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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Sister Martha Aldrete has been recalled to Monterrey, Mexico

  • When a star softball player from Dallas was an exchange student in Monterrey, Mexico, she became acquainted with the Missionary Catechists of the Poor, a religious order founded and based there.

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  • When a star softball player from Dallas was an exchange student in Monterrey, Mexico, she became acquainted with the Missionary Catechists of the Poor, a religious order founded and based there.
    She was first intrigued with the order, then realized she had a calling to its mission.
    “Our main mission is to manifest God’s love to the people,” said Sister Martha Aldrete. “We offer our lives for the love of God, and that takes us to the farthest-out places.”
    One of those places is southeast Kansas.
    “In 1987 we were asked to come to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita,” Sister Martha said. “They wanted a missionary group to go from house to house looking for the people. The sisters were first in the Hutchinson area, and when Bishop Michael Jackels came on board, he needed us to go to the farthest place in his diocese. That was southeast Kansas.”
    She has been here for the past six years, serving as superior of the four sisters serving locally. Now Sister Aldrete will be leaving Pittsburg. She has been recalled to Monterrey to serve as chief financial officer for the Missionary Catechists of the Poor.
    Sister Natividad will take over duties as superior, and another nun, one who recently professed her vows, is coming to Pittsburg so there will still be four sisters serving in the community.
    Sister Aldrete will leave not only Pittsburg, but the mission field itself, going over to the administrative side of the order’s operation. Though she fully acknowledges God’s will and will devote herself wholeheartedly to her new duties, she will also miss being a missionary.
    “I am grateful to God for our mission,” Sister Aldrete said. “There are so many adventures. To be a missionary, you have to have good feet and a strong stomach to eat whatever people give you. We have served in places where there is no electricity, no running water and your bathroom is a bucket. It entails vocation, otherwise you wouldn’t put up with it.”
    She said that many of the people served in Mexico by the Missionary Catechists of the Poor are Catholic by culture, but many do not know everything that being a Catholic entails. Part of this is because of a severe shortage of priests.
    “The most Catholics in the world are in Brazil, the Philippines and Mexico, but the United States has more priests than the three countries combined,” Sister Aldrete said. “We may go to places where they don’t have a priest to come celebrate Mass but once a year. Many lack religious formation, they don’t know a lot about God. We prep them, explain that they need to be respectful and quiet in church, and show them it is a blessing to come to celebrate Mass. We also show them things they can do in their homes, such as say the Rosary, and provide lay leadership.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She added that these are often people who have suffered very greatly in their lives.
    “We say to them, ‘God loves you, we are proof of that because here we are to give you a helping hand’,”  Sister Aldrete said.
    While living conditions for the sisters are much better in southeast Kansas, their mission remains the same and those they serve are much the same as well. Many of the Mexicans and other Hispanics who have come to southeast Kansas suffered greatly in their homelands and suffered making the dangerous journey to the United States.
    “Most of these people did not want to come to the United States,” Sister Aldrete said. “They had to leave their lands, their countries, their families. They did not come to achieve the American dream and buy a nice car and house. They were between a rock and a hard place, and they had to come to survive. We are here to serve them and be a listening ear.”
    The sisters have their offices in the former Sisters of St. Joseph convent at Ninth and Locust.
    “Fr. Michael Baldwin restructured the bottom part of the building and it’s now a Hispanic support center,” Sister  Aldrete said.
    But the sisters don’t spend all their time there. Instead, they rotate in visiting communities within a region that includes Coffeyville, Independence, Columbus, Baxter Springs, Fort Scott and Chanute, as well as small towns along the way.
    “We rotate our routes, so that people will know all of us wherever we go,” Sister Aldrete explained. “The people’s love of God has grown slowly but surely.”
    The young people are a special focus for the sisters.
    “Those who came to the United States when they were very small or who were born here, they may experience an identity crisis,” Sister Aldrete said. “They wonder, ‘Am I Mexican? Am I an American’?”
    She can relate to this because she was born in Dallas, Texas. Her father came over from Mexico as a young man.
    “My father never gave up his dream of going back to Mexico, but he’s still in Dallas,” Sister Aldrete said. “My first language was Spanish, but we started to go to school here.”
    She graduated from college in accordance with her parents’ wishes, then entered the convent in Monterrey in 1983 and professed her vows in 1986.
    “My father was excited that I was going to the convent in Mexico,” she said.
    Sister Aldrete stressed that she and others tell young Hispanics that they need to value education and the values of the society in which they live, so wherever they are, they will be an asset to their community.
    “We are here to serve the whole parish, not just the Hispanics,” she said. “We want to build bridges within the community. We don’t want there to be two communities, we want the Hispanics to integrate into this community.”
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