Jan 2023 News-Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston

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January News

Pope's Prayer Intention for January

For Educators: Wepraythateducatorsmaybecrediblewitnesses, teaching fraternity rather than competition and helping the youngestandmostvulnerableaboveall.




Sister Agnes Njoki


December 22, 2022-Perpetual Profession

Profession held at Bishop Ndingi Secondary School, Baraka, Molo, Kenya

Call me Agnes, also known as Njoki, daughter of Saraphina Muthoni and Silvano Njeru. I am the fourth born of five siblings, four ladies, and one gentleman. I was born in Meru South, Tharaka Nithi County, in a small village called Kiego in Gantaraki. I am from St. Charles Lwanga, Muthambi Parish in Meru Diocese, Kenya. I am blessed to have been born of staunch Catholic parents who brought me up in an upright manner and with a Christian faith foundation.

Myparentsworkedforreligious congregations,ConsolataFathers, theFranciscanElizabethanSisters, anddiocesanmissionaryclergyfrom Italy.Bothworkedascooksand housekeepersforthepriestsand sisters.Asearlyastheageoffive years,Iinteractedwithreligious sistersdailysincewelivedinthe parishservant’squarters.My siblingsandIwentformorning Massmostdaysbeforegoingto schoolandthiswasthefoundation formydeeploveoftheHolyMass. TheSisterswereveryfondofusand ofteninvitedustoshareintheir ministryofcaringforphysically challenged persons. During the weekends and school holidays, we assisted the Sisters in recreation sessions for physically challenged children. I loved engaging in the artwork with the other children. I admired what the Sisters were doing for the physically challenged. I remember often making the remarks, “When I grow up, I want to be like Sr. Adriana or Sr. Elizabeth” these were the Elizabethan Sisters from Italy who were running the home for the physically challenged and a parish clinic by then. I admired their love, care, and concern for the sick and less privileged in society.

The Sisters also had time and space for us. They were concerned about our progress in school and often checked how we were faring. I always passed by the dispensary to report to Sr. Elizabeth how my day at school went. Anytime one of us got sick, we received tender loving care from the Sisters at the clinic and, at times, home visits. Their relationship with us, their way of life, and their ministry touched my heart in a big way.

In 1993 my parents had to move back to the village to take care of our ailing grandmother, who needed full-time health care. This meant leaving our beloved home and embracing a new environment. Back in the village, there were no religious sisters around. I missed the Sisters and the good times we had with them. The church was miles away from home and we had to walk for hours to get there. We lived in a village where our family was the only Catholic family in the middle of the Protestant denominations. This, however, did not stop us from continuing to be committed to our faith. We continued to attend Mass every Sunday and at home, we had daily prayers in the evening before sleeping. We also prayed the rosary for and with our ailing grandmother. From our commitment to prayer, I developed a pattern of personal prayer as young as I was. My parents insisted on the need to live a virtuous life. Discipline was highly instilled in us, especially by my father who was and is still a strict disciplinarian.

I went to schools sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa from grade two to high school. I had great teachers who continued to support me in my academics and faith journey though they were not Catholics. My teachers capitalized on my potential and encouraged me to work hard to be the best version of who God has destined me to be. I had close ties with most of my teachers with whom I still have connections. A good number of my grade school teachers graced the occasion of my final profession of vows, a true sign of love and continued support for my vocation. They were and still are true gospels of love despite being non-Catholic. As I grew up, they informed my morals and value system. I will forever remain grateful to them.

During my third year in high school, I began thinking deeply about what I wanted to commit my life to in the future. At the time, in my high school, I served as the chairperson of YCS- a group of Catholic students in my school. We received invitations from the Holy Family Sisters in Meru for seminars at their convent. The YCS patron encouraged me to attend the seminars. During that time, we were provided with numerous magazines that had vocation stories of various religious congregations. Among the magazines was “The Seed Magazine” by the Consolata Missionaries. Through this magazine, I came to know many religious congregations and interacted with their vocation directors. Lastly, I found the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word address and contacted Sr. Maureen Costello who was the Vocation Director then. My first experience of being received and interacting with Sr. Maureen Costello made me desire to know more about the Congregation. I felt at home and the desire to discern religious life was stronger than before. Little did I know that my journey to becoming a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word had just begun. I often attended seminars while I continued with my studies at college where I trained as a teacher.

During my college life, I was blessed to meet and study together with many religious women and men. I had the opportunity to interact with them, ask them questions, and listen to their vocation stories and missionary life. I had very close friends who were honest enough to share the ups and downs of religious life. I was inspired by many of them, and they helped me to make a well-informed decision. Upon my graduation, I immediately got a job in a government high school where I worked for one year before joining our Congregation. I enjoyed my teaching profession where I taught Christian Religious Education, English, and English Literature. By coincidence, I worked with the Franciscan Elizabethan Vocations Director in the school. We became close friends and most of the weekends she invited me to accompany her to visit their aspirants and for vocations promotions. I, however, did not join them as my heart was already with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

In 2011, I officially began my live-in experience at DeMatel Community in Nairobi where I had the opportunity to experience the life of the Sisters and later in the same year became an affiliate. In the following year, I began my postulancy in Molo. As a postulant, I had an opportunity to understand the history of the Congregation, learn the dynamics of community living, and had a part-time ministry in a school and a hospital. I had my novitiate years at St. Bhakita convent in Nairobi. This was a time to continue deepening my relationship with the Incarnate Word as well as being initiated into the life of the Congregation. I made my first profession of vows on December 13, 2014. Since then, I have had opportunities to live and minister in various ministries in and out of the Congregation. In all these areas I have strived to be the healing presence of the Incarnate Word by being a gospel of love to all. As part of my formation journey, I also had the chance to have my year of international experience at Villa de Matel, our motherhouse in Houston, Texas. During my international year of experience, I was blessed to interact with many of our Sisters at Villa de Matel and got to work in various ministries. I also attended a vitality program at Mercy Center in Colorado. This was an enriching program that helped me rejuvenate, heal, broaden my horizons, and find new ways of living a happy life in the midst of the daily challenges of life.

This year, in July-August, as I made my thirty-day retreat at Mwangaza Jesuit Retreat Center in preparation for my perpetual profession of vows. I had quality time to reflect on major questions that many people have asked me in my interactions with them as well as reflecting on my motivation to remain a religious Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word. One of the major questions is, “Why did I choose to follow religious life or rather why do I still want to be a religious Sister?” When one of these questions is asked in an African setting, it carries more weight than one can hear. There are many other questions implicitly embedded in it such as, “Why not choose to have a family? Why not choose to pursue a career, and make money? And not to mention, why not choose a life where you can be "free" to make personal decisions, and do as you wish?” John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear much fruit that will last, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” I do not have direct answers to the questions but the gospel of John answers it all. I am also convinced that my vocation to religious life is a mystery that transcends my conceptual limits, hence defying definition and explanation. In this day and age, I still want to be a religious sister because my vocation is a response to a particular situation that God wants to solve through me.

This does not mean God would not have used someone else or used me in a different vocation. The call is from God; He chooses whomever He chooses to accomplish His mission and gives the grace to overcome all the worldly inclinations and desires that seem to be more appealing and profitable than following the chaste, poor, and obedient Christ. From a personal point of view, my vocation is a call to respond to God’s love that I have received throughout my life and continue to receive. Matthew 10:8 “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost, you are to give.” I truly see my life as a gift from God that I have freely committed my life to the service of God and his people through the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Today, as I reflect on my own vocation journey, I view vocations to religious life as fragile, especially with the millennial generation who has been observed to have the inability to make definitive decisions in their lives. The turnover of young adults in workplaces and religious houses has reached new heights.

December 3, 2022-Sr. Agnes Njoki Njeru (center) pictured with Sister Celeste Trahan-Congregational Leader (R) & her Council-Sisters: (L-R) Joyce Susan NjeriMbataru,KimPhuongTran,BettyCamposArias,RiccaDimalibot

There is a form of immaturity that comes from a weak sense of identity leading to self-denial. In this age that is rocked by individualism, materialism, secularism, societal crisis, and various scandals that have hit the church, the question of identity is key for consecrated persons to reflect on. There is an identity crisis whereby individuals focus on “What I do” rather than “Who I am,” forgetting the ideals of our consecration which are a personal and intimate relationship with God, commitment to a life of service, a radical following of Christ through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and finally a commitment to community living. In my view, considering the societal crisis and from a personal concern for the 21st-century vocations, there is a need for formation guides who can deal with the complex reality of human maturity and helping young people to form a new conscience. Young people discerning religious life need to be helped to deal with the superficiality, neglect of, and inability to honestly deal with their life stories, embracing their strengths and weaknesses. More so, formation guides need to know that they are instruments of God who have no favorites. Hence accompany every individual with utmost honesty, utter care, mentorship, and guidance accompanied with patience and firmness which will help bring up healthy religious persons.

Myperpetualprofessionofvowswasaculminationof ajourneyoflove.ItisajourneyoflovethatIhavewalkedin thecompanyoftheIncarnateWordandwiththehelpofmany peoplewhohavetouchedmylifeindifferentways.Firstly,it isalovefrommyparentsandfamily,whohaveclosely walkedwithmeinmyvocationjourney,offeringmemoral andspiritualsupport.Secondly,myformatorsinvarious stagesofformationhavealsoguidedmeintotheawareness ofGod’sloveandcareforme.Thirdly,myspiritualdirectors whothroughoutthisjourneyhaveplayedasignificantrolein helpingmebeawareofthemovementsofGod’sSpirit.Iam mostgratefultoSr.CelesteTrahan,myCongregationLeader whoreceivedmyvowsonDecember3,2022,theCouncil,the internationalformationteam,andalltheCCVI’sforgracing theoccasion,theirsupport,andprayers.

May our vocations be rooted in Faith, based on Grace, and perfected in Charity. May the Incarnate Word continue to fill us with His infinite goodness to share His Love and healing in a world burning up with the internal combustion of fears, worries, hate, and problems of all nature. Most importantly may we be aware that our vocation to religious consecration is quintessential in today’s world.

Praised be the Incarnate Word! Forever!

The International Vocation/Formation Meeting in Molo, Kenya

Synodal Church: The People of God Walking Together in Vocation and Formation Ministries

The biennial Vocation/Formation meeting of the Congregation took place at Ukarimu Centre in Molo Kenya, from November 27th to December 1, 2022. This meeting was originally scheduled to be held in 2021 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, most importantly we were happy to attend the meeting this year. It was attended by most of the Sisters in vocation and formation ministries as well as the Leadership Team; eleven Sisters were physically present at the meeting while three Sisters joined through Zoom.

Present: Leadership Team: Sisters Celeste Trahan, Ricca Dimalibot, Betty Campos Arias, Joyce Susan Njeri Mbataru, and Kim Phuong Tran.

Sisters from Africa Region: Sisters Annunciata Kavinya Kisuva, Edith Bulubisi Wasike, and Justina Nzula Mutiso.

Sisters from Central America: Sisters Maria Magdalena Rodriguez Ortiz and Maria Ubalda Romero Ramirez.

Sister from the United States: Sister Helena Adaku Ogbuji

Via Zoom: Sisters from the United States: Sisters Deenan Hubbard, Ita Harnett, and Kim Xuan Thi Nguyen

The meeting began on Sunday, November 27, with Solemn Vespers at 5.00 p.m., officiated by Sr.Celeste Trahan (Congregational Leader). After the prayer, Sr. Celeste welcomed the Formators and Vocation Animators to our international meeting in Molo, Kenya. In her remarks, she thanked the attendees for the work they are doing, which is an important ministry in the Congregation. She urged us to continue to journey more compassionately with the younger Sisters in their formative stages, recognizing specific areas of growth which may be needed and helping them find help along the way. She encouraged us to create spaces where "contemplative dialogue" can happen and where all parties are led by the Spirit to

actively listen to one another through open and honest communication. She challenged us to be open in the coming days of our meetings by adding our voices in assessing the needs within our ministries; including the appointment and preparation of personnel as vocation and formation ministries are critical for the continued life, sustainability and growth of our Congregation.

After the welcome remarks, Sr. Helena Ogbuji orientated the attendees on the unfolding events during the days of the meeting and clarified on some housekeeping issues. The attendees and the Sisters from nearby communities: Baraka Convent (Sisters Mary Wanjiru Kamara, Rose Nyambura Githuka, Pamela Kanja Thiaine, and Christine Naswa Barasa) and Dubuis Community (Sisters Esther Njeri Rambagia and Veronicah Muthoni Mburu), enjoyed a festive dinner at Ukarimu Centre organized by the administrator, Sr. Christine Barasa.

From Monday, November 28th – Thursday, December 1, 2022, the meetings began at 8.00 a.m. with an opening prayer/faith sharing as well as a closing prayer at 5:00 p.m. Each region took turns to prepare for prayers and the Holy Eucharist. Masses were celebrated each day by Fr. Jacob Augustine Sellam, SDB, who was one of the speakers and Fr. Malasi Kaka, SJ, the Architect of our schools in Molo.

During the meetings, we had two excellent speakers: Fr. Jacob Augustine Sellam, (Salesians of Don Bosco) and Sister Mary Pauline Waititu (Little Daughters of St. Joseph). Fr. Jacob was with us for two days (Monday - November 28 and Tuesday - November 29).

On Monday, Fr. Jacob presented his talk on Synodality and Formation in Reference to the African Church. He expressed that “walking together” in formation/vocation ministries means: Mutual listening where everyone is heard and valued, creating a space for relationship and trust, no room for cultural dominance, and to focus more on the process rather than the programs in formation, He encouraged us to have synodal hearts which encounters the Formees where they are (the Emmaus encounter in Luke 24: 13-35) to focus on our joyful service rather than our positions which may lead to policing the Sisters. It allows the Holy Spirit to lead the way, to attend to our inner conflicts and wounds for personal healing, and to move from structural mindsets to relationships of tenderness and care.

On Tuesday, November 29, Fr. Jacob focused on The Contemporary Issues in FormationVocation Ministries and the Reality of the Church in Reference to Africa. He challenged us with these questions: What stories are the young people telling us? How do we interpret their stories? Do we use old solutions to answer the new questions of young people? Do we promote vocations or accompany vocations? He encouraged us to listen with compassion to the reality of the young people today: Their preference for spirituality (relationship with and a personal experience of God) rather than religiosity, their approach to the digital world and its challenges, as well as their mode of communication. We are to accompany them with love and affection, and they must know that they are loved!

On Wednesday, November 30th, Sr. Mary Pauline Waititu spoke on Religious Formation and African Culture. She focused on the challenges of religious formation and the values of African cultures. Some of the challenges are: How the formation process has become more informative than performative, the impact of the digital world on formation, lack of role models in formation houses, internal dispositions and unhealthy attitudes of formees, excessive inferiority and/or superiority of formees and formators. She mentioned some of the values in African culture that are necessary in formation houses: Communitarianism rather than individualism, the value of motherhood and respect for our human nature, hospitality, African obedience, and respect for elders.

On Thursday, December 1, 2022, we shared around the issues concerning formation and vocation ministries. Some of the issues that surfaced were: The need to prepare more Sisters for formation/vocation ministries, to have effective succession planning and time limit in formation/vocation ministries, to strengthen our formation and vocation teams across regions, the immigration/visa challenges as well as the challenges of learning English in order to come for the international novitiate, shortage of formative communities to send the Sisters in initial formation, etc.

The meeting ended on Thursday, December 1, 2022, with a festive dinner, entertainment, and gifts of African polo tshirts and small bags from the host region to all the attendees. Sr. Helena Ogbuji also shared her latest book, along with the other three contributors (among them is Sr. Margaret Bulmer, CCVI), with the participants. The title of the book is IncarnationalSpirituality:Embodyingthe LoveoftheIncarnateWord.

As some Sisters explored Kericho and Molo areas in Kenya on Friday, December 2, we also witnessed and enjoyed the perpetual profession of Sr. Agnes Njoki Njeru on Saturday, December 3, 2022. We thank God for the gift of vocations in our Congregation. We pray to God, the Owner of the harvest, to bring more laborers into His vineyard!

Praised be the Incarnate Word! Forever!

The Gift of Mentoring

As I reflect on Vocation Ministry, I think of the role of spiritual mentoring. I remembered as a discerner in 2012, I did not know much about religious life or how to deepen my relationship with God. But with the help of Sr. Kim Phuong and Sr. Mary Pat, vocation directors at that time, my spiritual director, and the Sisters who journeyed with me in prayer, I came to know God and my call. I am grateful for all whohaveguidedmeonmyjourney.Todayasavocationdirector,Iamcalledtobea spiritual mentor to other young women and adults. My role is to accompany and journey with the discerners as they move forward through their process of discernment.Mentoringisnotaone-wayrelationshipbutismutualandreciprocal.It requires respect, compassion, trust, maturity, and attentive listening. I hope to mentor others to discover their vocation. Let us give thanks to God and celebrate those who have mentored us on our journey during this month dedicated to mentoring.

National Mentoring Month is an annual designation observed in January. This month focuses on how we can all work together to increase the number of mentors to make sure young people in our communities have dependable people to look up to and follow in their footsteps.

Sisters pictured Ethel, Mary Pat, Kim Xuan, Symphonie, Ricca, Kim Phuong, Marissa (L-R):

International Workshop for the Sisters in Annual Vows

The Annual workshop of the Sisters in temporary vows took place on December 17, 2022, through Zoom. Sr. Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP, was the facilitator. The topic was: Living Effectively in Intergenerational & Intercultural Religious Communities. All nine Sisters in annual vows across regions included Sisters: Adelwisa Pineda Leonida, Agather Nakiweewa, Benedetta Kelekye Malindi, Cecilia Lich Thanh Tran, Christine Naswa Baraza, Juana Matias Tomas, Lilian Nanjala Nyongesa, Sharon Apiyo Anam, and Veronicah Muthoni Mburu. Sisters: Helena Ogbuji, Formation Director and Celeste Trahan, Congregation Leader were also in attendance via Zoom throughout the workshop.

During her presentation, Sr. Elyse Marie explained that we are on an intercultural and intergenerational journey. She used the image of travelling in a bus! According to her, “We are in a bus travelling together, answering one call “Consecrated Life” and living out our charism in the Congregation.” As we embark on this journey, self-awareness is crucial.

This entails knowing our biases, needs, values, thinking patterns, beliefs, motivations, flaws, limitations, and personalities. This awareness will help us be the change we want to see in others. In this journey, we need to “remove our shoes” and know that diversity is beautiful. God is the One who calls everyone into this bus, young and old, and each passenger has her own luggage and a time to alight from the bus. However, in order to travel in harmony and love, all the travelers need to build relationships of trust, have mutual respect, engage in effective communication, active listening, and daily conversion as we ride in this bus together!

The workshop ended with Sisters expressing their new insights and the joy of being together. They also thanked Sr. Elyse Marie, as the Facilitator, for leading the workshop, thanking Sr. Celeste for her support in being present at the workshop, and thanking Sr. Helena for organizing the workshop.

Villa de Matel’s Annual Christmas Party 2022

Employees Seek Personal Value and Purpose at Work. I Believe - I Witnessed. Cindy Lopez – Communications Coordinator

God has ordained from the beginning of time that work would be an essential part of human life. From Adam’s workplace in the Garden of Eden to Jesus’ workplace in Israel, we can see God’s design for us to bring glory to the name of God through our labor in the location where we are. For us in the 21st century, the work here at Villa de Matel is to embody the love of God as we work together with the Sisters.

Monday, December 5, 2022, Villa de Matel brought a start to a new job for me which wrapped itself together as exciting but also nerve-wracking, not knowing what to expect but still praying for the best and knowing to follow my soul as it knows the way. One of the first emails to arrive in my inbox was the invitation to the Villa de Matel Annual Christmas Party for the Associates held by the Sisters from Toni Stanford, a 30-year staff associate, Director of Human Resources, and instrumental in the preparation of the party. I point out Toni’s longevity in this writing as I later learned something about the incredible associates who work on this campus among the Sisters during my short time here at Villa de Matel.

Friday, December 9th, at 12:30 p.m., the Sisters and Associates gathered together in the Villa de Matel Chapel for a prayer service prior to the luncheon and celebrations. Having seen the Chapel only in pictures and a brief glimpse from the choir loft when Sr. Rose Scanlan so graciously toured me on my first day earlier in the week, truly had not evoked the feeling I experienced when I walked into the Chapel with its breath-taking artistry in every inch of the Chapel as I took my seat. The emotions I privately felt when Sr. Celeste Trahan extended a warm welcome to all the Associates attending along with the beautiful prayer service led by Jeannette Easley, Associate of 6 years and Director of RUAH, as I peacefully sat among the Sisters of the Congregation and my new co-workers, were similar to how others felt. Many souls were comforted on this day.

