Eulogy for Sister Marquita Murguia, Sept. 16, 1921-April 15, 2015

April 17, 2015 by

Sister Marquita Murguia

Sister Marquita Murguia

VIGIL: April 16, 2015, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Rita Plante

Lydia Murguia was born on Sept. 16, 1921, in El Paso, Texas, to Manuel and Maria Gonzales Murguia.

Her grandparents on her father’s side came from the Bosque region of Spain and on her mother’s side from Portugal. They went to Mexico and then on to the United States where they became citizens.

Lydia’s mother was married before and both her husband and their son died. Later she married Manuel and eventually little Lydia was born — but her mother died giving birth to her. Her dad in his grief gave the baby to an aunt to raise. The aunt took her first to California, then they moved to Santa Rose, N.M., and then to Silver City, N.M.

It was there that the aunt opened a restaurant, and it was a family affair – the aunt cooked while Lydia, still a very little girl, waited tables and her cousin did the dishes. Her aunt taught her right away how to save money and started an account for her with her tips.

When she was 10, her aunt died and she was put into St. Mary’s Academy in Silver City with our Sisters. She says some times were wonderful and some were sad, but thanks to the kindness of Sisters Clarice Richmeier, Frances Zimmerman and Cortona Robben, she made it through to her senior year. It was these sisters who influenced her decision to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

There were five girls that were at the Academy who had no homes to go to like the other girls. “We were treated differently because we had no parents to tell what happened,” she recalled many years later. “However, I was ingenious and figured out ways to ‘get away from the n.’”

One of her favorite stories was about her hideout in the attic at Marian Hall where she had a blanket, a chair, a little table and “Life” magazines, which were totally forbidden. To get to the attic she had to climb up the shelves of the linen closet and open the door in the ceiling. How she managed that when moving she things up there in beyond my imagination. About 13 years ago, Jerry Gallagher checked the attic out and sure enough her stuff was still there. If she supposed to stay on campus, she would sneak out the back way, walk up by the swimming pool and to the end of the property and go downtown.

That is just a little piece of her early history. She begins her story with, “God works wonders… To become a Sister of St. Joseph was the last thing I ever wanted to be.”

In her senior year of high school, 1940, she said to herself about the nuns, “I’m going to get away as far as I can so I won’t have to see or hear you again.”

In relating the story, she said, “That was the first part of May. But at the end of May, God fixed my wagon because Mother Mary Rose (Waller) came to visit and I asked her what I had to do to become a sister.”

Sister Clarice helped her get ready for the trip, which would take her first to El Paso and then on the train to McPherson, Kan., where they were met by a Mr. Brown, who took them on to Salina. They stayed overnight there and then went on to Concordia.

Lydia received her postulant veil and then was told to go with another postulant to her cell. “What? A cell? Am I in prison?” she exclaimed.

But, she added, “It didn’t take me long to adjust because of my St. Mary’s background. I knew about rules.”

An interesting story is about her first cleaning job. She was assigned to scrub a floor, but when she was about halfway finished, she was tired and her knees hurt so she gathered her cleaning materials and started to leave — only to come face to face with Sister Sabrina, who said, “Where are you going, you’ve only done half the floor?”

“I’ll do it manaña,” Lydia replied.

“What does that mean?” the sister asked.

“Tomorrow,” she replied — and then she proceeded to do as she was told and finished washing the floor as the sister watched.

On March 18, 1941, Lydia received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and was given the name Sister Marquita. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1942, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1946.

At Marymount College, Sister Marquita was asked to study Spanish so she could teach it. But she had great difficulty with it since she could speak Spanish fluently but knew no grammar.

And it was at Marymount that her art education began, under Sister Leonida Loch. The sister gave her three large pieces of paper with the instructions to draw three pictures: A still life with pencil, a scene with pastels and an abstract in tempra.

“It took me one hour,” she recalled, “and Sister took one look at the papers and told me to enroll in art. Art was my highlight and joy at Marymount.”

