We are all Arizona

Yesterday morning would have been my father’s 101st birthday. I started the day by thinking of the fruitfulness of his 98 years on earth and his example of generosity and devotion to family and community.  Later that morning I drove to the cemetery to take flowers to my father’s grave. On the way I heard the news about the shootings in Tucson, Arizona.  I was devastated.

There is such a sense of bleakness with all the hate in our country these days.  It is shameless open season on the vulnerable. Our government passed legislation to help people with the necessity of health insurance and somehow that became the catalyst to engender the hate we saw last year in health care town meetings. Then we saw the beginning of the most hate-filled legislation against the immigrant community seen in years such as SB1070 and legislation making the teaching ethnic studies unlawful.  In a much more personal manner I experienced the mean spiritedness and even hate as we addressed our broken immigration system by attempting to pass at least the Dream Act. Because the bar was raised on the discussion, the mobilization on behalf of the Dream Act surfaced more anti-immigrant hate.

During the public outcry of SB1070 we responded with the cry, “We are all Arizona” since that is where the immigration legislation originated. Arizona became synonymous with anti-immigrant sentiment, legal profiling, and other efforts to divide our people.

So yesterday as I heard about the shootings and the subsequent deaths of some of those shot, I repeated to myself “We are all Arizona.” But this time the “we” is all of us who have seen and experienced the hate inflicted on the most vulnerable among us.  It is also the “we” – like those in Arizona – who day after day struggle against the wave of prejudice and racism.  For in Arizona there are also the just.

As I heard of the deaths in Tucson and the shooting of a member of Congress who was merely going out in the community to talk to her constituents, I thought how hate begets hate, which is what we are seeing.  I do not know the motives for the shootings. I do not know much about the gunman or gunmen. I just know that the shootings occurred in now notorious Arizona, but it could have been any place else. Here in San Antonio we also have our challenges. In my church I saw the GLBT community removed from worship in one of our Catholic churches. My own Democratic Party could not even have a properly functioning meeting to get organized without havoc and chaos, which prevented any business from being conducted.   In our work as activists sometimes we see the difficulties we have in coming together because of the extreme challenges of the issues we choose which are among the most difficult in society. We experience lack of resources and the weariness of addressing never ending justice issues. The work can overwhelm and our fragility as humans becomes obvious.   In spite of all this, we need to give ourselves credit for our efforts – however imperfect – to make peace each day.  That is the response to the hate.

Today our work is cut out for us. We each need to find ways of being lights in the darkness. Nothing short of that will do. We each need to feel deeply that it is our responsibility to heal ourselves as communities and as a country. It is not just the responsibility of elected officials or major institutions to solve our problems as a nation [although we should not stop making them accountable]. The responsibility should weigh heavily on each of us in civil society to see how we can help to bring people together . . . each using whatever we have at our disposal. Resources. Talents. Energy. Contacts. Creativity. Passion. Time. Above all we should not be afraid to be publicly or politically engaged. We cannot be scared into retreating from public engagement. This is not the time for retreat.



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Feliz Navidad!

Martín, Rosalima, and our guardian angel

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A Message of Love This Christmas

From Dreamer Gaby Pacheco:

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María Antonietta Berriozábal speaks at Interfaith press conference in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, Dec. 18, Senators Hutchison and Cornyn on Saturday, joined by five Democrats and 36 other Republicans, voted to obstruct consideration of the DREAM Act, effectively killing the bill. The action dashed the hopes of tens of thousands of young people, many of whom have risked health and deportation through hunger strikes and by coming out of the shadows to lobby for the legislation.

The students vow to carry on!

To get a sense of the powerful movement the young people have put into motion, please watch the short video clip of María Antonietta Berriozábal speaking at a Washington, D.C., press conference of interfaith leaders and Dreamers from all over the country on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. During lobby visits following the press conference and a prayer vigil, María delivered to Senator Hutchison’s office a Statement of Texas Catholic Sisters in support of the DREAM Act, signed by nearly 100 Sisters from 18 different congregations, as well as a “Line in the Sand” petition signed by hundreds of San Antonians actively supporting its passage.

Among our Dreamers in San Antonio, there was anger, sadness, and disappointment after the vote. But, they were quick to add, “This is Not Over!

Reflecting on the action in the Senate and the power of the Dreamers, María writes:

The DREAM Act legislation is “A Line In the Sand” because it was a national mobilization that reached far and wide on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society, the immigrant. There is no greater suffering and invisibility than that of someone who has no country. There has never been a bigger movement for immigrant rights than that made evident by passage of mean-spirited legislation like SB1070 in Arizona and in other states and, on its heels, the work for the DREAM Act.

