Religious sisters, the Catholic Church’s heroic soldiers

Sister Luz Maria (left) is flanked by the sisters in her ministry who went door-to-door evangelizing to the poor.

During the holidays it is common to show gratitude to our soldiers, past and present, whose sacrifices make our lives better and more promising. Echoing that sentiment, we want to express appreciation during Advent for the Catholic Church’s most faithful foot soldiers, religious sisters, who as a global force of love and compassion, have improved so many lives.

Chicago-based Catholic Extension, whose chancellor is Cardinal Blase Cupich, works with hundreds of sisters around the country. Today, we honor one who literally “died with her boots on,” giving every moment to the people she was called to serve.

Sr. Luz Maria Velazquez passed away on Dec. 1, following a courageous battle with cancer. Arriving from Mexico in 2014, she was assigned to the Diocese of San Bernardino as the superior of a team of three other sisters.

The “Evangelizing Eucharistic Sisters of the Poor” were part of Catholic Extension’s U.S. – Latin American Sisters Exchange Program.

Working out of two parishes, they recruited lay parishioners, visiting more than 18,000 households in five years, oftentimes in the 100+ degree heat of the desert. Their efforts resulted in one parish constructing a new 1,500 seat church to accommodate all the newcomers and another developing plans for a major expansion.

When diagnosed in 2016, Sr. Luz Maria never considered abandoning the mission. Instead, she began chemotherapy and shifted her focus to the sick and dying. She said, “I need to trust more in the Lord. What [cancer] teaches me is that I need to know that I am not alone, and it is there that God’s love is manifested…With my church community and my religious community, I’m surrounded by people who care for me and love me. And, I’m not alone.”

At the age of 55, she died peacefully on the first Sunday of Advent 2019, surrounded by loved ones. To her, we say thank you! And, to those who have benefitted from the work of sisters, we invite you to express your gratitude this Advent by supporting their work laboring in poor and forgotten communities.