Offering spiritual guidance to quinceneras

A group of Mexican-American Catholic sisters in San Antonio are making sure the much-hyped quincenera comes with a measure of spiritual reflection, thanks to a mini-grant from the National Catholic Sisters Week.

The Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence, a San Antonio-based community of Catholic sisters, are planning a Quincenera After-Party that will be funded by an NCSW grant. The goal is to make sure the rite of passage, which has its roots in Mexican-Catholic tradition and centers around a Mass of thanksgiving, involves some meaningful spiritual guidance.

“Fifteen is a crucial age,” said Sister Guadalupe Ramirez, 69, a theology professor and longtime Missionary Catechist who applied for a NCSW mini-grant. She described a window of time when the Catholic Church can engage these teenaged girls, which, she said, is often a missed opportunity. “There’s still room for the community to have an influence on how they’re going to live their lives.”

That’s why Sister Guadalupe is planning a March 13 gathering of local 15-year-olds at the Missionary Catechists’ San Antonio convent. She described it in the grant application as “an afternoon of prayer, reflection and sharing of possibilities and opportunities for quinceneras to grow in their faith, service others and make a difference in today’s world,” she wrote in the grant application.

That’s what it boils down to, Sister Guadalupe emphasized: “possibility and opportunity.” So she’s rounding up a group of female speakers to encourage and empower the teens. The speakers will include professionals who can mentor the 15-year-olds and urge them to attend college as well as MCDPs who can share the beauty of religious life. “We believe that by consecrated women and other lay women sharing their stories of living out their baptismal call, younger women will see more possibilities for themselves and be motivated to develop their own potential for leadership and service,” Sister Guadalupe wrote in her application for a $1,000 grant.

And you never know when a seed will be planted that could one day result in another woman entering religious life. “This event could serve as a first step in opening the door for them to know some sisters and to begin thinking that maybe God might be calling them,” Sister Guadalupe wrote.

For her part, Sister Guadalupe hopes to reflect the joy she has found in her vocation. She’s also planning to speak to the parents of quinceneras, who are invited to the after-party, to challenge them to consider religious life a possibility for their daughters.  

For some time, Sister Guadalupe had been praying about how best to serve young Catholics. “I knew we weren’t doing enough for vocations,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about writing my vocation story, and I was telling the sisters, ‘We don’t share our story enough. We just keep doing the work, and we don’t stop. This is one way we can be more intentional about sharing.”

That’s why Sister Guadalupe was thrilled to learn about National Catholic Sisters Week and its goal of raising awareness of women religious. She was having dinner with three other MCDPs to share her idea of hosting some kind of quincenera after-party when one of the sisters informed her of the National Catholic Sisters Week mini-grants being issued.

She was thrilled when NCSW Co-Executive Director Molly Hazelton informed her that their grant request had been approved.

“Oh my God, somebody else believes in our idea!” Sister Guadalupe recalled thinking. “We were so excited! We started planning immediately. We already have ideas of how we’re going to decorate the hall, the cake we’ll have, how we’re going to do nametags. We’re thinking of all kinds of ways to affirm these girls.”

It’s not just the teenagers who will be affirmed by the after-party. Sister Guadalupe expects the event – which she hopes will become annual – to energize her fellow Missionary Catechists too. “I think it’s going to renew us as a congregation.”

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.