La Salette Sisters to Serve in Diocese

She was a "beautiful lady," bathed in light, according to the two shepherd children to whom the weeping woman appeared in the French Alps above the village of La Salette more than 150 years ago. This apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her message of reiterating Gospel teachings, investigated and fully approved by the Church, became the inspiration for the founding of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. On the invitation of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, three sisters of the order arrived recently to serve in the diocese. The backyard of their home, in the newly renamed La Salette Convent in Fairfax, borders Paul VI High School’s property. "We’re very happy to be here," said Our Lady of La Salette Sister Saturnina Pascual, the order’s assistant superior general, who came from France for several weeks to help the sisters settle in. Known as "Sister Nina," she defined the Sisters of La Salette as "a diocesan, international missionary religious institute." She said they have received a "warm welcome" in their new location. On weekdays the sisters attend early morning Mass at Paul VI, and Sundays at the parish of St. Leo in Fairfax. Sister Constancia Parcasio, or Sister Connie, is program director for prison ministry through diocesan Catholic Charities; Sister Maria Estrella Ner, or Sister Lily, is project director in the diocesan Office of Family Life; Sister Maria Josephine Valenton, or Sister Marijo or Majo, is pastoral associate to Missionhurst Father Paul Wynants, Catholic chaplain to Fairfax Hospital. Prior to coming to this area, the sisters served in the Philippines. Bishop Loverde said he asked the sisters to come to the diocese because of the order’s "distinct charism of reconciliation … in apostolates that promote unity … Their spirituality focuses on the very person of Christ from whom all reconciliation comes. The three sisters will serve in apostolic works that promote the mission of reconciliation of the people of God." He expressed his gratitude that Our Lady of La Salette Sister Marie Victoire Rasoamanarivo, superior general, accepted his request. Sister Connie said her responsibilities will be to "coordinate spiritual and material services for prison ministry, work with the inmate’s families, and be the diocesan spokesperson for prison ministry." Sister Lily said her service, especially in Project Rachel, will be to create "a spiritual and religious building up," specifically, "post-abortion counseling and interviewing and training volunteers." Along with Sister Connie, she wishes to learn how to use computers for her ministry work. Sister Marijo will be "assisting Father Wynants in administering the sacraments, train to be a Eucharistic minister, visit Catholic patients and develop outreach to parishes" for their patients’ in- and post-hospital support. Because of the sensitive nature of their ministries, the three sisters said the confidentially of their clients is paramount. In ministries described as "socio-pastoral and educational," the order’s sisters serve in the Philippines, Myanmar, (formerly known as Burma), Madagascar, Brazil, France, and will soon work in Angola and probably Poland. The general house is in Grenoble, France. Although there are many La Sallette male religious in the United States, the only women religious of the order currently are the sisters in Fairfax. Insufficient vocations and staff forced the closing of convents and a novitiate in this country. Sister Nina said they are praying that this opportunity in Virginia becomes an "opening for more vocations," she said. "It is a dream of the La Salette Sisters to expand [here]." She said that the religious order’s initial connection to this area occurred about 18 months ago when an Alexandria woman was on pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in France. The three sisters who came to work in the diocese were chosen for their credentials and experience by the order’s general council. Last week, all four attended the March for Life in Washington, which Sister Nina described as "very beautiful." Since their arrival, the sisters have been studying for their driver’s licenses, and helping a local friend feed the homeless. They will begin working in their diocesan positions tomorrow, on the worldwide Day for Consecrated Life, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In addition to prayers, especially for increased vocations, the sisters are in need of three computers, three cars for transportation to their ministry locations, window coverings for their on-site chapel, and beds for their overnight guest area. For information call the La Salette Convent at 703/691-4294.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001