Euglogy for Sister Esther Pineda, July 1, 1940-May 6, 2015

May 10, 2015 by

Sister Esther Pineda

Sister Esther Pineda

VIGIL: May 10, 2015, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Judy Stephens

It is my honor to give this eulogy tonight. But I want you to know that true to Esther’s nature, she wrote it herself some years ago, and gave me two copies just to be sure I’d have it. However, I’ve already told her I would be adding my own thoughts as well!

Esther Salaiz Pineda was born at home on July 1, 1940. Her home was in the small town of Sherman, along the Mimbres River in New Mexico, about 30 miles from Silver City.

Esther’s father and mother were Pablo Nava Pineda and Isidora Chavira Salaiz. Although there were nine children born to this marriage, three died in infancy. Her parents and three other siblings have preceded her in death: Magdalena Flores, Fernando Pineda and Jess Pineda. She is survived by Gus Pineda and his wife Rachel, Socorro Muñoz and her husband Manuel, and many nieces, nephews and their families.

Esther was the youngest of her siblings. When she was 4, the family moved to Bayard, N.M., which is about 10 miles from Silver City.

In 1944 Esther and her family felt the effects of the atomic blast from the “test” at White Sands, Alamogordo. Later they came to know it as Trinity Site in White Sands and the beginning of atomic power. She remembers the day the war was over — sirens blew and blew in Bayard. While they rejoiced. . . they later learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Esther graduated from Western New Mexico University in Silver City with a double major in physical education and history. After graduating, she taught PE in Deming, N.M., and also Bayard and loved it. She continued until 1967 when she moved to Southern California to teach. While there she began to teach religious education in the parish for Junior and Senior high school students. There her desire for Scripture and spirituality began to grow by leaps and bounds. AND she says, she became ‘fertile ground’ for the call to religious life.

On July 1, 1972 — her 32nd birthday — Esther entered the Sisters of St. Joseph! She made first profession in 1974 and final profession in 1980.

After formation, Esther attended Fordham University and earned a master’s degree in Religious Studies in 1976.   After graduation she served as campus minister at Western New Mexico University in Silver City.

In 1982 she was called to serve as postulant director. which she did for nine years. Part of each year with the postulants was spent in El Paso as a time of bi-cultural enrichment and ministry experience.

Esther was then called to community leadership in 1991 as a Regional Coordinator and in 1995 as Vice President of the congregation.

In 1999 Esther moved to College Park, Md., and worked at Catholic Charities USA. Then in 2001, Esther then was hired as interim executive director of NETWORK, serving in Washington, D.C.

In 2006 Esther returned to Kansas to become director of the Justice & Peace Center for the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Salina.

In addition, Bishop Paul Coakley invited Esther to serve as the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Salina in 2013 and she continued under Bishop Weisenburger in 2014.

In November 2014 the congregation’s Leadership Council asked Esther to go to El Paso and offer hospitality to volunteers at the Grandview Convent. The volunteers work with recently arrived immigrant families who are in the deportation process and are in immediate need of food, clothing and shelter. Ruben Garcia from Annunciation House is the organizer of this service.

Esther returned home to the Motherhouse on April 30, 2015, because of illness. Last Tuesday, May 6, she was transported to Cloud County Health Center after a fall. Within that short day she peacefully went home to God.

* * * *

The theme of Esther’s life is contained in this Scripture (Micah 6, 8):

This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this,
to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

To love and be loved tenderly—

This is Esther’s story as she tells it:

I was born at home. I was very small, and shivering with cold. I am told that I was wrapped up, placed in a wooden orange crate and placed on the open door of our wood stove’s oven. This served as a poor person’s incubator! My folks didn’t think I would make it. All this was told to me by my oldest sister Nena, whom I loved and who was without guile, just helpful, kind, and loving.