I have lived through the movements for civil rights--the historic Black and Chicano movements, the women’s movement, and the anti-Vietnam war movement. I have participated for several decades in the movement for respect, rights, and a better future for my Latina sisters and their families. I have been part of the powerful environmental movement that has been issuing warnings about the consequences of our commissions and omissions towards our Mother Earth. Yesterday as the US Senate repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it paid honor--at least in part--to those different because of their sexuality.

The movement for immigrant rights brings together all these issues.

What makes this new movement so unique is that the undocumented immigrant, while in the midst of our daily life--cleaning houses, washing dishes in the fanciest restaurants in suburbia, manicuring lawns, housekeeping in our hotels, taking care of our children and our elderly, building our houses, harvesting our food, doing the messy work of getting poultry and beef to our tables, and doing other jobs with which our country would not survive--is essentially living in darkness and in silence. The obvious problem for the undocumented immigrant is that s/he is not able to advocate for himself/herself.

The undocumented Dreamers are an exception because they risk everything by courageously coming out and speaking for themselves. The immigrant rights movement also includes countless young women and men who, while not undocumented, have been deeply moved by the plight of their fellow students all over the country. I have heard of high school students here in San Antonio, one by one, admitting to their peers for the first time that they are undocumented.

Silence is being broken.

All these things will have ramifications for our entire Latina/Latino communities at a time when we are also dealing with scarcity. Come January 2011 our Texas Legislature will have to deal with some terrible legislation, such as a bill that would have undocumented children, all the way from kinder to high school, unable to attend public schools. Can you imagine what that would do to San Antonio? Our Congress will be dealing with similar hateful legislation, as the Tea Party folks push their agenda on such things as the meaning of citizenship. Tragically, much of what is behind all this is plain racism that is hidden no longer--and it will continue.

The Dreamers have not been deterred. They have already started another phase of their work and will continue to organize.

We cannot be deterred either. I hope you continue supporting the young people who hope for a better world and let us continue keeping the issue of comprehensive immigration reform alive. . . no matter how long it takes.

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Victory in House! On to the Senate…

At a rally and march from the Plaza del Zacate to the Alamo on Thursday, Dec. 9, afternoon and evening, DREAM Act supporters celebrated the 216-198 victory in the House of Representatives and set their sights on winning passage of the House-passed bill in the Senate the week of Dec. 13. This short video by UTSA Professor Josie Méndez-Negrete, Ph.D. says it all!

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Nearly 70 years old and arrested for the first time: María explains why

In this radio interview on Denver’s Mario Solís Marich Show, María Antonietta Berriozábal explains why she participated in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience that resulted in her arrest and overnight incarceration. The program aired yesterday, Dec. 7, and the 20-minute segment can be heard here (it starts 10 minutes in).

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Veteran Texas Activist: Pass or Fail, DREAM Act Galvanizes New Generation of National Leaders

The “Veteran Texas Activist” in this Huffington Post article is our own María Antonietta Berriozábal.

The Huffington Post
Jeff Biggers
December 7, 2010

While Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a gaggle of legislators hark back to 19th century glory and introduce proposals to reclaim their state’s “sovereignty” over federal laws this week, long-time political activists in Texas and across the country are recognizing the galvanizing impact of DREAM Act activists and student hunger strikers on the future.

Now bogged down in the lame duck Congress over political maneuvers more than merits, the proposed DREAM Act would provide an opportunity for permanent residency for certain minors who had been brought into the country without documentation after a stringent 10-year waiting period and completion of a 2-year degree or military service.

Despite the growing support of the DREAM Act from university chancellors–and Pentagon officials, among other Obama administration officials–the bill’s prospects look increasingly dim.

“Whether the DREAM ACT passes or fails,” former San Antonio city councilwoman Maria Berriozábal said in a special interview, “the issues of immigration reform and sustainability are not going away. The DREAM Act is the new line in the sand, and when election time comes Democrats and Republicans will be asked which side they were on.”

Facing a shifting electorate in 2012 and beyond, Berriozábal added, “a new generation of activists has been emboldened by this experience.”

Perhaps no other activists in the country have stood out more than the University of Texas-San Antonio student hunger strikers and their allies in San Antonio, who have passed nearly a month in a protest fast.

