Providence Sister Margarita Hernandez professes perpetual vows in Seattle on July 27, 2013

July 15, 2013


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Sister Margarita Araceli Hernandez Alfaro will make profession of perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence in a liturgy at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at St. Mary’s Parish, 611 20th Avenue South, in Seattle.

Sister Margarita was born in November 1980 in Puerto Parada, Usulutan, and moved with her family to La Papalota when she was 10, seeking to escape from the civil war’s danger and fear. Her new home was is in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador, which is where the Sisters of Providence first established their mission in 1995. Her family lived next door.

Margarita became involved in her community as a youth group leader, animator and catechism teacher for young children, and was aided in her own education through scholarship funds contributed by the sisters and by Providence Associates in Portland, Ore. Margarita entered the Sisters of Providence in El Salvador in 2002 along with Sister Vilma Franco, who professed perpetual vows last October in Spokane.

“Sister Margarita’s own life experience and her experience with those who are poor and vulnerable, in addition to hearing the call of God for a deeper commitment, have led her to make her perpetual profession as a Sister of Providence,” said Provincial Superior Judith Desmarais, SP. “She will be a wonderful bridge between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking peoples, as she moves forward in ministering to those most in need. She brings to life the joy and spontaneity of her Salvadoran culture. We congratulate her and promise our support and prayers as she takes this important step in religious life.”

The two Salvadoran women participated in a Come and See experience in La Papalota and in the Sisters of Providence pre-candidate program in San Salvador. The latter included basic community living skills, personal development and group skills. They also attended Jose Simeon Canas Central American University, a Jesuit university in San Salvador. They joined other Sisters of Providence novices in Chile for their canonical year to explore in depth the call to vowed religious life.

Family members have been an important support for Sister Margarita. When she became a postulant in San Salvador in 2002, she was supported by her father Isaiah, her brothers and sisters. Her mother had died earlier that year. Family members also were present when she was welcomed into the novitiate in a ceremony in El Salvador in March of 2004. They were with her in spirit when she professed first vows in Spokane in August 2007 at the annual Provincial Chapter and will be again when she makes final vows this month in the company of her second family, Sisters of Providence, sisters from other religious communities, Providence Associates, Providence Companions, and people from parishes where she has served in ministry — St. Joseph’s in Spokane, St. Louise in Bellevue, and St. Mary’s in Seattle. They will be ready to embrace and congratulate her after Congregational Leader Karin Dufault, SP, receives her perpetual vows.

The theme for Sister Margarita’s perpetual vow ceremony on July 27 is: “I hear the call of God and I respond with my heart full of happiness.” The bilingual ceremony, in Spanish and English, will be followed by a reception with music, dance and food from El Salvador, Vietnam, Mexico and Guatemala.

“When I began this journey, it was not easy,” Sister Margarita said. “I was giving up a lot of comforts, friendships, lots of my own things. The hardest was the language. I am a very independent person and it was hard to depend on translators. I also like to talk, and there was tremendous frustration because I felt voiceless.” Making that journey with Sister Vilma helped because they were a support for each other, she added.

Sister Margarita studied English as a Second Language at the Institute for Extended Learning’s Adult Education Center in Spokane. “Now, I may not pronounce words exactly the same as an American, but I can communicate.”

She said it is a mystery how her thoughts, her ways and her journey have changed since she left El Salvador. “What we want and what God wants are different.” She has found herself and her calling in working with the people, especially Hispanics who have been in this country for years but do not know the language. “That pushes me to say, ‘okay, I have to do this’. When I changed my thoughts, the language became easier for me. The people gave me the strength to continue. It has been a rich experience, spiritually and socially.”

She graduated from Spokane Falls Community College with a two-year degree in social work. Next, after the religious community’s Provincial Chapter and Jubilee celebration in early August, she will be on her way to San Antonio, Texas, where she will be enrolled in the Catholic Leadership program at Mexican American Catholic College (MACC). The program, as described by MACC, “prepares graduates to be effective change agents at the diocesan and parish levels. It is grounded in such principles as servant leadership and subsidiarity.” While in San Antonio, she will live with the Sisters of Divine Providence. After completing those studies, her desire is to return to Seattle and work in a bilingual parish, “at least for two years, and then I am open to whatever God says, in El Salvador, in another country or anywhere.”

By taking these vows, Sister Margarita makes her formal commitment as one of 134 sisters in Mother Joseph Province who embrace the charism and the mission of the Sisters of Providence. Mother Joseph Province includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, California and El Salvador. The province is international, intergenerational and intercultural, and includes one canonical novice from Edmonton, Alberta, who is living in the province, and two apostolic novices. There are four sisters in temporary vows, including two from Bernard Morin Province in Chile who are continuing their formation and discernment here.