Sr. Maria Isolina Ferré was born into the wealthy Ferré family of Puerto Rico, yet developed a heart for the poor at a very early age. As a child she encountered our founder, Father Judge, CM, which led to her vocation as a Missionary Servant. Her primary missions were in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico. She devoted herself to identifying and training natural leaders in the underprivileged communities where our missions were located. Her goal was to empower these leaders to provide much needed services in their own neighborhoods, including education, medical services, family supportive services, programs for the elderly and disabled, and vocational training for at-risk youth. Her work rested on the fundamental principle that “the glory of God is man and woman fully alive.” (Saint Ireneaus) This became the motto of the non-profit agency she established which is now known as Centros Sor Isolina Ferré.
Sr. Isolina received 17 honorary degrees and over 50 additional awards from many organizations. Perhaps the highest honor she received was the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, bestowed for “her passionate fight against poverty, violence and despair in Puerto Rico and Brooklyn, New York, where she worked to reconcile rival gangs in 1950-1960.” In endowing the award, President Clinton said Sr. Isolina teaches people “to see the best in themselves and in their communities” and she makes sure “ they have the tools to make the most of the gifts God has given them.” Her 1997 autobiography is titled, In Quest of a Vision: Sr. Isolina’s Own Story of Gospel Servanthood Among Puerto Ricans and is available through Amazon and other retailers.
…because she enabled others to become a power for good in their own communities. Her tireless devotion to help the poor better themselves was driven by her own deep Catholic faith. Christian and Catholic values and images permeated all her works and continue to be the foundation of the Centros she established.