By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Volunteers are cleaning, decorating and stocking the cupboards and refrigerator in the remodeled rectory of St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction, excited to welcome three Latin American religious women to their new home. They arrive next month to begin five years in ministry in the Hispanic communities in Columbus Junction and West Liberty.
The sisters are participants in the Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, a partnership of Catholic Extension and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Sister Maria de los Angeles Gumara Mejia Chacon of Mexico, and Sister Maria de los Angeles Martinez Quineros and Sister Veronica Elizabeth Argumedo Mungia of El Salvador will serve as educators and advocates and help prepare leaders in St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty.
“It’s going to transform these parishes to have three nuns live here. They will help the community a lot,” said Father Guillermo Trevino, pastor of both parishes. “The assistance from Catholic
Extension and the Hilton Foundation is humbling and underscores the need for ministerial resources to the Hispanic communities, who are the majority population in Columbus Junction and West Liberty,” he said.
In Columbus Junction, some of the Methodists are excited about the arrival of the sisters. “Catholic or not, there’s a great respect for the sacrifice that nuns make,” Father Trevino said.
He has asked Catalina Valdez, the Columbus Junction parish’s religious education director, to serve as the “madrina” (godmother) to the sisters. “She’s from Guatemala,” he said. “I think she will be a great help.” Catholic Extension asked the diocese to identify a madrina to serve in this capacity; it is part of the exchange program.
Valdez expressed surprise but felt honored to serve in the role of what she describes as a sponsor. She met many sisters while living in Guatemala and has a sibling who is a sister. “I don’t know exactly what they (the sisters) like or expect,” Valdez said. “I really like to work at the church and I’m happy to help them.”