Sister Maria Fernanda Apablaza, a novice from Bernarda Morin Province in Chile, recently spent three months with sisters in the Mother Joseph Province. The international formation experience gave her a valuable opportunity to get to know the sisters, ministries and culture of the American West.

From December 18, 2018, through March 16, 2019, Sister Maria Fernanda lived with Sisters Josie Ramac, Huong Nguyen, and Marie-Thérèse Gnamazo in their West Seattle home. She experienced their warm welcome and hospitality upon arrival with a surprise birthday celebration — complete with cake, cards and blessings.

Srs Maria Fernanda and Marie-Therese flank bronze statue of Blessed Emilie Gamelin.
Sister Maria Fernanda Apablaza (left) with Sister Marie-Thérèse Gnamazo visit a statue of Blessed Emilie Gamelin, foundress of Sisters of Providence, in Renton, Wash.

Sister Maria Fernanda expressed gratitude for her multicultural, mutigenerational living companions. Sister Josie Ramac, who speaks Spanish (in addition to English, Tagolog, French and Vietnamese) helped her navigate through daily life and language challenges. Sister Marie-Thérèse Gnamazo, also a novice, and Sister Huong Thi Nguyen, who has made temporary vows, offered helpful advice and camaraderie.

Between English classes, traveling to other sisters’ local communities, and participating in various ministries, Sister Maria Fernanda packed a lot into her three months of formation in the Mother Joseph Province.

“I was able to meet a majority of the sisters, learn what they’re doing, how they live and how they dedícate their time,” said Sister Maria Fernanda. “I studied English with Sister Paula Cosko who teaches ESL, continued my formation with Sister Celia Chappell the novitiate director, and participated in activities and Masses with the sisters at St. Joseph Residence.”

One of Sister Maria Fernanda’s most memorable experiences was a trip to visit the Providence sisters and associates in Yakima, Wash. Here she learned about Sister Marisol Avila’s ministry with Hispanic youth and the legacy of Sister Silvia Troncoso, a Chilean missionary from Bernarda Morin Province who spent 26 years ministering to the Hispanic community in Yakima before returning to Chile in 2018.

“Sister Marisol’s ministry is a beautiful one,” said Sister Maria Fernanda. “I enjoyed being with those who were able to share their spirituality and also their rich dish of posole. In Yakima I found something else very special, because the people showed me their love for Sister Silvia. How happy I was and with such emotion to see places where the Providence of God was felt strongly, especially among undocumented people.”

Sister Paula Cosko’s English classes were another highlight. As a former physical education teacher, Sister Maria Fernanda was impressed with Sister Paula’s patience as a teacher. “There are many adults still learning the language, and she has a delicate and sweet way of teaching them. It left a big impact on me — the challenge not only to learn the language, but how to be a good teacher.”

Sister Maria Fernanda wrapped up her trip with a celebratory dinner at The Crab Pot on the Seattle waterfront, followed by visits to the sisters in Portland and Spokane, before departing Mother Joseph Province for Edmonton, Alberta, on March 16. There she will continue her formation for six months, building her English language skills, meeting more Sisters of Providence in the Holy Angels Province, and participating in the Canadian sisters’ ministries. Sister Maria Fernanda will return to Chile August 8, 2019.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my stay here in Seattle, because everything I have lived has been a gift from God,” Sister Maria Fernanda said. “I am grateful to each of the sisters who have expressed so much to fill me with the pure love of God.”