At Their Side: Sister Brenda Valdez Helps the Newly Arrived Find Family Far From Home
Sister Brenda Valdes, Daughters of Immaculate Mary of Guadalupe (HMIG), is one of three sisters who started a new ministry in semi-rural North Dakota to serve residents from Mexico and Central America, who come seeking work in the area’s boom-and-bust oil and gas industry. Sister Brenda, Sister Rose and Sister Azucena are often found in the Walmart parking lot, handing out flyers and inviting shoppers to join them for Mass in Spanish or English.
Could you describe a typical day?
Our central focus is working with Hispanics. Day-to-day we accompany them morally and spiritually and in all respects. On weekends we have catechism and the Eucharist. Naturally, we dedicate ourselves to prayer, to the Rosary and to the Eucharist. And we study English together.
Before the other sisters and I arrived here, there was no outreach to Hispanics. No one was spreading the word of God to the recently arrived. Many do not have family with them because they came here to work. In the Church they find family. And they find true friends so that they don’t feel so alone.
What does it mean to offer spiritual guidance to others?
To accompany a person spiritually is to help them to see the events in their life through the lens of faith, through the eyes of God. Many of them confide in us. They are humble about sharing their experiences - the path they have taken, their sadness, their happiness. We are bringing people closer to a life of grace, helping people to reclaim their faith.
What does social justice mean to you?
Social justice is about recognizing human dignity. Our world is weakened by the fact that we do not truly understand nor respect the dignity every person possesses as a child of God.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Sisterhood? What is it like to have a spiritual bond with other sisters?
I enjoy the fact that when I meet another sister, though we do not know one another, we have Christ in common. We are unified in God, in prayer and in the Eucharist. Ministry unifies us, too, as the extension of God’s Kingdom. To be a religious woman among other women religious is to be part of a family.
Can you tell us about when you began to be aware that you were being called by God?
I began my religious life when I was 14 years old. As a high school student, I spent an Easter week in a small village in Coahuila and I was struck by the beauty of what it means to evangelize. A great thirst awoke in me to help others to find their way to God.
As a Catholic sister, one might say that you are always giving of yourself. What would you say you receive from acts of charity?
Above all, I receive thanks from God. Sometimes one realizes the fruits of her apostolic work. Sometimes one does not. Nonetheless there is great satisfaction in having accomplished something in the name of Jesus, and an added satisfaction in knowing that if I don’t do it, surely no one else will.