Inspired by their resiliency and organization, Berriozábal passed a night in jail for the first time in her life alongside 15 other protestors after getting arrested in a nonviolent sit-in at US Sen. Kay Hutchison’s office in San Antonio on Nov. 30th.

“I think the hunger strike started to bring people together from beginning,” Berriozábal said. “If the students hadn’t done this, there wouldn’t have been a public debate in this city or this state.”

In Washington, DC last week, League of United Latin Americans Citizens executive director Brent Wilkes joined the hunger strikers, also inspired by their efforts:

“The strike has now grown to 50 people from 4 different states. I have been deeply moved by the inspiration, courage, tenacity and sacrifice that these students have shown and I have decided to join their hunger strike until Congress passes the DREAM Act…

In short, these students have done very well despite all the obstacles they have faced growing up and now they are ready to give back to the United States…if Congress would only let them.

I was there at the LULAC National Legislative Gala on February 11, 2009 when Senator Hutchison accepted the LULAC National Legislative Award. I heard her state quite clearly that she supported the DREAM Act because it was the right thing to do.

Senator Hutchison, it still is the right thing to do. You and your Republican colleagues have a chance to show that the Republican Party does have compassion by doing the right thing, passing the DREAM Act, and giving these students a chance. Anything less is simply being mean-spirited and un-American.”

With over a half century of activism experience, the 69-year-old Berriozábal served on the San Antonio city council for a decade in the 1980s. Founder of Hispanas Unidas teen pregnancy prevention center, and active with the Santuario Sisterfarm, she has been a leading political figure in the state on immigration and environmental issues for decades.

“We stand on the shoulders of people who have been doing this for years,” Berriozábal said. “I was an elected official. I took care of the jail. I saw that there was mercy. Once I was outside the system, I remained active as a citizen, at public hearings, at city hall or the state legislature. This time the students did it–I followed them.”

Currently at work on a memoir of her family’s 100-year contributions and challenges in the United States, Berriozábal also noted the unique role of Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a United Methodist minister arrested at the sit-in on Nov. 30th, who remains in jail on a hunger strike. Without shoes or socks in the cold jail cell, Andrade Smith’s calmness under pressure affected other prisoners.

“She’s a very powerful person,” Berriozábal said of the Methodist minister. “In a world of macho, punitive methods, she affirmed again the inner power of humans, no matter the situation. She showed me what inner strength, big heart and love does, and that is what we need now amid so much hate in this debate.”

Andrade Smith’s example has electrified DREAM Act activists and citizens across the country. According to Ruben Castilla Herrera, an Ohio organizer for Immigration Reform with the Ohio Action Circle:

“Rev. Andrade is showing us that to profess our faith is only a part of what it is to be a person of faith. It’s really not enough. When it pertains to “liberty and justice for all”, one must take direct action and many times this is civil disobedience. Justice and the law are like cousins, they are related but not always always aligned and in agreement. As an immigration reform organizer and activist and a person of faith, she is witnessing real risk taking faith. Most just talk about it, she is acting on it. ”

UPDATE: Tuesday, 6pm EST: Rev. Andrade Smith was released from the Bexar County jail.

While the fate of the student hunger strikers remains as precarious as the DREAM Act itself, Berriozábal noted that their future as political and social leaders–and American citizens– was inevitable.

“Win or lose,” she said, “something has happened to San Antonio, and the nation.”

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Why María Berriozábal will not be moved

San Antonio Express-News
Jan Jarboe Russell, Dec. 4, 2010

At age 69, former City Councilwoman María Berriozábal had nothing personal to gain from joining 15 college students and community activists in a peaceful protest last week at the San Antonio offices of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Her motive wasn’t ambition. Berriozábal doesn’t want a career in politics. It wasn’t financial.

For more than 30 years, she has worked for peace and justice issues in San Antonio. She’s an activist with a reputation for leading from her heart.

So the day after Berriozábal spent the night in a cold jail cell with the much younger other demonstrators who are pressing for passage of the DREAM Act, I showed up at her door in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to ask why she joined the protest.

“I sure didn’t want to go to jail,” Berriozábal said with a long sigh. “But the DREAM Act is a sliver of hope.

“Given the angry anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, all seems lost on the larger issue. But the passage of the DREAM Act would give students, many of whom were brought here as babies by their parents, a path to legalization. It’s worth it to stake a place in the debate — even if we have to go to jail.”

During the past month, Berriozábal reached out to the small number of UTSA students who are on a hunger strike to bring pressure on Congress to pass the DREAM Act. She brought them juice and rallied support. When they asked her to join the protest, she couldn’t say no.

