Born in Mexico, she felt the call to the religious life at 13. Her main experience of religious life was through many relatives who joined the religious life or priesthood, since there were no religious living in her hometown.

“I would only see the nuns on Lent, Christmas and Easter. I have a cousin—she is also a nun (in the same order)—and when she entered the convent I knew, because my aunt told me. So I got information from her about the congregation, and she informed me about the sisters and congregation. So I came to Amarillo and I started my formation over there!” Sister Rosario said.

Sister Sol Àngel Díaz is the senior sister at the house, and uses her bilingual gifts in the Welcome Center at Catholic Charities.

“Each day I see the blessings, because to be able to help—the poorest, the homeless, those who feel without dignity—they arrive there, we help them restore that dignity—not just giving them material things, but especially the spiritual hope, strength,” said Sister Sol Àngel.

“I try to see God, to see Jesus in them, and for me it is the greatest joy. The challenges are that I am new, and am still learning,” she said.

Sister Sol Àngel celebrated her 25 year jubilee in 2017, and has taught in Amarillo and Los Angeles, and been in the government of the congregation. Originally from Colombia, she tried to join the sisters in Panama at 25 but got so homesick the superior told her it was not her place or time.

Five years later, she was staying with the sisters in Amarillo, studying for a career and starting a relationship with a rancher, when a visiting bishop from California startlingly told her she had a vocation to the religious life.

“He said Panama was not your place, nor your time. NOW is your place and your time. He told me in the same words that the provincial said over there, so I did not hesitate. Since that moment, I entered the convent.”

“God writes straight with crooked lines, and no matter, he works with many things.”

Sometimes the sisters themselves are the ones served by the community. Coming from further south, the sisters weren’t prepared for the cold. So many people helped them with blankets and warm clothing.

“We have encountered many people we call angels, because the Hispanic people and especially the poor are very generous to us,” Sister Sol Àngel said.

Lacking things early on was a sign to Sister that Kansas City is going to be a fruitful mission.

“Blessed Mother Caritas says that when in the mission there is suffering, it’s because it is going to be a big blessing. And it has been a blessing.”

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Thursday
November 15, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph