Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 19, 2007
Guatemalan nun stands by her people
Sr. Delfina braves war, teaches cooking, nursing care to village women
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
In the Catholic Church, religious life for centuries has been a source of immense blessings.
I became aware of this especially since I've been involved in a Third World situation where poverty and violence have negatively marked whole generations in Central America and, no doubt, in other parts of the world.
Shy but courageous
Sister Delfina has been a nun in Guatemala for 24 years. She lived through the war that killed tens of thousands in Guatemala in the violent 1980s. The community life with her sisters kept her going forward. She struggled with the studies. Another hurdle for her was communicating with people, as she was very shy.
During her novitiate years, she spent two very difficult months because the army, led by General Rios Montt, had no scruples about killing civilians. They assembled women and children in the local school, doused the school with gasoline and set it on fire with the people inside screaming and dying a most horrible death. People were under a strict curfew and they were not allowed out of their homes after 6 p.m.
When Sister Delfina made her religious vows, she was most happy. She was assigned to the care of sick children suffering from malnutrition. Sister dealt with little children who were just skin and bones.
"They had no muscles at all," she said.
There were all sorts of restrictions imposed by the army which, instead of protecting the people, turned out to be the people's enemy, destroying whole villages and killing the people they had the mission to safeguard.
Sister's presence was a source of security and comfort for them. She gave them support and hope and she felt useful. The people pleaded with the sisters to stay with them. So she and a companion, Sister Leticia, remained throughout the years of violence.
This life came to an end as she had to return to the convent to prepare for her final religious vows.
For the following six years, she worked in a dispensary helping sick people. During that time, she taught women how to prepare food other than beans and rice day after day. She also initiated a program for the women to learn how to make clothes.
Later, in the community of Las Pajales, she was asked to bake bread for the people. But she didn't know how to bake herself. However she ran into a program called Intecap which supported community development.
She learned and was, in turn, able to teach people how to bake bread. And after many years, they still do.
"A grace of God," she felt.
She goes home for 15 days every year, a time of great joy, a joy that lasts her throughout the year.
Sister Delfina feels that her postulate, a year of preparation for her novitiate, was a difficult time because she is indigenous. "It was very hard to be with the white people, 'the Ladinos,'" she said.
A small woman, Sister Delfina says she met Christ in the poor. Her desire, her greatest hope and her mission in life, is to help people the best she can.
She goes to the villages and works with the women. With her training as a nurse she's able to help the sick as well as teach people about the care of the sick and the prevention of disease.
A heart that hears
Sister Delfina feels that the people trust the sisters and they spontaneously unload their hurts and joy on her.
The religious congregation Sister Delfina belongs to is Las Hermanas de San Jose de la Apparition or, The Sisters of St. Joseph's apparition. It's a reference to the angel appearing to St. Joseph, informing him Mary's pregnancy was the work of the Holy Spirit.
May St. Joseph continue to bless the dedicated sisters who inherited his name and not forget the people in their care.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.