Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 31, 2004
Gutana -- a dream come true
Gutana -- City teller answers call to serve with Scarboro Missions
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Estrela De Sousa is about to embark on a solo journey to Guyana that will fulfill a life-long dream. She has even spent the last six years preparing her daughter for her departure.
Through the Scarboro Missions Society, De Sousa, 39, a well respected and devout volunteer at St. Patrick Parish, has committed the next three years of her life to serving in a mission in Georgetown, capital of the South American country of some 900,000 Christian, Hindu and Muslim faithful.
A former tailor, De Sousa said the idea of going to Guyana fit like a glove.
"This is something I've wanted to do all my life," said De Sousa, a single parent of Angelina, 19. "I remember even in high school I wanted to go out to the world and live my Catholic faith. All over the world, there is fellowship with Christ."
Six years in the making
Six years ago, after reading an article about Scarboro Missions in the WCR, De Sousa was inspired to contact the newspaper to obtain additional information about the society and to subscribe to its newsletter.
She knew that when the time was right, she would again contact them in earnest and volunteer to serve.
"My daughter is busy attending NAIT and working two jobs. She has a lot of friends. This is a good window of opportunity for me to go. I know it will be difficult to leave her and my family," De Sousa said.
"But Angelina is very supportive. When I read the article, I was thinking about the future and it seemed exactly what I wanted to do. I have spent much of the time getting my daughter self-sufficient."
De Sousa says her family, originally from Portugal, would like her to stay home and be safe, but they also know her dream is to share her gifts from God with her brothers and sisters in poorer countries.
Scarboro Missions is a society of priests and lay missionaries who celebrate God's presence, living humbly and serving among people of all faiths, cultures and traditions, says Jean MacInnis, lay missions coordinator for the society along with her husband, John.
"We are witness to the person and mission of Christ today, as expressed in his words, 'I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,'" MacInnis said.
"Estrela will go to Guyana for three years as a Scarboro lay missionary. Soon, she will join other Scarboro missionaries who are united by a common spirit and passion to make known the love of God that is transforming all peoples and cultures."
Lay missionaries can be men, women, single or married couples. In addition to a spirit of adventure, they feel the desire to be witness to the person and mission of Christ today.
"One distinctive role of the mission is participating with the local people, priests and sisters in building a vibrant Christian community," MacInnis said. "Lay missionaries offer a variety of unique gifts, witnessing God's love for all, within the Christian community and beyond. The focus of mission is unity of all peoples - one family in God. Lay missionaries are joyful and enthusiastic in serving God."
De Sousa could have selected one of a dozen countries but chose Guyana because of a calling. A former co-worker was Guyanese and during her Scarboro Missions interview in Toronto a year ago, she met a woman who was about to commence a sewing school in Georgetown.
"Knowing Portugese, I could have gone to Brazil and worked in the interior along the Amazon River. But the call just wasn't there," said De Sousa, who moved to Edmonton as a four-year-old.
"I'm anxious to go to Guyana and get this adventure started. I'll leave Edmonton for Toronto on June 3 and then fly to Guyana on June 10.
"I have 13 years of experience tailoring so I can bring my expertise and help the ladies learn more skills so they can actually make a living for themselves. I'm not sure exactly what they are doing right now but I'm hoping to teach some marketing skills to help them sell their products at local markets," she said.
"I also hope to help with the girl's orphanage in Georgetown."
Prior to her resignation in December, De Sousa was a teller at the Scotiabank main branch on Jasper Ave. for nine years.
She used to volunteer at the Dickensfield Extended Care Centre helping feed the residents. Involved in the women's group at St. Patrick's for many years, she also helped with Sunday collections.
"I have always loved listening to Father Frank Stempfle's sermons. He has been an inspiration as a priest. He loves his parish and his community. I want to take what he has done for me and give the gifts to the people in Guyana," she said.
"I like to call this my three-year tour of duty for God. Like Father says in his sermons, living the life of Jesus isn't just done on Sunday. I will live my Catholic life in everything I do."
Stempfle thinks De Sousa will fit in well wherever she goes because of her capacity to express her love of life. It has an endearing effect on everyone she meets.
"She is a delightful, friendly and giving person," Stempfle said. "For years, she helped with Sunday collections and now she has passed that onto her daughter. She is a person of great faith, someone whom you love instantly.
"When she first expressed her desire to go, I was amazed and delighted that she would convey her generosity. But I was a little worried that she was going to a dangerous place," he said.
"Now, everyone in the parish is keenly supportive. They are planning to give her a little bit of money to support her or support the mission, however she sees fit."
Kathy Gibson, manager of customer service at Scotiabank, says that in lieu of a parting gift, De Sousa asked her co-workers to collect money to help the mission.
"Instead of a going-away gift, Estrela asked for some money to be put into an account in Guyana that she could use to help the mission. She was a long-term and well respected employee," Gibson said.
"Estrela is the kind of person who doesn't ruffle any feathers. She is very dedicated to whatever she is doing."
As a teller, she got to know many of the customers who now ask about her to see how she is doing. "Hardly a week goes by that we don't get a nice compliment about her," Gibson said. "We miss her."