Eulogy for Sister Carmel Garcia: Jan. 15, 1939-June 12, 2012

June 13, 2012 by

VIGIL: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, 2012, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Esther Pineda


“This is what Yahweh ask of you...”  Those are the words Carmel would listen for during her life.

In her life review, she wrote, “Life is a journey and takes me to God’s will.” This is what she listened for — to do God’s will. “It wasn’t always easy,” she continues, “some days are beautiful and clear, others are stormy, cloudy or cold. And yet, I know my life, participating in God’s glory, has led me to look for and appreciate the treasurers He has given me.”

Reveca Lucrecia Onesima Garcia was born in Aragon, N.M. on Jan. 15, 1939, to Virginia Castillo and Ernest Garcia.  In Aragon, they lived in a rented house that was big enough to hold a store and post office. She said, “Both my parents had a lot of work to do; besides tending to the store, the post office and tending to me, they started to make adobes for our own house.”  Her sister Lucinda was born a little more than two years later and Rupert, her brother, followed Lucinda. She said the two of them were very close in age and relationship.

After their house was built, her parents finished the walls, floors and a narrow staircase to the second floor.  Her mother made the kitchen cabinets; she plastered and painted the walls. We can see where Becky (as she was called then) got her work ethic, her creativity, and the uncanny ability to do anything that needed doing (responding to God’s will!).

At the age of 5 she had two big dreams whirling around her head.  One wish was for a younger sibling. “I could hardly believe,” she says, “that Trini’s birth could so fulfill my wish. “ Her second wish was to go to school.

So she went to Bosque, N.M., with her paternal grandmother to begin kindergarten. In Aragon a first-grader had to be 6 years of age before Jan. 1 to start first grade. But Becky wouldn’t be 6 until Jan. 15, which would mean that she would loose a year before starting school.  By going to kindergarten in Bosque the year before, she was able to enroll in first grade in September in Aragon at a public school taught by Franciscan Sisters. Through their teaching, she began contemplating herself as a Religious. But when she completed the third grade, the Franciscan Sisters left Aragon. Becky said she missed the Sisters very much when they left.

At the beginning of her seventh grade, the small town of Aragon found itself with both Catholic and public schools. The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother of Milwaukee went there to teach. There were only three students in the seventh grade and none in eighth.  So, she says, “We asked if we could study seventh grade first semester and eighth second semester.” Their request was granted.

She fell in love with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and wanted to join them. But being only 13, her parents would not permit it; instead, they promised she would be able to attend a Catholic high school in Silver City, N.M.

She went to St. Mary’s, staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, as a boarder. Her experiences there “were happy ones,” she recalled. “I enjoyed studying and I worked for my room and board. My father told me not to run around and I obediently dedicated myself to four years of hard work.  After a few weeks, I changed my idea of becoming a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother. The warm relationships among the Sisters of St. Joseph to one another and to the students attracted me immediately, and I wanted to join them. Sister Clarice asked me to wait until I graduated from High School. Those four years, at St. Mary’s, helped me adjust from a totally Hispanic small village in Aragon to the richness of Mexican and American culture in Silver City.

On Aug. 27, 1956, Sister Clairce, the “house mother” for the boarders at St. Mary’s, was leaving to take up a new ministry in Salina, Kan., and Becky went with her to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. “I learned to adjust to the Kansas heat from the New Mexico mountain air,” she wrote. “The greatest challenge during my postulant and novitiate years was adjusting to a Midwestern culture, food and language. That was the price I experienced as I became bicultural.”

She received the habit on March 18, 1957, and made final profession on March 19, 1961. She was given the name Sister Marie Carmel. Other members of her band were Sisters Paulette Hake, Mary Francesca Arguelles, Mary Michelle Morissette, Christine Doman, Mary Anita Dion, Mary Jolene Keller, Mary Olive Curren and Jean Frances Sweat.

Upon completing the novitiate, she went to Marymount College in Salina.  It was quite an adjustment. When she graduated from high school in Silver City, she had the highest scholastic record of her class.  But at Marymount, she struggled and the English department made arrangements to tutor her in English.  The community asked her to major in Spanish.  She became a grade school teacher and felt she would never use her Spanish.

But, she says, “Little did I know then that a future would open up to me because of my Hispanic heritage.”

In August 1959, she went to teach first-grade in Chicago. Those were years of learning to live in a big city, to live in community and to teach first- and second-graders. Carmel made final profession during her second year at St. Joseph’s and St. Ann’s.

The next six years she was happily stationed in Gladstone, Mich.  Sister Wilfred was the superior and Carmel spoke of her as “a woman ahead of her time.”  She called living in community in those years a fruitful challenge and a blessing. And she became aware of her professional competence in teaching.

She began a master’s program in education at Kansas State University in Manhattan. While attending night classes, she began teaching in Junction City. Having several students from Fort Riley made her realize that she needed to provide a more individualized program for the students. Many had traveled the world and were very bright, so she began to provide individualized instruction for each student.