Following the prayer service Sisters and Associates joyfully processed down the middle aisle and walked over to the Dubuis Conference Center for a festive meal prepared by the Dietary team. This day was also saying “Happy Retirement” to Melanie Fletcher, who worked dedicatedly for 30 years in the Dietary department. Sr. Rachel O’Keefe, Villa Campus Administrator, led the luncheon celebration with her heartwarming stories and included the story of the Sisters always knowing when Melanie was in the kitchen on Sundays when they were served special entrees; a soft chuckle was heard from the direction of the Sisters tables acknowledging Sr. Rachel’s comments.

A second Retiree, Sondra Gaubatz, Executive Assistant Senior, provided nearly a combined 45+ years of service to the Sisters through her work-life journey. Sr. Rachel shared with the room of attendees that Sondra most recently returned after a temporary retirement phase to assist in the mentoring of a new associate in the all-important role she held for many years working closely with the Leadership of the Congregation. Both Melanie and Sondra were seated at their individual tables filled with their family and loved ones who were able to participate in the celebration of their retirement from Villa de Matel with their combined years of service of 75 years!

I believe talented employees succeed in environments where their work has purpose and meaning. I believe employees will flourish when leadership values their hard work and consistently defines why they’re doing it. Purpose and meaning are Villa de Matel’s soul and spirit – it is the reason behind the successes, and I witnessed it. As names and groups of associates were being honored for their years of dedicated service, I could not help but see how glorious this environment was when I saw the smiles on the Sisters’ faces and saw them rise to their feet in honor of the Associates being recognized. A beautiful plaque was presented to each associate as a reminder for them following the day’s celebration. In my observation, the vast number of years the Associates on this campus have given is truly remarkable in today’s world. How blessed we all are to have this passionate environment in which toworkandtodoitwiththeCongregationoftheSistersofCharityoftheIncarnateWord.

The final award presentation was for the Associate of the Year. Sr. Rachel provided yet another heart-warming introduction of the individual proclaiming all the wonderful contributions of the person without giving too much away and leading up to the anticipation of the Honoree’s name being announced. The room erupted into applause and cheers when Ignacio Ramirez, from the Maintenance department, was announced as the 2022 Associate of the Year with his 34 years of service on the campus of Villa de Matel. We only captured the staged photo of Ignacio being presented his award and sharing through my words to paint the picture of his announcement, that moment went like this: As Ignacio walked to the stage to be honored, I could see he was overwhelmed as other Associates greeted, hugged, and provided handshakes to him along his journey to the stage. I witnessed Sisters and the room full of associates all jumping to their feet erupting into cheers for Ignacio. It was such happiness, I believe, he will always cherish and remember.

As the Christmas party luncheon, an appreciation and celebration of years of service, came to a close, I saw within this room many faces committed to their work, fellow associates cheering for their peers’ accomplishments and so much appreciation by the Sisters you could not walk away from the afternoon luncheon and celebration without a fullheart.

2022 Service Award Recipients

Elizabeth Strausser-Literacy Gloria Anaya-Dietary Teresita Carmen Avedillo-Nursing Yukari Waudby-Dietary

Alicia Juarez-Nursing Alexandra Molano-Finance Reina Posadas-Nursing Alma Zamarron-Nursing

– All pictured with Sr. Rachel O’Keefe
30 Years
Viktor Petrzala-Maintenance
Was unable to attend
pictured 10 Years
Carmen Rodriguez-Dietary (Was unable to attend celebration No picture available)
Claudia Gallardo-Dietary Martha Burak-Nursing Rosalinda Gardea-InformationManagement
5 Years <Left to Right>


Recognized for Work in Central American and with Refugees in Houston

The work of the Congregation in Central America and in Houston with Central American immigrants and refugees was recognized in December in a ceremony following “Little Central America, 1984,” a live performance written and performed by Elia Arce and Rubén Martínez that explored the origin story of the “Little Central Americas” established across the United States as a result of the civil wars of the 1980’s. The ceremony held Sunday, December 18, at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston, honored other Central American activists and their allies, including Mark and Louise Zwick, founders of The Houston Catholic Worker - Casa Juan Diego, and Rev. Robert Schaibly, long-time pastor of First Unitarian Universalist Church, the first Houston church to offer homeless refugees shelter in the sanctuary of their church. Mark Zwick passed away in 2016 followed by Rev. Schaibly in 2019.

The performance, its producers said, “brought together poetry, live music, and testimonials recreating the era when the conflicts in Guatemala and El Salvador displaced over one million people and spawned transnational solidarity through the Sanctuary Movement.”

