What follows is an article I wrote about two years ago. The article and video are about one of my favourite people, Sister Maria. I hope that you will enjoy the interview as much as I did.
“I have met so many people,” says Sister Maria. “I have loved so many people. I have admired so many people.”
Growing up, when I would watch movies, I would tend to favour the older one. Keep in mind; I was born in 1970, and so when I was younger, there was no such thing a cable.
My station of choice, for movies, was channel 14.
I felt drawn to movies that featured Nuns, Monks, or Priests. Movies like The Bells of St. Mary’s, Journey Into Light, The Keys of the Kingdom, and others. These movies would transport me to a time I’ve never known and wish I had been born into.
In older movies, people respected each other. Everyone dressed up and were polite. You could also tell a person under religious vows only by the way they dressed: Monks and Nuns wore their Habit, and Priests wore the Roman Collar. Today, not so much.
Now, imagine my surprise when Chantilly and I were walking through Target at Bassett Center and see a vision in white – a Nun wearing the full Habit of her order…not something you see every day!
I wanted to meet with her, talk about religious life, and other things. It was a chance I was not going to miss.
I was finally able to sit down with the Nun I met at Target. She is Sister Maria Munguia of the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor. She is also the administrator of Father Yermo school.
Religious life, life under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are not for everyone. Under vows, you are giving your whole life, it’s every single moment to the service of God, and all of humanity.
Sister Maria entered the convent in 1969. “But,” she says, “with religious vows and my consecration it’s forty-five years already.” I wanted to know how she became a Nun, which lead her down that path.
“It’s a very long process; I would say,” Sister Maria began. “I would say I was a good girl from a good Catholic family, traditional. But thinking about religious life, no. According to me, it was not my call.”
Growing up, Sister Maria says she was like every other girl. She liked the boys, went to parties.
“You know,” she says, “you think your life is going to be married life.”
Then, things changed. “I started working in the ministry,” recalls Sister Maria. “I was a catchiest, I was working with the poor, in the outskirts of the city where I was born and raised.”
Yet, Sister Maria, during that time, was living the life of a woman who thought she would be married, have a family, and children of her own. She still had no clue that God was calling her.
“I did have some romantic encounters, but there was something missing in my life. Something like I needed someone, profound spirituality. I didn’t know in the beginning,” she said.
Yet, while working in the ministry, she began to feel that calling. She began to feel God pulling on her heart, pulling her into something bigger than herself, bigger than the world she imagined.
“I started realizing, probably, it could be,” Sister Maria says. “God wanted me for Him.”
I think He chose the right person!
“It’s interesting,” says Sister Maria, recalling how she decided which order she felt called to. “I didn’t know the religious order I entered into.” She went to school, where the Sisters were teachers. Later, she met another group of Sisters that she thought were nice, who she felt a kinship with.
The second group of Nuns, the second-order, was an order of Catechists, teachers of Catholic instruction. But she wasn’t sure if that’s what she wanted to be. During her daily life, she would see schools and teachers. That’s what she felt she wanted to do.
However, at the time, she was running a gift shop that her father had established for her. What finally clinched it for her was a little girl that needed help.
“I had a little girl among my students,” says Sister Maria. “She was a good girl, but she was living in a very poor neighbourhood.”
That was when Sister Maria decided that this child needed a chance for a future. “So, I said no,” she says. “I think this girl deserves a better education.”
Sister Maria then went and spoke to a Nun who had a school for the poor. She asked them if they would take her, and that Sister Maria would pay for a scholarship for her. As Sister Maria was standing there, waiting for the Sister to return, the calling suddenly became more apparent.
When the teaching Sister returned, she asked Sister Maria what she was thinking. “I love the peace you Nuns have in the convent.” The teaching Sister had asked Maria if she had a calling to religious life. Sister Maria responded by saying that she thinks they had it, but no.
“Take this bad thought from me!” Sister Maria said. She was not yet ready to respond to that call to give her life entirely to God. She told the teaching Sister that God would wait for her to decide.
“She said,” recalling the conversation from years ago, “The Lord waits, but sometimes He gets tired of waiting for the answer of somebody, and He goes and looks for somebody else.” This is what that one Sister told Sister Maria.
“That day I felt I had to do something,” Sister Maria says. She went home, looked for an address for the order, and wrote them. The seed that had been planted has begun to sprout.
Sister Maria, in that letter, told them that she felt she had a calling to religious life. The order responded, a week later, saying that they would be willing to consider her, but that she needed to come to meet with them, answer some questions, and discern the calling.
Three months, after sending that letter, and receiving a reply, she was in the convent.
“I have worked,” says Sister Maria, “I have worked forty-five years, and I can tell you I would not change my life.”
Sitting with her, talking with her, you can see the love God has for her, and the love she has for God. That love translates to the people she meets daily.
“I have grown so much,” she says of her life as a Nun. “I think one of the most beautiful things of religious life is that you get to know yourself. As you have too many moments of prayer, you have that time to think about who you are, what God wants from you.”
At times I still wonder what God wants from me. I want to know why He would ever want someone like me, with all my baggage, my past, my history. Talking to Sister Maria, I know that God is with us, no matter where we are or who we are. He is there.
“Besides,” says Sister Maria. “I would say the Lord walks with us, even in those ugly moments that we all have in life.”
Through her life as a Nun, Sister Maria says that she has seen so much, visited other countries, met and touched the lives of so many people. She is truly a fantastic person.
One thing we talked about was family. She and I both agree: a Nun is a mother to everyone she meets. Her family is a large and loving one, and I am happy to be a part of her family.
There is so much more that we spoke about, and I want to encourage you to watch the video above. I promise you, the thirty minutes the video runs will go by very quickly and will leave you wanting more.