In 1971 she went to Abilene. Together with Sisters Marcia Allen, Betty Suther and Mary Jo Thummel, they designed an open school curriculum for the St. Andrew’s Grade school. The open school curriculum became a wonderful process of allowing each child to work at his/her own pace. “Professionally” she said, “I hit a climax; spiritually, I experienced a reawakening and entered a new search for God.”

Then, she said, ”God asked me to leave everything — go find myself — to re-gather the gifts that were mine because of my heritage, those gifts that led me to this Midwestern congregation, and to share them among my own people.

“I heard God’s call to go beyond the comfortable, to go forth as a Sister of St. Joseph —to what only I could give!”  That call took her to the Mexican American Cultural center in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1978, Carmel began working at the Catholic Youth Department of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas. Her administrative skills came in handy as she coordinated the Search Program and the Antioch weekends.

From El Paso, she ventured to Mexico. Her life review continues: “The next four years were among the richest and in the poorest situation of my entire life. In Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico. Sister Judy Stephens and I shared two rooms — and those rooms held everything we had. Palomas is a desert in every sense of the word. It has been the deserts of my life that have made me appreciate all that we, Sisters of St. Joseph,  have and all that we can share with others.

From August 1981 through September 1983, Sister Carmel went to Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chichuahua. In Casas Grandes she was instrumental in introducing the Cursillo Movement to the Nuevo Casas Grandes  Diocese.  They built a center for the Cursillo weekend retreats for adults and youth and “her command of the Spanish,” she says, “improved.”

She experienced some difficulty with the priest with whom she worked.  At one point, during a reflection about the situation, she opened the scriptures in search for guidance. The pages fell open to the words, “It is time for you to return to the mountains.”  After consulting with her regional coordinator, she took the scriptures literally, packed her car, drove to Silver City and began working at the St. Francis Newman Center as Hispanic Pastoral Minister.  She was able to preach, yes, preach at the Spanish Mass every other weekend.  Because of her experience with the Cursillo Movement in Mexico, when the Director of the Cursillo Movement in southern New Mexico died, Carmel was offered the position.

Carmel became aware of the alcohol problems that exist in southwest New Mexico.  She participated in an intensive therapy program for adult children of alcoholics that she said “was quite helpful.” In 1988 she resigned form the Hispanic Ministry and began a master’s program in counseling at Western New Mexico University, in Silver City.   She did her internship at El Refugio, an agency that provided services to families affected by domestic violence.  She was offered a job as a counselor at El Refugio.

Eventually, El Refugio became a shelter for domestic violence education and services, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia leased Marian Hall to El Refugio for 11 years.

Eventually, Carmel became the director of El Refugio. Because El Refugio was out-growing the Marian Hall facility, Carmel and her board began searching for funding to build a new facility. To honor all the work she did, the Board of Directors named the new facility Casa Carmel.

In 2001, she returned to Concordia as the congregation’s development director. Through the development program, we Sisters of St. Joseph began asking the people to whom and with whom we ministered to partner with us and support us financially. During Carmel’s tenure at the Development Office, we celebrated 125 years presence in Concordia. Many opportunities were available for us to tell our story. Each year, the number of donors and revenue grew.

In 2006, Carmel’s brother Johnny died of lung cancer.  Her mother died the next year.  The deaths of her mother and brother took a toll on her.

In October 2009, breast cancer returned for a second time. After surgery and follow-up treatment, she went back to work in development. But, when the cancer returned a third time, she realized she needed to do something different.

She asked to be able to work part time for a few months, and then take a year sabbatical. She had inherited her mother’s handkerchief collection and she wanted to make each of her sisters and brother a quilt with those hankies. And, yes, she made a quilt for each of her siblings.  And all of them have come to Concordia to visit and are presently with us tonight.

One of the identifying marks of Carmel’s life is her strong presence to hospitality. While ill and not with much energy— friends came to visit her, here at Stafford Hall — her presence to hospitality was palpable; she insisted that we offer them something to drink, so we brought them water. Then at some point she asked if they need the bathroom and when the conversation waned and her energy depleted, she said, “Well, we should consider going out for supper.”  In a polite way, she was letting her friends know she couldn’t be present much longer. Being hospitable was definitely one of her great traits.

She ends her life review: “I am learning to become one with Jesus on the Cross and to offer my pain as prayer to the Cosmic Christ in becoming one with those who suffer.” She continues:

“As I glance at the maps that have been imprinted by my journey, I rejoice with the wonderful people, family, friends and modes of relationships that have made God visible to me. I have experienced many dark moments and long periods of time when I couldn’t find God. In this last year, as I have widened my lens to look back, dark moments became the most life-giving experiences.  What I needed in order to see them, was slower pace, time to reflect and wisdom to give language to the darkness. Throughout my life, I’ve had wonderful mentors who have guided me toward the light.”

That light came on Tuesday evening, June 12.