Many CCVI Sisters worked in Guatemala and El Salvador during that time period, ministering to the people in various capacities during great social upheaval and trauma. Currently, the Congregation supports ministries in education, spirituality, and care for poor and abandoned elderly in Guatemala and does parish ministry in El Salvador.

Sr. Paulette Shaunfield, one of the first four CCVI missionaries to Guatemala who arrived in the country in 1963 and lived there through various periods until 1984, was supposed to have received the recognition on behalf of the Congregation but had an unexpected commitment. Sr. Madeleva Manzanares (pictured right ,) who had also worked in Guatemala for many years and now serves in CCVI’s Casa San José ministry to new Guatemalan immigrants in Houston, took her place on the stage to accept a painting representing “Hope.” The producers of the play also wished to acknowledge the Congregation’s current work supporting Indigenous families immigrating to the East End.

Sr. Betty Campos, who is from El Salvador, said she enjoyed the music and creativity of the play and the way it conveyed the message of family unity throughout. She said, “People leave their home countries because they are looking for a better life for their families.” She was also inspired to hold on to her cultural roots, which she knows can be lost for fear of drawing discrimination or not being accepted in the dominant culture. Sr. Betty said, “In this presentation I saw a group of Latinos valuing their culture, their roots, honoring their history. This has its merit; and I see it as a beautiful way of living interculturality.”

Fifteen of the Sixteen CCVI Sisters that attended the performance pictured here. “Little Central America, 1984,” was performed in both EnglishandSpanish.

Heavenly Voices Filled Villa de Matel Chapel This Holiday Season

December 2022, the Chapel of the Villa de Matel was once again the venue of choice for three local choir groups after a two-year absence due to Covid protocols. Villa de Matel Chapel is a majestic venue with timeless beauty that offers a perfect setting for beloved carols and seasonal classics. The Chapel boasts architecture practically made for a choral group from its sweeping rotundas to its heavenly acoustics; with symbolism everywhere. A member of the Houston Chamber shared, “When you walk in you feel as if you’re transported to Italy. It is, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful sacred spaces in Houston.” The groups have been utilizing the serene beauty of the Chapel as their perfect setting for their enchanting array of holiday collections of music for nearly a decade. These annual Christmas concerts have become a Houston family holiday tradition with their sold out performances for all three choir groups.

the season.”

An excerpt from the Welcome Note within the programbookfromJanisParish,PresidentofBayArea Chorus.

“Ourperformancetonightisagifttoyou,agiftofhope, joy and peace. . . a time to celebrate the light of love! AstheChristmasseasonenvelopesuswithallitsglory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek that brightly beam astartoguideusinourcelebrationoftheseason."


The Houston Chamber Choir presented On This Day Earth Shall Ring-Christmas at the Villa in two performances, December 10 & 11, 2022. The Houston Chamber Choir is a professional ensemble dedicated to increasing the awareness, appreciation, and esteem of choral music and musicians through performance, outreach, and education. The Houston Chamber Choir was proud to have The Beacon as a community partner for this year’s performance.TheBeaconisanonprofitorganizationindowntown Houston that works to end homelessness and restore hope. In the giving spirit of the holidays, the choir group invited patrons to bring items to donate that included: Socks, toiletries, medical scrubsandneworgentlyusedbathtowels.

Bob Simpson, Artistic Director and Founder of Houston Chamber Choir shared, “My experience is that Christmas and music go together like milk and cookies. Music is an essential part of Christmas, whether it’s secular or sacred, it puts us in the mood and makes us feel deeply connected to the holiday. This year’s ‘Ave Maria’ incorporated a prayer for peace for Ukrainians that has only been performed once before in Poland, and was performed for a second time by the Houston Chamber Choir as part of the concert.

Marianna Parnas-Simpson, Artistic Director & Founder for The Treble Choir of Houston performed with the Houston Chamber Choir. Marianna founded the group in 2006 to help young women grades 6-12 find their voice. The choir’s mission is to help each singer from a widely diverse background, realize their full potential as a person, musician; growing with self-esteem, confidence, and leadership skills which are all cultivated through an environment of love, respect, support.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Houston Children’s Chorus performance was titled: Concert of Sacred Christmas Music.

