Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 19, 2005
Pilar Valdes makes her final vows
A Chilean native became a full-fledged member of the Ursulines of Jesus
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
After several long years of discernment, Sister Pilar Valdes is finally a full-fledged member of the Ursulines of Jesus. The Chilean-native made her perpetual vows Dec. 10 at Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish) Church before Archbishop Thomas Collins and hundreds of well-wishers.
Also present were Bishop Gerald Weisner of Prince George, a few of Valdes' family members and about 15 Ursulines from Canada, France and Chile.
Collins congratulated Valdes for consecrating her life to God's service and urged many more young women to follow in her footsteps.
"The religious profession is profoundly important; it is an expression of total trust and faith in the Lord and it is the expression of the acceptance of his grace and love," he said in his homily.
A promise to God
"This is not simply a promise to say, 'I will do this,' but it is a promise which is made in the presence of God."
The congregation sang and prayed in both Spanish and English throughout the ceremony.
"I am," Valdes firmly replied when the archbishop asked her whether she was now resolved to unite herself with God by the bond of perpetual profession.
Then, in the presence of Sister Winifred Lusk, delegate of the superior general, the woman made forever the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty in the Ursulines of Jesus, a 200-year-old international congregation with members in western Canada and nine other countries in Europe, South America and Africa.
Collins gave Valdes a blessing and then presented her with a ring as a sign of God's faithfulness to her. "I confirm that you are now one with us," Lusk said as she welcomed Valdes into the Ursulines' fold. She received a standing ovation from those present at the Mass.
Valdes, a childcare worker, is now one of 14 Ursulines in Alberta, most of them serving in pastoral ministry, education, care of children and the sick and other ministries with a constant concern for the people most in need. She is the first woman to have made her perpetual vows as an Ursuline sister in five years.
"I feel very, very happy," she said after the Mass. "I've been journeying for a long time. My goal now is to continue to be a faithful servant of the people of God." Valdes doesn't predict any change in the near future, saying she will continue working at a Jasper Place childcare centre during the week and serving the Spanish community on the weekends.
"Making my perpetual vows here (at Our Lady of Guadalupe) was very special because this is where I have been serving since I came to this country (in 1983)."
Valdes' brother, Mario, could hardly contain his emotion throughout the ceremony. "When your sister becomes a nun in a Mass like this, you can't help but be overwhelmed," he said. "It's a unique experience. I'm very proud of her."
Mario said the family always knew Pilar was destined for something special. As a young girl she would rather spend her time doing volunteer work and providing comfort to others rather than partying, he observed. "She has always been very special."
Sister Geraldine Kelly, one of two sisters who have been living in community with Valdes for the past three years, described the new sister as "a prayerful woman with a deep sense of justice."
"It's wonderful to welcome a woman like her who thinks this is her calling."
Valdes left Chile for Edmonton in 1983 to escape the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, just like her brother Mario had done before.
Soon after arriving in the city she found herself immersed in the Spanish Catholic Community, assisting in religious services or helping community members with their problems.
"I had always been close to the Church, but here I got closer and I felt for the first time that God was calling me (to religious life)," she says. "Like I felt God seducing me, calling me, saying 'You have to do more; you have to give more.'"
Things became clearer to Valdes in October 1988 when she met two Ursulines who were visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. She felt attracted to the congregation. It still took a number of years for her to take the first step.
"I entered (the Ursulines of Jesus) in 1995 to have an experience of how the sisters lived their everyday life," she related. "I was curious about it and I went in there."
She felt at home with the sisters and decided to take it a step further by making her first vows in 1997. Now she is one of them, forever.
"She is an excellent addition to our congregation," said her friend Sister Carmen Monreal. "She is a simple woman, very prayerful and has a wonderful presence. She exudes peace wherever she is."
Mauricio Amador, a lay leader at Our Lady of Guadalupe, said the Spanish community is honoured to have one of their own become a sister.
"We are very happy," he said. "She is a friend of our community and has dedicated all her (adult) life to helping the people here. She is very trustworthy and friendly. If you need something, you just need to call her."