“My greatest mentor of all,” she adds, “is Jesus who says, ‘This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this; to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.’ ”

And Carmel that is what you have done.

• • • • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Carmel 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.

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9 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Carmel Garcia: Jan. 15, 1939-June 12, 2012”

  1. Rebecca Aragon on June 13th, 2019 10:25 am

    Sister Marie Carmel was my aunt. She was my mother, Lucinda’s sister.
    I loved “Aunt Becky” dearly.
    But, doesn’t the Canon state: preaching at Catholic Mass is only done by the Holy Spirit through an authentically ordained male priest?

  2. Loretta A. Jasper, csj on June 17th, 2012 3:49 pm

    Carmel, you were always about something: hospitality and work. Your mission is JUST NOW beginning on an eternal level. Thanks, God, for you!

  3. Martha Bryant on June 15th, 2012 4:01 pm

    Carmel was a wise and wonderful woman. So much that she taught continues to be part of my daily life. Thinking of Carmel always brings a smile. One of her greatest gifts was her laughter . . . you always knew when you’d tickled her.

    As I read the notes here, I am thankful not only for having known her, but for the many Sisters and friends she brought into my life. Our lives are diminished by her loss, but it pleases me to think that she’s back to making tortillas and beans as her very special gesture of love and sharing–the very ones we called “heavenly” when we sat at her table.

  4. gwyn johnson on June 15th, 2012 3:23 pm

    Carmel was a wonderful friend to me and my family. She taught our five children, which was truly a challenge. That is when I learned what a tireless, committed person she was. She worked so hard to motivate the children, always trying a new idea. They loved her as I did for all of her efforts. During the last few years when she was back in Concordia, we would meet for lunch when she came to Salina – at la Casita. What great talks we had, sharing so many thoughts about our world. We were such good friends, I think, because we agreed on many things. She was wise. Most of all she was one of the most gracious people I have ever known. She was a good listener and always concerned and caring. I admired her work with the Development Office and was pleased to join the board. The Sisters of St. Joseph do the Lord’s work, I admire them so much. I have been missing her and will continue to do so. I’m sure the Lord welcomed His new saint.

  5. Jodi Creten on June 15th, 2012 7:19 am

    Oh, Esther, dear friend of Carmel, how you captured her vitality and the depth of her spirituality. She truly knew how to journey through life, with many faithful companions along the way. May she be a light for all of us still on the journey here.

  6. Michele Fuller on June 14th, 2012 9:48 pm

    Carmel always made me laugh. She helped me to see that the whole loaf sometimes comes to us one slice at a time but it is still a whole loaf. She was a master strategist and tactician in understanding how to make allies of people and public institutions that were indifferent to ” those DV people”. She cared deeply , broadly and worked with with great joy to make this a more just and equitable world. I was blessed by the opportunity to know and work with her. Vaya con Diós, mi amiga.

  7. Bill Winkley on June 14th, 2012 4:47 pm

    Carmel was my mentor and dear friend in Silver City, NM, where I moved in 1994. She hired me to do some organizational development consultancy work for El Refugio, the domestic violence program she help start and then managed so capably for years. Ever resourceful, she realized she could get my services without paying and so asked me to join the board, which I did. =O) She educated me on domestic violence issues and turned me into an advocate for ending it. I’ll never forget her words, “Until stopping domestic violence is as big an issue for men as it is for women, we will not conquer it.” During my term as president of the board, we were able to construct a board of 50% men. As I said, she was my mentor.

    I love Carmel, always will, and will miss knowing she’s part of this physical earth. In speaking to Sister Judy, who so kindly called me about Carmel’s death, I learned that she was full accepting of the end of her life, at peace, and surrounded by her siblings. Thank you, Sister Judy, and Martha Bryant for advising me she had expired.

    Three bouts with cancer were too much. She certainly gave life the good fight and a lot of herself.

    Bye, sweet Carmel. Eternal rest be yours.

  8. Malinda Williams on June 14th, 2012 3:31 pm

    Carmel was an amazing woman, colleague, and friend to me. She was the executive director of the domestic violence shelter program in Silver City, NM and active in the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence when I met her. And I learned so much from her. She was a kind, passionate, and tireless voice for women, children, and people who are marginalized in our world. I am a better person for having known her. She showed me some of how very much the Sisters of St. Joseph accomplish in social justice and human rights. Thank you all for your tender care of her. I miss her greatly. Malinda

  9. Betsy Gasperich/Elizabeth Miller on June 13th, 2012 9:17 pm

    I knew Sister Carmel for many years….from her years at All Saints in Gladstone, Michigan and in the community. What a shining light of joy, love and caring! A true beacon for the rest of us….a true servant of the Lord….always giving and caring for others. Rest in peace dear Sister and friend….I salute you and CELEBRATE YOU AND YOUR LIFE of loving service! YOU WILL BE MISSED…..but know that you will still be watching out for us and caring for us……YOUR SPIRIT WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US!

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