Later she was able to get a minor in Spanish, but both her bachelor’s degree (in 1958 from Marymount) and her master’s (in 1963 from Notre Dame) are in art.

Her teaching career took her to Pfeifer, Park, Salina, Seguin and Junction City, Kan., and to Booville, Mo., and Grand Island, Neb.

In 1974 she returned to her beloved El Paso to teach art therapy at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

From then on, art was her life — giving workshops, taking new courses and presenting exhibits along with her good friend and fellow artist Jonelle Criman.

She titled this next part of her story “Trivia.” It is a listing of exhibits, showings and groups to which she belonged or served:


International Association for Visual Arts of El Paso
National League of American Pen Women at Chanizel Theater
Kemezaar—a big show in El Paso
Showings at:
El Paso Art Museum
William Beaumont Army Medical Center
St. Joseph Hospital
St. Lans CSJ Federation
Sierra Art Society in Truth or Consequences, N.M.
Las Cruces N.M. Museum
Marriot Hotel
One-Woman Show in Grand Island, Neb.
On-going shows at the “Frame Place” Museum


Belonged to:
Watercolor Society (Rio Bravo)
El Paso Art Association
National League of American Pen Women
National Society of Arts and Letters—El Paso
Sierra Society


Served on:
Art Resources for El Paso
The Bishop’s Liturgical Committee


Her last show was in October 2013 here in Concordia where she was featured in an “Art Walk” with other local artists. She was 92 years old or young, however you look at it.

Her last class she gave was to a young girl here in Concordia whose grandmother worked here at the Motherhouse.

Her art was expressed in many ways, through pencil, charcoal, oils, watercolor, wood and wood prints, collage, photography, tiles, clay and sculpture. Her latest learning was with encaustics, which is melted colored wax. She went to classes and then taught classes in that medium in the later years in El Paso and introduced it to Manna House of Prayer in Concordia for the sabbatical programs there.

In my opinion, her greatest form of art was her sculpture. She called forth the figures through her hands and fingers speaking to the object, calling it to life. I loved to watch her.

Here, I would like to insert her heart’s desire from her annual mission statements — they sound so much like Maxim 73: “a desire to be what God made her to be in nature, grace and glory for time and eternity,” “to draw people to God by my presence and my art work,” “to bring God’s love by my prayer and art work,” “to always serve with love and be love,” and this last one from 2013-14, “to respect my sisters with love and a big smile.

Marquita ended her life story with this:

“Life has been full. I’ve always tried to be kind to all. Guided by 1) What would Jesus do? And 2) Smile at everyone; they may be in sorrow. This has kept me going and feeling I’m helping people. After these years… I have much to thank God that I was called to religious life. I’ve made friends and am happy to be who I am now.”

And a good friend she was… to Jonelle Criman in years of companionship in El Paso in the art world and in the many vacations that took together, and who she took care of as Alzheimer’s began to take over Jonelle’s life. Up to the time of Marquita’s illness in El Paso, she was going up the street to the Palisades Assisted Living Facility to visit Jonelle daily and also to take Communion to the Spanish-speaking women and men on second floor.

We have been friends together since I first met her in Grand Island back in the 1960s. Art, animals, nature and fun were our common denominators. I don’t say prayer as a separate love because ALL was prayer for her; she was a true contemplative, finding God in all things.

Her favorite saint was Teresa of Avila and as I was sitting with her these past few days I picked up her book about the saint and found parallel souls in their energy around their love of God and people and their love of life and risk taking and also that sort of trickster with which they were both gifted.

Our paths separated to different places until in 2001 when I moved to Silver City and as she was just three hours away. We picked up our friendship and began to travel together for the meetings up here and spending weekends either in El Paso or in Silver City. She said we made a good pair — I had a good right eye and she had a good left eye, so together we could see perfectly.

It has been a treasure to be with here to take this last journey with her, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to finish it with her… that journey that we all must travel alone to our God.

Sister Marquita died at Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia April 15, 2015.


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Memorials for Sister Marquita Murguia 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 Marquita’s memory, click on the button below:




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