Our sister Bernadette Azuela (1931-2008) believed in social justice and lived accordingly. When we hear her name, we are reminded of her creativity, her prophetic witness with the poor, and her loving care for God’s creation. In this reflection, our sister Ivonne Ramirez shares with us a few of her memories of Bernadette, many of which continue to live on and inspire our ongoing actions and decisions for justice, peace, and the care of creation.
For me, Sr. Bernadette Azuela was a sister that deeply involved herself in whatever she was doing. If she heard something interesting on the radio, she would call to congratulate whoever said it. In the same way she would also speak out when she disagreed with something or she saw an injustice.
In this way she arrived to San Andres Tuxtla and started to get to know the people, inviting some to accompany her to the Center of Social Rehabilitation (CERESO) and became more and more involved in the prison ministry there.
Later on, she became interested in ministering to migrants, especially those from El Salvador who were fleeing to Mexico to escape the war. She got a house in Chapantongo Hidalgo in order to offer hospitality and assist them with finding jobs in the surrounding areas. But many of the Salvadorans preferred to return to their home country, or in Mexico they preferred to stay near the Capital where they could stay better informed and connected to others.
Sr. Bernadette therefore decided to dedicate the house to promoting ecology and finding economic alternatives that could benefit the community. Her famous “pomade” against pain made from various herbal medicines was a big success because it was very effective, not just for rheumatic pain but also of other aches and pains.
She responded to the need to accompany her mother in her final years, but also always found time to actively participate in commissions and congregational activities, as well as continuing to care for the house in Chapantongo through which many different people and lay missionaries have passed.
When her mother died she dedicated herself completely to the Community of Chapantongo where she left a profound impact and had an active participation in the Social and Pastoral Ministry of the Diocese.
Bernadette struggled through various difficult illnesses but never let them defeat her spirit. A good part of her healing came from her “natural recipes” and above all her generous and perseverant attitude. Her sudden death had a profound impact on the surrounding community.
Bernadette died as she lived, always working on behalf of others with a special commitment to justice and the dignity of people who are the most marginalized in society.
By CCVI Sr. Ivonne Ramirez
Originally published in the Congregational Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of creation’s blog.