For different times and different cultures, sisters adapt the mission
A great variety of changes and challenges called the founders of congregations to discover and present-day sisters to rediscover their charism. We heard about it from our panelists this month as they responded to this question:
How have you or your congregation taken your mission or charism and adapted it to the culture of your surroundings or your country’s history?
María Alejandra Leguizamón Schija is a Dominican Sister of the Holy Name of Jesus in Tucumán, Argentina. Her academic preparation includes a pastoral specialization with an area of focus related to human trafficking. She works in pastoral ministry but also with a diverse group called Net “Kawsay,” which gives workshops for all ages in border schools and neighborhoods.
Our congregation was founded in 1886 in response to one of the outcries of reality: a great cholera epidemic. At that time, Elmina Paz was a widowed woman who was in comfortable economic circumstances thanks to her marriage with Napoleón Gallo, a brilliant politician. They had large landholdings in the rural area of Tucumán. She was a pious woman and charitable with all the people around her.
The charism that inspired Elmina from the beginning was that of St. Dominic de Guzmán (also known as Dominic of Osma or Dominic of Caleruega). The Dominican charism included prayer, study for preaching, and a spirituality forged from three pillars: having charity, being humble, and practicing voluntary poverty.
But when the cholera epidemic broke out in Tucumán and left many children orphaned, the streets were overflowing with pain and sadness. Fr. Ángel María Boisdron, prior of the Convent of Santo Domingo in Tucumán and Elmina’s spiritual director, invited her to help the children who were left homeless. She responded to this call, saying: “Not only will I open the doors of my house, but also of my heart. I will take care of them.” Elmina and five other young women were the first to attend to the children orphaned by cholera in Tucumán.