About noon Monday, a group of the protesters, armed with a platter of cookies, entered Hutchison’s office and made their request: Would the senator, who was in Washington, speak with them by phone to explain her position on the legislation?

That doesn’t seem unreasonable, but the answer was no. The majority of protesters, including Berriozábal, are U.S. citizens. Why is it unthinkable for Hutchison to engage her constituents in dialogue?

Hutchison, whose position has shifted from support of a version of the DREAM Act three years ago to opposition to the current bill, tried to distance herself from the situation. She issued a statement saying she didn’t want the protesters arrested.

However, three hours after the building would normally be closed at 5 p.m., the protesters refused to leave.

A spokesman for Port San Antonio, which owns the property on which Hutchison’s office is located, told me the port’s internal security team, acting on complaints from the senator’s office staff and other tenants, asked local police to arrest the protesters on charges of criminal trespassing.

Clearly, there were other possible scenarios. Since Hutchison wouldn’t talk to the protesters, perhaps someone from the city — the mayor or the city manager — might have tried to coax them to leave.

This is only the beginning of these kinds of protests. San Antonio has a major voice in the contentious national dialogue over the DREAM Act. There are not enough jail cells in this city to silence that voice.

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Texas Sisters Urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to Reach Across the Aisle to Senator Hutchison

Today 56 Catholic Sisters in Texas from 16 different religious orders sent Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) a letter, urging him to “put aside partisan politics” and to “reach across the aisle” to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in an effort to bring the DREAM Act to a vote in the Senate.

The same Sisters who wrote to Senator Hutchison (see letter below), urging her to “put aside politics-as-usual in Washington” in supporting the DREAM Act, wrote the letter to Majority Leader Reid.

These students are putting everything on the line for this legislation,” the Sisters wrote, referring to hunger-striking UTSA students who were arrested last night after sitting in Senator Hutchison’s San Antonio office for nine hours. “We ask you to do everything you can to meet with Senator Hutchison and negotiate differences in order to win passage of the DREAM Act.”

Here is a copy of the letter:

November 30, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Reid,

We write to thank you for your efforts to enact passage of the DREAM Act in this lame-duck session of Congress. As Roman Catholic Sisters from 16 different orders who minister in Texas – in Texas schools, hospitals, parishes, soup kitchens, half-way houses, retreat centers, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, legal and social justice centers, health clinics, homeless shelters, and other areas of service – we have written to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, asking her to “put aside politics-as-usual in Washington” and to bring her “strong voice of reason, compassion, and moral suasion to the debate” in seeking passage of the DREAM Act.

Now we ask you, similarly, to put aside partisan politics in this critical effort to bring the DREAM Act to a vote on the floor of the Senate. In particular, we ask you to reach across the aisle and meet with Senator Hutchison so that you may work out differences, enabling this dream to become a reality.

Yesterday, a couple of us hand-delivered our letter to Senator Hutchison’s office in San Antonio, where students from the University of Texas at San Antonio on the 20th day of their hunger strike were holding a sit-in. It was particularly painful to see the gaunt face of one student, who was very thin to begin with, and then to learn this morning of the difficulties she endured last night in the San Antonio jail in her weakened state.

These students are putting everything on the line for this legislation. We ask you to do everything you can to meet with Senator Hutchison and negotiate differences in order to win passage of the DREAM Act. Thank you.


[See list of Sisters in Nov. 30, 2010 letter to Senator Hutchison]

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DREAM Act Efforts Intensify

Yesterday afternoon, members of the community gathered outside the San Antonio offices of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, urging the Senator to meet with the students and to support the DREAM Act. Several students remained inside the Senator’s office until their arrest, some nine hours later, around 10pm. Other students and activists who formed a chain outside the Senator’s door also were arrested, among them Santuario Sisterfarm Board President María Antonietta Berriozábal, who was quoted in the San Antonio Express-News as saying, “I cannot match [the students'] courage in putting myself through a hunger strike, but I can put my body here for them.”

Yesterday, Carol Coston, OP and I hand-delivered a letter to Senator Hutchison, signed by more than 50 Texas Catholic Sisters, urging the Senator to vote for the DREAM Act and to take “every step necessary to ensure that this legislation is not filibustered or otherwise obstructed from coming to a vote in the Senate.”

Simone Campbell, SSS, National Coordinator of NETWORK is hand-delivering a copy of the letter today when she and her staff have a lobby visit about the DREAM Act with Senator Hutchison’s staff in Washington.

