By Carol Baass Sowa
SAN ANTONIO • Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, introduced award honoree and speaker Sister Teresa Maya, CCVI, at Assumption Seminary’s Leadership in Faith and Service Gala. Sister Teresa has been congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word since 2014 and president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States since 2016.
The archbishop pointed out women religious have been a part of the seminary’s life since the 1920s, when the Hermanas Josefinas came to work there, as well as spiritually nurture the seminarians. Later, women religious began serving as formation faculty members. “We are very blessed,” he said, “to have women contributing to the formation of our priests.” He noted Assumption has ordained more than 500 priests over the years and that Father Stanley Rother, soon to be beatified, received his early seminary training there.
“Sister Teresa,” he said, “Assumption Seminary honors you in recognition of the special gift of collaboration, as “Catholic conjunto,” and in gratitude for all the women religious who have so deeply shaped the formation of generations of young men for the priesthood. Thank you also for being a good friend to many and to me.” He concluded by leading attendees in shouts of “viva” for her.
Sister Teresa accepted the honor accorded her, in the name of all religious sisters. “I think that it is a beautiful thing that we learn that we build the church together,” she said. Describing San Antonio as “a special place” in many ways, she related, “I stand here on the shoulders of incredible men and women who have given their lives to our city and the formation of the good men who are pastors in our local communities and in their name, I say ‘thank you’ to all of you.”
After asking the seminarians present to rise and be recognized, she said of San Antonio, “We are in the right place at the right time.” Our city is a privileged and unique place, she related, due to our history of collaboration and openness to diversity.
“This is a very special place,” she said, “and I believe, especially at this time, we are called together to be ‘gente-puente,’ to be ‘bridge people.’” She added we have so much to give our country and the world because we have learned to be church together, respecting and loving one another, and the same is true for San Antonio’s story of priesthood. “I think we are definitely called for a time such as this,” she said, for we live in a world in need of bridges.
Addressing priests and future priests, she said, “You absolutely must help all of us to look at Jesus.” It is what Pope Francis was saying in Evangelii Gaudium. Jesus walked among people, she related, and we need priests who invite us all to follow him. Seminary is just the beginning of a long collaborative journey. “There can be no pastor without a community,” she stated, “and no community without a pastor. We need to do this together.” All are called to be priestly in baptism and, in the times in which we live, we seem to be exercising this attribute in a fog and it is not clear where we are going or what is going to happen.
She quoted from a recent address to the LCWR by Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, who said, “This is our moment. The world around us teeters on the edge of both peril and promise. Breakdown and breakthrough tussle with each other. The path forward is hidden in the fog. It is your time to lead.” To do this, we must learn to be led and to listen deeply, she said, adding we need priests and a priestly people of deep prayer, who have a spirituality so strong it will take us through the fog.
San Antonio is a unique place to live out our vocation, become church and witness there is another way to live together, she said, observing that our being able to hold up our differences and work together is a “big deal.” Small is beautiful, she pointed out, for as a small city, we know each other and can easily call one another up.
We are also an inclusive city, where people do not feel discriminated against, she added, one that has learned to live with diversity and celebrate it, as well as a borderland city and crossroads, which is why so many refugees come through San Antonio. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable for us. “It was terrible to be in the news,” she said, “because of all those people who died outside the Walmart in a trailer.”
We are called to be a sacrament of hope as a community and church, she said, and an “encuentro people” who model Encuentro for the rest of the country. (Editor’s note: More on V Encuentro on page 1.)
In closing, she noted “three people who are watching over us:” Sister Rosa Maria Icaza, CCVI, Father Virgil Elizondo and Archbishop Patrick F. Flores, who with others, shaped our character as a city. “We stand on their shoulders,” she said. “We have to do what is ours to do to be a priestly community. We need to show the world that being together, that being different, that holding this Catholicity where all are welcome is a sign of joy and hope, a sign of the presence of the living Christ among us, living with us. I believe, San Antonio, ‘si, se puede!’ (yes, it is possible).”
Sister Teresa Maya, CCVI, was formally installed as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) last month. The LCWR is the association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. Formed in 1956, the conference has about 1,350 members, who represent nearly 80 percent of the approximately 49,000 women religious in the United States, according to the LCWR website.