I was baptized before I was born, how could I not be a Sister of St. Joseph! The doctor who delivered me either forgot to send the birth data to the State within the year or wrote the wrong date on the certificate — either way, the birth certificate says I was born on July 1, 1941. My baptismal certificate says I was born on July 1, 1940. My mother always said that was correct and she must have known.

I was a shy child, the youngest of six. Shy and quiet, reserved and proper, that was me! I didn’t like elementary school. I loved being at home with Mom. I was the youngest and so I was a little spoiled; NO, I was a bit loved! I would feign illness so I wouldn’t have to go to school. As soon as I knew school had started, I was well and would play, but as soon as noon came around I got “deathly sick” again. This didn’t last very long. . .my mom was too wise.

I was placed in pre-first because of my surname. Every child that did not know English would start in pre-first. I really didn’t belong there. By the time I went to school, I knew English well so I didn’t have to struggle there. I had picked up English from my siblings. At the end of the year, I went to second grade and so caught up with my class. But as a result, I was shy and quiet and afraid. Life was not easy at school.

At the age of 12 or 13 I got into sports. Thank you God for the natural ability to play. Playing sports and being good at it brought friendships and confidence, acceptability and sociability. I was accepted! And more importantly, I could accept ME. I was a good student, thanks to my siblings who went to school before me and whose example I imitated. I liked to study but more importantly I like to be involved in sports.

My mother died of chronic bronchitis in April 1955 when I was a freshman. It was an uphill battle from there. I lost a part of my identity for it was she who kept the family together. It was she who affirmed our gifts and talents and it was she who enabled us to be faith-filled persons.

I graduated from Cobre High School with good grades and a desire to go to college. It was my siblings’ affirmations and urgings that helped me get to college. I graduated from Western New Mexico University in 1962 and went to my first teaching assignment in Deming and later in my hometown. It was a most wonderful experience for me. I taught junior high, which I enjoyed more than high school. During the summer months, I studied at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where I received my master’s degree; a wonderful tribute to my siblings’ support and my mother’s inspiration and foresight in her belief that all of us should strive for a good education.

In the fall of 1967 I went to southern California where I taught junior high. It is there that I met a wonderful friend (Lillian Hoika) who introduced me to my own culture with its beauty and richness. Through her eyes, I began a fascination and an insatiable inquisitiveness about who I was. It was a wonderful experience of self-knowledge. I began to accept and identify myself as a Latina or Hispanic.

Somewhere in those years, I began to get quite involved with Religious Education. I taught religious ed classes to seventh graders and then to high school students. I was also a facilitator for a young adults’ discussion group. Twice a month, I journeyed to Los Angeles to take part in the “Paulist Speakers Series,” which included such theologians as Gregory Baum, Cardinal Suenens, Anthony Padovano and others.

Slowly I began to get interested in religious life! Perhaps it is better to say that I became fertile ground for God to call. Thanksgiving 1970 brought about the catalyst for me to respond to God’s call. It was that year that a Sister of St. Joseph from Concordia came to visit my roommate and me in southern California. The visit turned into a religious experience for me. Her visit created in me a desire to be filled with the peace and joy that I attributed to her. I now realize that it was that charism that I now can identify as a unifying, reconciling force that permeates all we do and say. The experience spoke volumes to me about peace, gentleness and joy.

Following that experience, I began the process of visiting the CSJs of Concordia. In the summer of 1972, on my birthday, I entered and was received into the congregation.

Community and ministry have been a source of growth, joy and challenge that I know I could never have reached had I remained single or even married. It has afforded me a presence that I pray extends to all I meet and all I do. My first community living after the novitiate demonstrated the richness of living in community. It was wonderful! It extended to my time in New York when I went to Fordham University. I never felt alone nor separated from the community. They kept tabs on me in a good and wholesome way. It affirmed my desire to live in and as community.

Postulant director: I was most blessed during this time; the postulants greatly enriched my life as well as challenged it and I pray I did the same for them.

Leadership: I found this a challenging, stretching form of ministry, but one that has brought me an enrichment of life for I would never have had the opportunity to meet and know sisters to the depth that I now know. It called forth my gifts in ways I never thought possible.

to act justly. . .

Esther’s ministry at the Justice & Peace Center was always reflective, appropriate, and never rash or offensive. She knew how to network with others in an on-going way. She and Sister Christina Meyer followed legislation related to justice and advocated urgently on issues at both the state and national level. They organized many educational events and actions related to issues or crises. Here are just a few of the more recent events:

  • Helped fashion corporate statements for the Sisters of St. Joseph against the building of new nuclear weapons; on immigration reform; against the war in Iraq; against the death penalty; on global warming.
  • Participated in peace rallies and walks, especially during the Iraq war
  • Worked on issues as they emerged: immigration, human trafficking, climate change, rural issues, energy issues related to fossil fuels
  • Organized events for International Day of Peace in September and Martin Luther King Day in January.
  • Organized educational sessions on poverty, showed a variety of films on different issues
  • Worked with religious congregations in Kansas on peace and justice issues
  • Attended national meetings on justice and peace
  • Went to Los Alamos, N.M., with a group to pray on Aug. 6 the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Organized a local Pax Christi group
  • Organized peaceful protests in front of Fort Riley military base on the anniversary of the Iraq war
  • Organized Stations of the Cross that reflect the suffering of Christ today
  • Organized and participated in the Border Experience
  • Organized and led groups to do recovery work after Hurricane Katrina, the tornados in Greensburg and Chapman, and construction work at Neighbor to Neighbor in Concordia

This is a brief summary. But it shows that Esther followed our Constitution, which calls us to “work with others to alleviate the conditions which cause ignorance, poverty, suffering and oppression.”

to walk humbly with our God. . .

In the beginning of her words above about herself, she describes herself as “shy, quiet, reserved and proper.” I think the only attribute any of us would recognize in Esther is a certain properness about herself and how things should be done! None of the rest fit her! On her 25th Jubilee she was described as “an energetic, life-giving community member. Esther is playful and ingenious, always ready for a game of cards, planning a party and being in the middle of fun for everyone!” She was also a story teller. We still can tell you many things that her father said… For a long time we believed that he really said them all.

Again from her Jubilee: “You are a fine teacher, a deeply reflective person who articulates our charism with great sensitivity and knowledge.”

Esther had many friends and cultivated those friendships. That has been especially obvious in these last weeks as many stepped up to help her as she became ill. It was also obvious to me when we tried to find all of you in these past days.

I believe she “walked humbly with God” through her gift of intuition. She seemed to know things and make connections that of course made no sense to me. I believe she kept what she was sensing to herself and acted out of that. That became so obvious in these last weeks in how she went forward in her illness and in dying.

So, dear Esther, you go now with all your friends and family that have gone before you into the luminous embrace of God. We here will miss you but we will follow you home someday soon when we are called. Thank you for the color and energy and love with which you have lived your life.

• • • • • • • •

OBITUARY: Sister Esther Pineda, a passionate advocate for justice and peace issues, died late this afternoon (May 6) after a brief illness. She was 74 years old and had been a Sister of St. Joseph for 42 years.

Her vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10, in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia. Her funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 11, also at the Motherhouse, with burial to follow in the Nazareth Cemetery.

Sister Esther was born in Bayard, N.M., the daughter of Pablo and Isidora Salaiz Pineda. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Western New Mexico University in Silver City, followed by master’s degrees in physical education from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and in religion & religious education from Fordham University in New York.

She was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph on June 6, 1973. Her first mission as a sister was teachingphysica; education in Fairbury, Neb., in 1974 and 1975. She then returned to New Mexico and served in the campus ministry at the St. Francis Newman Center in Silver City and then as religious education coordinator for Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Bayard. She eventually served in El Paso, Texas and then Concordia, as director of postulants for the congregation, before being elected to two terms on the sisters’ Leadership Council. She was first a council member and then vice president from 1991 to 1999.

When her term ended, she moved to the Washington, D.C., area, where she worked for two years in the program and services department of Catholic Charities USA and then for five years — from 2001 to 2006 — as lobbyist and advocate with NETWORK.

When she returned to Kansas in 2006, she was named director of the Justice & Peace Center in Salina. In mid-2013, Sister Esther was named director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Salina, and continued to work at the Justice & Peace Center part time. Then, as 2014 was drawing to a close, she felt called to minister in El Paso, where she has been working with other immigrant assistance groups and coordinating volunteers at the sisters’ Grandview Convent there.

She was recently diagnosed with a critical illness and had returned home to the Nazareth Motherhouse just this past weekend.

Sister Esther was preceded in death by her parents, one sister and two brothers. She is survived by her sister Socorro Muñoz and her brother Gus Pineda.


• • • • • • •

 Memorials for Sister Esther Pineda may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901. To make an online donation in Sister Esther’s memory, click on the button below:





18 Responses to “Euglogy for Sister Esther Pineda, July 1, 1940-May 6, 2015”

  1. Mary Elizabeth Clark on May 15th, 2015 3:28 pm

    What a shock when I learned of the death of Esther! My heart goes out to all of you her family, friends and CSJ community. I loved being with Esther at Network and all the years that followed. We would see each other and feel a special bond of love. I will miss her and pray to her.
    Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ
    Philadelphia, PA

  2. Sr. Mary Ann Smith, MM on May 13th, 2015 11:45 am

    I was introduced to Sr. Esther when she came to Washington, DC by Sr.Margaret Houston. We were working together at NETWORK then. Marg said she thought Esther and I should be friends and she was riight. Esther’s friendship these last ten or more years has been so rich in many ways. Her visits to DC for Pax Chhristi Board meetings when she stayed with me were gifts I treasured. We had recently confirmed her next visit for this coming July! I share both the grief of the Congregation at the loss of such a wonderful, joyful woman and gratitude for having been part of her life.

    My prayers are with you all.

  3. Shantha Ready Alonso on May 11th, 2015 8:27 am

    I work with the organizing team at NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby, where Sister Esther led our Latino outreach efforts for awhile. She left us a treasure trove of research and resources to build upon. While I never got to meet her, I feel I am building on her legacy, and I am very grateful.

  4. Sister Mary Shaw, ASC, D. MIn on May 11th, 2015 7:45 am

    May God grant Eternal Rest to our Sister Ester and may we all know that the world is a much better and brighter place due to her life and ministry. Job well done, good and faithful servant., SMS

  5. Gilbert (Buddha) Gutierrez on May 10th, 2015 9:05 pm

    I remember Sister Esther when she helped with the youth ministry for the Copper Vicariate in the late 70’s, in Silver City, NM. She taught us so many songs and helped with many Search retreat’s at Saint Mary’s retreat house. Many lives have been touched and inspired by this Great woman. We will keep her in our prayers. She is now at her eternal home.

  6. Jean Sammon on May 10th, 2015 3:34 pm

    Esther and I became friends when we both worked for NETWORK. She was a joy to be with. I will miss her dearly. I had hoped to visit her in El Paso this year. When I visited her in Salina a few years ago, she greeted me with a bouquet of Kansas wheat. I regret that I can’t attend the funeral — I am leaving tonight for a Pax Chrsiti conference and pilgrimage in the Holy Land. I think Esther will be OK with that.

  7. Mary Yelenick on May 9th, 2015 5:34 pm

    Oh, the world will miss Esther. Her commitment and compassion — combined with her gentleness and humor — inspired many of us. She was always where God wanted more of us to be.

  8. Mary Yelenick on May 9th, 2015 5:33 pm

    Oh, the world will miss Esther! Her compassion and commitment — combined with her gentle, humorous manner — inspired so many of us. She was always where God needed more of us to be.

  9. Carolyn Zimmerman on May 9th, 2015 11:26 am

    I count myself fortunate to have met Sister Esther in this life. Sadly, I only knew her for a short time. A mutual friend connected us just a year ago and I was honored to join the group of CSJs on a week-long trip to learn what was happening to the unaccompanied migrant children in El Paso, Texas. Because that city was my birthplace and Esther was also a native of the Southwest, and because we shared so many passions about the world, we bonded. I was grateful to have met her older brother, his wife and family, who hosted us for two dinners in their El Paso home. It was another way for me to appreciate our brief friendship and her love of music and fun. I send my thoughts and prayers to Sister Esther’s family and the CSJ community.
    In gratitude for the opportunity to share a brief time with this beautiful woman of faith and commitment to the peaceful causes in which we both believe.

  10. Marguerite Rouleau on May 8th, 2015 7:51 pm

    I never knew Sr. Esther, but as a longtime member of Pax Christi Michigan I join with those celebrating her life — would that we all had her love and commitment for the marginalized in our world. Rest in the peace of Jesus, dear one.

  11. Ida R. Berresheim, CSJ on May 8th, 2015 4:01 pm

    When Esther came to El Paso to do what was needed so that the work of receiving migrants and refugees could keep going at the border there, ,she continued many of the projects related to her work as peace and justice coordinator in the diocese of Salina as well as with Pax Christi..Of course she joined the El Paso Pax Christi group right away and was such a gift. How generous, loving, zealous and fun she was always.

  12. Sister Phyllis Tierney, SSJ on May 8th, 2015 2:22 pm

    It was my privilege to meet Esther at our annual convening of C/SSJ Justice Ministers. Esther had a passionate commitment to working for justice and her voice, especially for the undocumented, will be missed!

  13. Danise Jones-Dorsey on May 8th, 2015 1:44 pm

    I knew Sister Esther through her work at Catholic Charities USA and NETWORK. To God Be The Glory!…I will forever thank God for Sister Esther’s life, vocation, passion and ministry….

  14. Anna Louise Schuck, SSJ on May 8th, 2015 9:27 am

    Esther was a strong and compassionate advocate for those who live on the marginalized and poor. I admired her. Another wonderful CSSJ is part of the Great Mystery of Eternal Life! My prayers for all of you!

  15. Joy Wigwe on May 8th, 2015 12:05 am

    I am sorry I meant to write September 2005. I was too distraught that I wrote the wrong year. I do apologize for that.

  16. Joy Wigwe on May 7th, 2015 11:28 pm

    I met Esther in September 1995 when I accepted employment at NETWORK and we bonded right away. One passion we shared was our love for Christian music – she used to walk around the office humming a tune or two and I would join her —eventually we formed a duet she sang the soprano part I sang the alto part. Our very favorite songs were “Just a closer walk with thee” and “O Holy Night”.
    Esther was more than a colleague; she was my older sister and was also one of my support systems when I struggled with my mother’s ill-health and death. My only regret is that I never had a chance to take her to my country of origin which she reminded me of each time we communicated with each other. I know that she is right now “walking closer to God” and pray that her kind and gentle soul rests in perfect peace.

  17. Lori Nemenz on May 7th, 2015 1:12 pm

    My sincere sympathy to all who knew and loved Sr. Esther. I had the privilege of working with Sr. Esther through her work on the national council of Pax Christi USA and with our Global Restoration/Care for Creation committee. Sr. Esther was GR/CFC committee chair and a kindred spirit sharing her wisdom and spirituality for this much needed ministry. She had a wonderful sense of humor too and that comes in handy when working in God’s garden!! I’m so sorry to hear of her passing after just recently hearing she was having some major health challenges but I pray she didn’t suffer.

  18. Sister Rose Marie Tresp, RSM on May 7th, 2015 12:53 pm

    I knew Sister Esther both through her work at NETWORK and as a board member of Pax Christi. I knew her as a passionate, spiritual, dedicated worker for those people most impacted by violence and poverty. She will be missed.

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