By Sandra Incio
Sister Rosaleen Harold felt attracted by the extreme poverty situation in Latin America and by the rich multi-cultural character of its people. Now she is telling us how she came to join the CCVI Mission in Peru.
The Awakening of her CCVI Religious Vocation
The seed of Rosaleen’s religious vocation was sown in a very big family (nine daughters) in a rural area in Ireland. Ever since she was a child, she felt attracted to a life of prayer and to the service to the poorest among the poor, due to the example of prayer and charity she received from her mother and her maternal grandmother. For this reason, it was not surprising that Rosaleen decided to enter the C.C.V.I. Aspirant Group in Ireland.
Beginning of her CCVI Religious Life in the United States
Rosaleen was only 16 years old when she and eight other companions crossed the Atlantic to arrive at the Mother House of the Congregation in San Antonio, Texas.
After she finished her novitiate in 1964, she made her first profession and studied Nursing. The decision to devote the rest of her life to the service of the poorest among the poor was born in her heart when she did her pre-professional practices in the poor areas in the city of San Antonio. Later, she served as a nurse in the C.C.V.I. hospitals in Paris and Corpus Christi, Texas and in the Nursing Department of Incarnate Word College (now University of the Incarnate Word ) in San Antonio, Texas.
Missioner Life in Peru
Rosaleen’s story in Peru starts on June 4, 1979, when she finally had the opportunity to spend three months in Chimbote, after she had been requesting to be assigned to the country of the Incas for several years. Sister Grace O’Meara and sister Rosaleen traveled there together. When they arrived in Lima, they discovered that the country was suffering a situation of extreme poverty under the repression of a military government. But Rosaleen tells us that in spite of the repression and the poverty, she could experience the solidarity of the neighbors and the great desire the poor had to build a better future. At that time, the members of the CCVI community were Sister Emma Hernández and the late Sister Esther Chávez. The Sisters, with members of other religious congregations, had a strong commitment with the option for the poor, after the publication of the Puebla Document, and were very willing to work with the laity.
After three months, Rosaleen went back to the United States to participate in pastoral workshops at the Mexican American Cultural Center, in order to become familiar with the culture and popular religiosity of Latin American countries. After that, she went to a Language Center in Cuernavaca, México, to study Spanish. The next year, Rosaleen went back to Peru definitely, for a period that has already lasted 37 years.
Mission in the Lacramarca Baja Valley
Rosaleen started her missionary work at Lacramarca Baja Valley, a sector that comprised sixteen small villages, among them, Cambio Puente, the bigger village, located 10 kilometers from Chimbote. She says that the CCVI community was called “Nazareth” because the house was very simple; it was an adobe cottage with a hay roof, like the majority of the houses in the village. Also, the community was multicultural and inter-generational: Sister Leonila González (from Mexico), Sister Louise Mair (from Germany) and Sisters Anne Marie Burke and Rosaleen Harold (from Ireland). Later, they also received the Pre-Novice, Miss Hirayda Blácido (from Peru). The community settled in Cambio Puente to accompany the people who had welcomed them, to become familiar with their situation and to help them to develop their abilities, caring for their health problems, responding to their education needs and training the peasants at Lacramarca Valley in topics related with farming.
Under conditions of great poverty, without services to solve their basic needs, but with a great desire to help and to change the situation of the community that had welcomed them, Sister Rosaleen and her community struggled tirelessly for 13 years in the Lacramarca Valley, taking care of the poor and requesting basic services for them. They gave support to the mothers in popular dining rooms and struggled with the peasants to defend their rights; this was reflected in the development of a worthy life for each person.
Rosaleen as Coordinator of the Formation Team
With the purpose of giving the Young sisters a religious formation near their town, Sister Rosaleen and Sister Rosa Margarita Valdez formed the Formation Team in the Comas District in Lima. They worked with the pastoral team of the “Lord of the Miracles”, under the responsibility of the Priests “Oblates of Mary Immaculate”. Later, Sister María del Carmen Monroy joined the formation team and the pastoral activities in the parish. Sisters Pilar and Sofía were Pre-Novices and Sister Hirayda Blacido, was a Junior Sister. They developed their pastoral activities in different parochial programs.
In order to take the Word of God and the services of the Church to the poor, Rosaleen was in charge of a group of lay persons who worked as preachers and in Celebrations of the Word. Their task was to go to places where the priests could not go, teaching the Gospel in faraway places and in new towns in that district.
Due to the success of the Pre-Novitiate experience, Sister Rosaleen and Sister Pilar Neira opened a house in San Juan de Lurigancho, where they opened the Novitiate. Later, it was designated as the International Novitiate and received novices from Mexico. Sister María del Carmen Monroy was appointed Mistress of Novices by the GLT, with the support of Sister Francine Keane. This was a very enriching intercultural experience for those who participated in it and for the team that accompanied them. “I loved to see the bonds that this experience created in the novices, bonds that have continued through the years. The experience of a joint formation of Sisters from Mexico and from Peru allowed them to develop as persons, as sisters and as citizens of the world, in an integral way and to start to assume their leadership”, said Rosaleen.
Initial and Ongoing Formation
Sister Rosaleen and Sister Teresa Conroy developed the first formation program for the stages of Pre-Entrance and Pre-Novitiate in Peru. Later, Sister Rosaleen and Sister Rosa Margarita Valdes developed the formation programs for the Novitiate and Junior stages, and for Ongoing Formation in Peru. Later, these same programs were renovated with the collaboration of Sisters María del Carmen Monroy y Pilar Neira. As a member of the Congregational Formation Team, Sister Rosaleen contributed to the development of the Congregational Initial and Ongoing Formation Plan.
Formation Program for the Members of the Lay Association of the Incarnate Word
Sister Rosaleen collaborated several times with the Sisters who acted as consultants (Sarah Lennon, María del Carmen Monroy y Leonila Gonzalez) and with the coordination team of the Incarnate Word Assiciates in the development of the formation Program and the Operating Manual.
Member of the General Leadership Team 2008-2014
During those years, Sister Rosaleen participated in the General Leadership Team which is in charge of developing processes for the consolidation and unification of the Congregation and for sharing its resources. This was one of the most enriching experiences for Sister Rosaleen, because she had the opportunity to know the different cultures and places where the Congregation responds to the needs of the poor, to strengthen their faith and to follow the road that leads to defending their human rights, especially the rights of women and the rights of the most vulnerable people.
Sister Rosaleen is now starting to write the history of the Mission in Peru, gathering anecdotes, data and documents with all the sisters. She expects to develop a tangible record of all that has been lived in this land that welcomed her and that became her home.
Finally, Rosaleen shared something that has just read regarding the identity of a missioner (translated from Sacred Fire, by Ronald Rolheiser, page 240).
The true missioner is someone who:
“Goes where he or she is not loved, but is needed
And leaves when he or she is loved but is no longer needed”.
She says that when she first went to Peru, in 1979, she experienced certain rejection from the leaders of the extreme left, but she was very well received by the poor who needed her services.
And now that Rosaleen is leaving Peru definitely, it is very pleasant to know that she is very loved but she is no longer needed, and this fact confirms that this is the time for her to leave this mission.
No doubt she has been a great example of vocation and service guided by love. Thank you, Rosaleen, because with every breath of your lungs, you have made real the healing love of Jesus.
(Interview by Miss Sandra Incio Colunche)