The Chorus involves more than 150 children in grades 2 – 8. Members of the Chorus represent all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Students come from every school district in the Houston area, private schools, and home schools. The Houston Children's Chorus has performed all around the world and has performed more than 28 times for the President of the United States.

Houston Children’s Chorus’ Mission

The Houston Children’s Chorus exists to musically enrich the lives of the children, their families, and the community it serves. The mission of the Chorus is to teach children to achieve multi-cultural understanding through choral singing and performance. An equally important goal is the nurturing and growth of discipline, responsibility, teamwork, self-confidence, selfcontrol, and character building-all qualities that help children succeed in life.

Houston Children’s Chorus performance at Villa de Matel Chapel in 2019

Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration Draws Large Crowd

Community building is part of our work at Casa San José ministry at Brookdale Village Apartments. Casa San José provides a multitude of services and classes, but also seeks to empower and equip new immigrants to thrive in a new country independently. Sr. Madaleva Manzanares currently is facilitating prayer and spiritual fellowship among the women who live at Brookdale Village Apartments. In December, she assisted in the coordination of a group of ladies to organize a Rosary and community celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She began with a group of three women, which quickly blossomed to 10, who took on tasks from setting up a beautiful altar in front of the office to bringing chairsandfood.

December 12, 2022, Casa San José ministry also participated in leading the glorious mysteries of the Rosary. The celebration included a variety of food ranging from tamales, tacos, chuchitos and cheese pizza, with the apartment community supplying food for free for the residents. Brookdale’s management company was also involved in getting the information circulated on the celebration. The crowd swelled to well over 100 as the evening wore on, despite the rain, drawing out many new faces to the doors of Casa San José. It was heartwarming and inspiring to see community, the Faith, and Our Lady of Guadalupe bring so many people together, even amid a diversity of spiritual beliefs and cultural practices.


Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God


Latin “iānus” meaning divine gate, door. We enter a new year with January as the first month of the year and the first day of January being the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God; opening the door to a new year to honor her. We praise God by honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God. The message is clear: Mary is the key which opens the door for the contemplation of the beauty on the face of Christ, the Redeemer of the human race and Mary’s Son.

We recognize on this first day of the year our beloved Blessed Mother Mary. Salvation is a gift of God, but we must cooperate with God’s grace. Mary is the model par excellence of this cooperation.Maryassented,conceived,andgavebirthandnowweareadoptedchildrenofGod. No wonder we honor Mary; she reflected, pondered and worked out in her daily YES to God the meaning of God with Us. Where did she faithfully go? From Bethlehem to Calvary so must we, so that we may share someday in the glory that Mary, our Mother already experiences.

Mary is the Key which Opens the

Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi was born in 1903 in Igboezunu near the ancient city of Aguleri in southern Nigeria. His parents, John Tabansi and Ejikwevi were Igbo farmers who practiced the "traditional religion" and gave him the name Iwene, which means “Sorrow will not kill you.” He was baptized at the age of nine and was given the name Michael. During his youth, his peers described him as studious and demanded very much of himself. In addition, it was said that he had a strong influence on his companions, who were fascinated by his decisive and precocious personality, both on human and religious levels, and also by his dutiful devotion to God and the observance of religious principles.

Father Michael entered St. Paul’s Seminary at Igbarium in 1925. After ordination in 1937, he served as a parish priest in several villages. It was important for him to know all his parishioners, so he would travel on foot and on his bicycle to get to know all of his followers. He also longed for quiet prayer. His bishop permitted him to join the Trappist Cistercian Abbey in England. In the Monastery, Father Michael took the name of Cyprian. He hoped to open a Trappist Monastery in Nigeria.

Father Michael died on January 10, 1964, in Leicester, England. His case for beatification was opened when a young woman was miraculously healed of untreatable tumors when she touched his coffin. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 22, 1998, in Oba, Nigeria. During Father Michael‘s beatification, Pope John Paul II stated in his speech that “Everyone who met him was touched by his personal goodness. He was a man of the people: he always put others before himself and was especially attentive to the pastoral needs of families. He took great care to prepare couples well for Holy Matrimony and preached the importance of chastity. He tried in every way to promote the dignity of women.”

Father Michael was the first West African to be beatified; his feast day is January 20. There is astatueofFatherMichaeloutsidetheMostHolyTrinityBasilicainOnitsha.


Sisters Celebrating Christmas Around The Globe

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