Freelance journalist and photographer Nancy Wiechec is a veteran Catholic media professional based in the Phoenix, Ariz., area. She is formerly of Catholic News Service in Washington, D.C. In 2013 she was a finalist for the St. Francis de Sales award, given by the Catholic Press Association for outstanding contributions to journalism. Follow her @nancywiechec on Twitter.
She's in her 30s ‒ only 1 percent of women religious are. And she's an elementary school teacher. Fewer than 2,000 women religious ‒ 2 percent of all sisters ‒ teach in U.S. Catholic grade schools. Yet she said she's joyfully where she needs to be and is not discouraged by the few number women choosing religious life. "I wouldn't necessarily say there's a drop in vocations as much as there is a drop in the 'yes' ‒ you know, the response to the call," she told Catholic News Service during a recent interview at St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule. "I think God is calling and calling and calling."
Sr. Mary Rosita Shiosee is a striking example of Catholic faith prospering in the indigenous communities of this land, where church history has been marked by ups and downs. She was born, baptized and confirmed in Jemez Pueblo, 60 miles away as the crow files, and spent time as a girl in the village of Mesita in Laguna Pueblo. While visiting homebound people in Mesita, Shiosee looks out over the village's surrounding landscape. It is wild and barren now, but she remembers it as fertile ground, where the pueblo once tended fields of wheat, alfalfa, corn, chilies and other vegetables. "As children, early in the morning after the dew had settled on the dirt, we would go out and turn the dirt over. That's how we would water the plants."
When the Minim Daughters of Mary Immaculate was established in Mexico in 1886, the founder named the sisters so because he felt Mary would watch closely over her youngest of daughters. Early on the congregation was called to aid a community devastated by flooding in central Mexico. The first Minim sisters ran medical centers, orphanages and schools.
Young people living on the Arizona side of the U.S.-Mexican border are inspired by Minim Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist to cross over to volunteer their time at an aid center for deported migrants in Nogales, Sonora, that is part of the Catholic-run Kino Border Initiative.