Wednesday, March 11, 2015

in honor of #NCSW, part one

National Catholic Sisters Week
Unlike many people my age, I did not experience the trauma and upheaval of the 1960s culture and the changing Catholic Church in the United States that many of my friends describe. 

My experience of the Church as a child was deeply Latin American, where the energy of the Second Vatican Council reforms and movements like Cursillo brought increased vitality and renewal to the parishes in Puerto Rico--and certainly to my own multi-generational, refugee home. 

I grew up surrounded by generous and devoted women and men, both lay and vowed religious. You can click here to read more about it -- and see more fun(ny) old photos of me!

My point is that I didn't know this was weird. How could I have known that other families didn’t have nuns and priests regularly in their homes and taking part of family activities?

On this Year of Consecrated Life, I've been pondering about just how graced I am to have a plethora of stories about sisters and nuns from my growing up--with many more from my youth and adult life. 

And now, as our children grow older and have children of their own, I see how our extended family continues to be deeply blessed by dedicated priests and faithful sisters and nuns.

So -- In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week I will focus on one special woman, my beautiful and inspiring heart sister, Sr. Tess Browne, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky.

Sr. Tess and I, 1992, at the
7th National Black Catholic Congress, New Orleans. I was covering it, she was attending!

Sr. Tess visiting our home, when our kids were in high school and middle school

A couple of years ago I wrote about Tess in an essay titled “Mi Hermana Tess,” published in a book that you may be interested in: "Thank you Sisters: Stories About Women Religious And How They Enrich Our Lives,"  (Franciscan Media).

Here's a snippet of my published essay, remembering when I first met Tess at the University of Texas Catholic Student Center, 35 (holy cow!) years ago. I was 19!
One day in the spring, my good friend and staff member Sister Anne, a Dominican from Houston, received a call from a Franciscan sister working in McAllen, Texas. She explained that a group from the United Farm Workers movement had come to Austin to speak to the convening Texas Legislature and to lobby on behalf of farm workers. 
They were looking for a place to stay for a few days and wanted to connect with college students at the Catholic Student Center who were interested in learning about their ministry. 
Sr. Marie-Therese Browne, or Tess, as she introduced herself, was a 37-year-old dynamo with a heart the size of Texas. She was a member of the Wisconsin chapter of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. A native of Trinidad, Tess and I immediately bonded as we joked and shared about our experience living in the states as Hispanic women from the Caribbean islands. 
But as Tess pointed out in her characteristic direct style in an accent laced by the Creole and French spoken in her island, as a Black woman Hispanic, “I have one up on you!”
More on Tess in my next post...

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