Life as a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity often involves entering new and different environments and cultures.
As a young sister I was asked to go to San Juan Bautista Parish in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a non-territorial parish serving the Spanish speaking parishioners from a variety of countries and cultures, the majority of Puerto Rican and Mexican background. I was to join the team of two of our ST priests, an ST brother and one of our sisters, Gloria Mercedes Gonzalez Villarrubia, MSBT. I arrived in September 1984 after a summer at a Spanish language program in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
During my first year, Sr. Gloria introduced me to the people, the cultures and the mission of San Juan Bautista Parish. Sr. Gloria, herself, had a rich and varied background. She served as a teacher for many years as well as in pastoral ministries in Puerto Rico and in the States. She had an impressive education; she held a degree in Pastoral Ministry and two undergraduate degrees in Education. But the two things that really impressed me were her manner of being fully present to people no matter their background, wealth or nationality and her great gift as an instructor.
Throughout my four years in the parish I attended the catechists’ training program that Sr. Gloria conducted. Because the Diocesan training programs were presented in English and most of the catechists at San Juan Bautista had been educated in Spanish, Sr. Gloria saw the need for these offerings and responded.
Gloria was an excellent teacher who made sure the catechists and I received an ample background on the teaching of the Church, Sacraments, Scripture and a solid foundation in teaching methods. The classes were about two hours long but the time flew by as Sr. Gloria had an interactive, dramatic style that helped us all to pay close attention and respond with our questions and uncertainties about the material.
In article 5 of the MSBT Rule of Life we say,
Our specific mission is the preservation of the faith in those areas and among those
people who are spiritually neglected and abandoned, especially the poor. Our chief effort
is to develop a missionary spirit in the laity, with the goal that every Catholic be an
Sr. Gloria really demonstrated this rule to me. We worked with many people who were poor and under-educated, but for Sr. Gloria these were not barriers to her recognizing and developing the gifts and potentials of the people to serve as apostles.
Part of the pastoral plan of the parish was the development of small groups called basic community groups. As I provided transportation to the small group with whom Sr. Gloria worked I was able to witness her manner of helping the women in the group learn leadership skills, reflect on Holy Scripture and create dynamic plans. I used Sr. Gloria’s approach as a model for mine, and, frankly, copied many of her methods to help the people in my group grow in their skills, as well.
Sr. Gloria did not like conflict, but if she became aware of an injustice or a need among the people she fought for them even though it cost her. When she discovered the presence of many children, teenagers and young adults who had never received instruction nor Sacraments from the Church, Sr. Gloria began a determined quest to fill this void. She established the first Spanish speaking group of “Faith and Light” in the U.S. for these young people and their families to meet their needs and include them in the life of the Church.
I give thanks to the Blessed and Holy Trinity for the witness of Sr. Gloria in my life. I have no doubt she is where she always strived to be, in the presence of the community of the Blessed Trinity.