Sisters receive ministry award for presence to Spanish-speaking community in Pee Dee



CONWAY — Members of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gathered Jan. 14 at the Church of St. James to honor three women in a Pee Dee ministry that is reaching out to the Hispanic community in Horry County and beyond.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Sisters Carmen Evangelista Meza, Elizabeth Zarate Bernal and Conchita Antunez Solis were honored for their work with “The Dream Catcher Affirmation Award” by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. A reception was held at the parish center after Sunday morning Mass at the church.

Bishop Robert J. Baker sent his regards as did Humility Sister Susan Schorsten, diocesan liaison for religious.

“It was a joy for me to invite the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to come to our diocese and collaborate in ministry among our Hispanic Catholics in parishes of the Pee Dee Deanery. I am most grateful to Mother Olga and the leadership team for sending us Sisters Carmen, Conchita and Elizabeth,” wrote Sister Schorsten.

She continued, “The affirmation and support of this ministry by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, which the Dream Catcher Award represents, is deeply appreciated. For over half a century the sisters of that congregation have served the sick and dying of the Pee Dee in a remarkable way. I value their continued ministry in Horry and Georgetown counties. …”

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus serve four parishes in Loris, Conway, Lake City and Georgetown. The sisters minister to an estimated 125,000 immigrant Hispanics who live in a radius of 2,500 square miles in their ministry.

Sister Marge O’Gorman serves on the Franciscan Sisters of Mary leadership team in St. Louis, Mo. “I think they (the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) are energetic and interested in the people that they work with. They seem eager to learn and be observant to everyone.”

Paula Loehr, an administrative assistant at St. James, is equally proud of the sisters’ work. “I think it’s particularly appropriate because this is really a dream come true for this area,” she said. “They work in Conway, Myrtle Beach, Lake City and Georgetown, wherever they are needed.”

Sister Eleanor Krieg works part-time as director of music at St. James.

“It’s wonderful the way they are reaching out to people who really need it,” she said. “They help with language and getting them ready for the sacraments.”

Sister Jeanne Gerer also traveled from St. Louis with the leadership team of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, and she expressed her pride in the SC sisters.

“I am delighted because I think that this is a big step for these women, a step that really shows a lot of courage on their part because they are coming to an entirely new environment. With the increase of immigration in this area, and for the Spanish-speaking people, their language is so important to them. To be able to have somebody there who will relate to them for the reign of God in their own language, is really, really important to them.”

Father Rick LaBrecque, pastor of St. James, praised the work of the sisters.

“They have done wonderful things. They have gotten people involved. They’ve trained lay leaders. They’ve developed a sacramental preparation program. They’ve brought a sense of great spirit, while at the same time trying to develop a unity with the whole parish. They are so energetic. We are blessed.”

Sister Jacqueline Motgel is president of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary congregation.

“I think it’s wonderful that they (the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) have received that award. We had asked our congregation to give us the names of different groups that they thought were worthy and actually reflected our values and our vision of our congregation. The sisters here were one of six. Then when we got that list of six, we sent it out to our entire congregation, and these sisters were the first choice,” she explained.

See next week’s Miscellany to read this article in Spanish.