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108 C h a p t e r 7 Mission Experiences of Three Holy Family Sisters In early 1980, Mother Tekakwitha Vega traveled to Dangriga to evaluate the Holy Family missionary community; and in a March 6 letter, following her return to New Orleans, she sent the sisters an assessment of what she had observed. She praised the sisters for the “conscientious performance” of their duties, their “fidelity to community prayer,” and the “wholesome” nature of their interpersonal relationships .1 Thus, from Mother Tekakwitha’s comments, the division in the Dangriga house over the issue of communal prayer had dissipated at least to the point where it was no longer seen as a major problem. However, she did have one criticism, which she thought merited immediate attention: “As dedicated missionaries involved in the work of service to the Church and the building of Christ’s kingdom, and in accord with the spirit and charism of our Congregation, there is need to be more available to the people of Dangriga. Loving care of the poor and needy must be given. The people need to know that you care and are concerned about them.”2 In other words, in keeping with the call of Vatican II for inculturation, Mother Tekakwitha was telling the Dangriga religious community that it was no longer acceptable to be “in the parish but not of it.”3 The case studies of Sisters Clare of Assisi Pierre, Lucia Carl, and Judith Barial persuasively demonstrate that in the 1980s and 1990s the sisters in Dangriga took her suggestion to heart. In so doing, they redirected the missionary community so that it integrated itself into the culture of those whom they served. Mission Experiences of Three Holy Family Sisters   109 Sister Clare When Sister Clare of Assisi Pierre arrived in Dangriga in 1981 to teach at Ecumenical High School, she knew virtually nothing about Belize or the culture of its people.4 When she returned to the United States a decade later, however, she was a changed person as a result of her mission experience. Her story is especially valuable in that it reveals the ways in which the Holy Family Congregation in the 1980s overcame its earlier missteps concerning inculturation and adjusted to the challenges of Belizean nationalism, Garifuna cultural awakening, and the Second Vatican Council. While reflecting on her time in Belize, Sister Clare notes how unready she was for her new assignment: I was totally unprepared for what I encountered in this ministry. I didn’t know a thing about Belize. I had never even been out of the [United States]. I couldn’t understand the language and I thought the area looked like the Old West. The houses were [on stilts] off the ground and the people would make fires under them. This worried me and when I mentioned to the other sisters that I thought this [created a fire hazard], they calmed my fear by asking me how many burnt houses I had seen. [None.] I saw kids in bare feet and I was struck by how limited their educational opportunities were. Those who couldn’t make the grade cut-off [on the Belize National Selection Examination] couldn’t go on to high school. But I also saw that these were happy people.5 Although Sister Clare taught a full load of four classes at Ecumenical High School, she soon became involved in pastoral ministry as well. We [sisters] were all prepared to be classroom educators; pastoral ministry was not something we did, so this was a whole new career that I learned there. Our pastoral team consisted of two Holy Family Sisters, two priests, and two sisters from another community [Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, one of whom was Sister Barbara Flores]. We were responsible for those in 110  The Post-Vatican II Years town as well as those in seventeen villages. We did a lot of leadership training. We trained catechists and prepared people for the sacraments. We lived very close to [the people]. We slept on floors and ate things you don’t even want to think about eating. We immersed ourselves in the culture. I learned a lot about how church and community could work together. You could be with the people where they were. You weren’t coming [to the missions ] to work for them, but to work with them and we developed lifelong friends there. [Pastoral ministry] made me grow tremendously as a person. My experience gave me a...


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