Hispanic outreach in rural North Dakota

Sister Brenda Teresita Hernandez Valdes was only 30 when she ventured far from her native Mexico to begin a ministry in North Dakota. Joined by two other young Daughters of Immaculate Mary of Guadalupe, their goal was to serve the Hispanics in the Bismarck diocese who had relocated there to work in the booming oil and gas industry.

Most of the Hispanic oil workers are young -- some only 18. Many are single, others have young families to support. All are thirsting for a sense of home, which Sister Brenda hopes they can find in the Catholic Church.

Sister Brenda has been a steadfast presence among them for nearly five years, wearing a habit with a gray veil and a sunny smile. She meets the oil workers where they are, often socializing in the Walmart parking lot, where she hands out fliers and invites shoppers to join her for Spanish Mass.

Her time in Bismarck has been enlightening, she said. “Our people sacrifice a lot by living in small spaces, leaving their family or bringing it to live in extreme weather conditions,” she told SisterStory. “We have learned to value them and never flee from sacrifice, effort and struggle to achieve goals.”

Meanwhile, Sister Brenda is hoping to impart a lesson of her own: the joy of religious life. As part of National Catholic Sisters Week, she’ll be hosting a special event for the Hispanics in her region. Titled “Your Voice In My Heart,” the event is designed to awaken young Hispanic Catholics to the possibility of religious life through a panel and concert to be held March 10 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Dickinson, N.D. The event is being funded by an NCSW mini-grant.

Sister Brenda will be one of the Catholic sisters speaking about her vocation on the panel.

The March 10 gathering will include a special vocational talk for the parents of young Hispanic Catholics. “It is very important and urgent to strengthen the vocational culture in parents,” she said.

Sister Brenda recently fielded our questions about the event.

 

What are the barriers that keep young Hispanic Catholics from considering religious life as a vocation?

Hedonism, comfort, materialism, family opposition, little and poor vocational knowledge of the culture or support in the family.

 

How do you hope to change their minds and open their hearts?

Evangelizing, fostering the encounter with Christ, making known the religious life, living with them with a certain closeness, strengthening the religious culture in the communities we serve.

 

What message do you have for Hispanic teens when it comes to the beauty of religious life?

Do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ!

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to the National Catholic Sisters Week team for allowing us to carry out these events with your financial support so we can promote vocations!

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.