A copy of the letter, with the 55 signatories from 16 different congregations, is pasted below.

November 30, 2010
The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison

Dear Senator Hutchison,

The DREAM Act is expected to come to a vote in the U.S. Senate at any moment. The action that you and your colleagues take on this issue has the potential to make or break the lives of over 200,000 young people who grew up in our State, and many others who were raised elsewhere in our country. The stakes could not be higher. Today, hunger-striking students at UTSA have entered the 21st day of their fast – a perilous last-resort effort to win passage of legislation that they have endeavored to obtain for the past ten years.

As Roman Catholic Sisters who minister in Texas – in Texas schools, hospitals, parishes, soup kitchens, half-way houses, retreat centers, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, legal and social justice centers, health clinics, homeless shelters, and other areas of service – we beg you to put aside politics-as-usual in Washington and to bring your strong voice of reason, compassion, and moral suasion to the debate. This is an issue that 70% of the American people support, including 60% of Republican respondents, according to a June 2010 poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. The legislation is also overwhelmingly supported by institutions charged with educating our youth, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Educators Association, the College Board, and prominent university presidents and chancellors.

We urge you to vote ‘YES’ on the DREAM Act. And we ask that you take every step necessary to ensure that this legislation is not filibustered or otherwise obstructed from coming to a vote in the Senate. While fair-minded people may differ on matters of conscience, it would be unconscionable for a legislative minority to obstruct action on a critical bill that a majority of the American people supports.

The lives of tens of thousands of Texans are at stake. We call on you to renew your past support for the DREAM Act and, as our Senator, to play a leadership role in helping to win passage of this urgently needed legislation before the end of this Congress. Thank you.


Sister Emilia Arredondo, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Margaret Bulmer, CCVI, Srs. of Charity of the Incar. Word – Houston
Sister Veronica Cahill, SHSp, Srs. of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Sister Adele Caire, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Ann Caire, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Pearl Ceasar, CDP, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Dympna Clarke, SHSp, Srs. of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Sister Marguerite Connors, SHSp, Srs. of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Sister Alma Leticia Cortés, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Carol Coston, OP, Dominican Sisters of Adrian
Sister Eleanor Cresap, OP, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Teresa Cruz, M.C-M, Cordi-Marian Sisters
Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, CSB, Sisters of St. Brigid
Sister Anne Drea, CSB, Sisters of St. Brigid
Sister Jan Dunn, RSCJ, Area Director, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Paula Enderle, OP, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Dorothy Ettling, CCVI, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
Sister Barbara Fry, CDP, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Elise D. García, OP, Dominican Sisters of Adrian
Sister Felicitas García, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Linda Gibler, OP, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Imelda González, CDP, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Marie M. Griffin, OP, Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa
Sister Esther M. Guerrero, MCDP, Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence
Sister Blanca Hinojosa, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Neomi Hayes, CCVI, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
Sister Sharon Karam, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Rosalie Karstedt, CDP, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Suzanne Lasseigne, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Gabriella Lohan, SHSp, Srs. of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Sister Carol Mayes, OP, Prioress, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Susan Mika, OSB, Boerne Benedictine Sisters
Sister Miriam Mitchell, SHSp, General Superior, Srs. of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate
Sister Helena Monahan, CCVI, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, Dominican Sisters of Adrian
Sister Madlyn Pape, CDP, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Imelda T. Phelan, CSB, Sisters of St. Brigid
Sister Jocelyn Quijano, PBVM, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Srs.
Sister Virginia Ramón, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Bernadine Reyes, OSB, Prioress, Boerne Benedictine Sisters
Sister Cecilia Rodríguez, SSCJ, Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sister Ceil Roeger, OP, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Judy Roxborough, STJ, Society of St. Teresa of Jesus
Sister Clara Ruíz, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister María Martha Ruíz, HCG, Superior, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Carmen Sánchez, MCDP, Superior General, Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence
Sister Laura Sánchez, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas
Sister Lavergne Schwender, OP, Dominican Sisters of Houston
Sister Mary Fran Serafino, SSMN, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur
Sister Carolyn Siy, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Sister Jane Ann Slater, CDP, Superior General, Sisters of Divine Providence
Sister Cindy Stacy, CCVI, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
Sister Yolanda Tarango, CCVI, Cong. Leader, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
Sister Priscilla Torres, OP, Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa
Sister Margarita Vásquez, HCG, Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas

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