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Xavarian Missionary Sisters say we are all missionaries

Posted By March 27, 2015 | 6:23 pm | Featured Article #2
Photo by Tanya Connor
Sister Rebeca Sánchez speaks during the Xaverian Missionaries of Mary presentation March 7 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston. Sister Rosetta Serra is at left. Behind them is a picture of St. Guido Conforti, founder of the Xaverian Missionaries, their brother community.
Photo by Tanya Connor Sister Rebeca Sánchez speaks during the Xaverian Missionaries of Mary presentation March 7 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston. Sister Rosetta Serra is at left. Behind them is a picture of St. Guido Conforti, founder of the Xaverian Missionaries, their brother community.

By Tanya Connor

“Look at us – we are normal women.”
The religious sister standing with fellow missionaries wasn’t letting her listeners off the hook.
“You can do something in the place that you are,” Sister Veronica Parades, a Xaverian Missionary of Mary, told them. “You also are missionary.”
Anticipating the question, “What can I do?” she said, “Ask Jesus. … Are you ready to ask Jesus that question?” She gave the example of a grandmother having a mission to share the faith with her grandchildren.
Sister Veronica was wrapping up a presentation about the Xaverian Missionary Society of Mary March 7 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston. She and the five other members of their congregation from Worcester were there at the invitation of their brother congregation, the Xaverian Missionaries, who run the shrine.
Each Lent the priests hold a Soup and Mission night at the shrine, Father Rocco Puopolo told The Catholic Free Press. This Lent, as the universal Church is celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life, they had the sisters speak.
At the Soup and Mission night Sister Rosetta Serra summarized the sisters’ history.
She told how St. Guido Conforti, who founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895, had hoped to found a sister branch. Years later Father James Spagnolo was encouraged to found one. After praying and getting others to do so, and consulting superiors, he asked Celestine Healy Bottego, who taught English at the Xaverian Missionaries’ Seminary in Parma, to consider participating.
“I am more capable to destroy God’s work than to make it happen,” replied the woman who had desired consecrated life but felt obligated to care for her parents. At 15 she went from Montana to join family in Parma, where she studied, taught and served the poor. She met and admired St. Guido when he was bishop of Parma.year-of-cons-life-final-web-1
An Easter card Father Spagnolo sent her in 1944, which simply said “Tutto” (which means “all”) with a crucifixion image, was the message she needed to accept his invitation to found the women’s branch. Other women joined her and in 1945 the Xaverian Missionaries of Mary began.
After consultation with the Holy See, Father Spagnolo and Mother Celestine agreed not to have the sisters distinguished by a habit, so they could be “a simple presence of Jesus,” accepted by people in all walks of life, Sister Rosetta said. Charity was to be their only distinction.
Sister Rosetta rejoiced that Mother Celestine, remembered as loving, helpful, joyful, humble and trusting in God, was proclaimed venerable by Pope Francis on  Oct. 31, 2013.
Sister Veronica continued the story, telling of the sisters’ spirituality. She said they are missionaries seeking to announce the Good News of God’s Kingdom to non-Christians. They profess chastity, poverty and obedience and desire to do everything in, through and with Jesus. They take Mary, who announced Jesus to Elizabeth and embraced his mission, as their model.
The sisters live in solidarity with everyone, especially the small and poor, Sister Veronica said. She said the experience of their own littleness and poverty marked their founders’ lives.
Christ’s command to proclaim the Gospel to all has united them in one family which welcomes sisters from different cultures, she said.
Speaking of the sisters’ and fathers’ focus on mission, Father Puopolo said, “It’s a real choice by all of us to leave our homes,” and work elsewhere. The sisters said those in Worcester are originally from Mexico or Italy and no Americans have joined the congregation.
Sister Laura Canali told about the sisters’ work in different countries. From their motherhouse in Parma they leave to go to the missions. In Italy they promote vocations and missionary awareness.
The first mission outside of Italy began in 1954 when Mother Celestina and Sister Rosetta came to work with the Xaverian priests in Petersham. The sisters later served in Fitchburg, Worcester and New York.
Now their only U.S. community is in Worcester. At St. Paul Cathedral Sister Veronica is coordinator of religious education and works with the Hispanic youth group, and Sister Maria Luisa Dallari is pastoral associate and works in the Spanish Apostolate. Sister Rebeca Sánchez is religious education coordinator and ministers in the Spanish Apostolate at Our Lady of Providence Parish.
Sister Laura said she helps the community and volunteers at the soup kitchen at St. John Parish and the food pantry at St. Peter Parish.
Sister Rosetta is the community’s bookkeeper and Sister Susana Miranda, who has made first vows, is here to learn English.
Since 1960, the sisters have been in Africa, Sister Laura said. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Chad they are maternity nurses, work with underfed or handicapped children or promote education for women and girls.
In Brazil the sisters are pastoral ministers in parishes, Sister Laura said. In Mexico, a mission Sister Rosetta opened in 1974, they promote missionary awareness and vocations. In Japan they work at an interreligious dialogue center, and have a kindergarten and Bible studies.  In 2000 they opened a mission in Thailand, where most of the sisters are young. They work with the handicapped and catechumens and have Bible studies.
In preparation for their General Chapter (a meeting of representatives from the communities around the world) the sisters meditated on the meaning of “tutto,” Sister Rebeca said.

Meeting in Parma last summer, they talked about working with other congregations and their lay associates, and about giving their lives where they are, she said.

Then they learned that Sisters Olga Raschieti, 83; Lucia Pulici, 75, and Bernardette Boggian, 79, had been murdered in Burundi, though it’s still not clear why.