What's Happening


Sister Maureen Gallagher with Rosa Villele Hernandez in front of the products made by women at the sewing co-op

October25, 2022, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico – When Sister Donna Kustusch, OP, first came to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico in the late 1990s to work with Siena Heights University students at a soup kitchen, she became involved in the lives of the local women – first in a prayer community and then to address the needs of the people. Together, Sister Donna, Sister Eleanor Stech, OP, and the local women started Centro Santa Catalina with the people of Juárez.  

Anniversary Event

Six attendees of the anniversary fundraising event pose for a photo
Attending the fundraising event for Centro Santa Catalina are, standing, from left, Gloria Yanez, Rosa Villele Hernandez, Carlotta Arriola Rodela and her daughter, and Sister Jean Keeley, OP; Sister Maureen Gallagher, OP, in the wheelchair.

About 26 years later, Sisters Maureen Gallagher, OP, Jean Keeley, OP, and Nancy Murray, OP, traveled to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez to celebrate Centro Santa Catalina’s anniversary, reconnect with the people, and observe the improvements in the city and in the lives of the people. 

The anniversary program involved a special presentation, Catherine of Siena: A Woman of our Times by Sister Nancy, who portrays St. Catherine of Siena – 14th Century Dominican mystic and reformer and the Patron Saint of Centro Santa Catalina – to parishes, schools, and other organizations around the world. Held at Loretto Academy Little Theater in El Paso, the event also included refreshments, a silent auction, and the opportunity to buy products made by women in the sewing co-op at Centro Santa Catalina. 

The Sisters’ three-day visit included lunch in El Paso with members of the Centro Santa Catalin’s board and other Sisters that Sister Maureen had come to know; a meeting with Bishop José Guadalupe Torres Campos of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez; the fundraising program; and a visit to the Centro Santa Catalina and the community.

“It was wonderful to see the warmth and the welcome for [Sisters] Maureen and Nancy and to see how much the Center has grown – and how much bigger their influence,” Sister Jean said. “I was privileged to be Maureen’s companion.”

History of Centro Santa Catalina

In an interview, Sister Maureen recounted the history of Centro Santa Catalina, which began as a women’s prayer group in a chapel near the city’s garbage dump. Eventually, learning from the women that they needed money to buy food and send their children to school, Sister Donna helped the women to start a sewing co-op to earn their money. 

Since then, the Center has become a faith-based community for women who are economically poor, offering a Homework Help program for children, a daily lunch program, computer and sports programs, and monthly prayer gatherings. Sister Maureen describes the Center as a community. “Every single woman lost an immediate family member or other relative to the [drug] cartel,” she said. “They supported one another” through these tragedies.

Sister Maureen said that Sister Donna invited her in 2006 to serve as marketing director for the products made by the women in the sewing co-op. 

Based in El Paso, Texas, Sister Maureen focused on selling the women’s products in the United States. While her predecessor had sold the women’s products at five parishes in El Paso, Sister Maureen expanded the outreach. By the time she left the ministry in 2019, she said, “almost every parish in El Paso would sell some of the products before Christmas.” She also sold the products at conferences and asked other Adrian Dominican Sisters to help in the sales when they attended conferences.

Thanks in part to Sister Maureen’s marketing, the women in the co-op earned enough money to make a living. “When I was there, there were 30 co-op workers,” she recalled. “They take care of their own budget. They pay the bills first and then buy the material. If anything is broken, they fix it and then they get their share. So, they really know how to run the co-op.”

But the co-op did more than help the women earn money. “They grew really confident,” Sister Maureen recalled. “When I first got there, they would look to the ground with their heads down and wouldn’t speak. Now they stand up straight and look you in the eye.” 

Sister Fran Hickey, OSF, stands with five seated tutors for the Homework Help program
Sister Fran Hickey, OSF, teaches tutors for the Homework Help program.

Improving Lives

Sisters Maureen and Jean saw other improvements in the lives of the women and in the Center during their recent visit. The Center is now directed by Rosa Villele Hernandez, a Mexican woman who had been in religious life in a Mexican community. “With her religious background, she kept the spirituality program going,” as well as the programs for children in grades 1 to 5, Sister Maureen said. “She encouraged the women – tutors especially – to go to school, and we paid their tuition.” Some returned to work professionally at the Center, she added, while others found jobs elsewhere. 

Because she is a native of Mexico, Rosa obtained grants from the Mexican government and from foundations. Such funding enabled the Center to install solar panels and to provide purified water, Sister Maureen said. 

Sister Jean noted that a grant from a Mexican foundation has provided funding for the Center to add two nutritionists, a psychologist, a nurse, and drama teachers to its staff. “It’s greatly expanded the resources for people coming to the Center,” she said. In addition, the Center draws help from healthcare students of the local university. 

Rosa “has connections we never had,” Sister Maureen pointed out. She especially wants Adrian Dominican Sisters to know that, in the tradition of missionary work, a ministry begun in part by Adrian Dominican Sisters from outside of Mexico has now been turned over to the people from Mexico.


Feature photo at top: Rosa Villele Hernandez, left, Director of Centro Santa Catalina, and Sister Maureen Gallagher, OP, sell products made by the women at the sewing co-op.

October 12, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Elise D. García, OP, now Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, reflects in an article in The National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report on her three years of service in the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

The LCWR is an association of about 1,350 elected leaders representing about 80% of the women religious in the United States. As General Councilor for the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 2016 to 2022, Sister Elise also was a member of the LCWR. She was elected as President-elect during the LCWR’s 2019 assembly and formally became President during the 2020 Assembly and Past-President during the 2021 Assembly.

In her retrospective, Sister Elise looks back on the “hinge years” of the early 2020s that saw such calamities as the COVID-19 pandemic; the police murder of George Floyd and the accompanying focus on racism and white supremacy in the United States; the insurrection at the nation’s Capital in January 2021; global “climate chaos” that included floods, droughts, and forest fires; and Russia’s war against Ukraine. She also details the LCWR’s responses to these crises.

“We are in a make-or-break decade of preventing catastrophic global warming for generations to come,” Sister Elise writes. “We face the urgent task of dismantling threats to democracy and the evil of white supremacy that are intertwined in such deadly combustion. … All call for a movement toward right relationship with one another and our Earth community – for loving one another and our Earth home as God loves us.”

Read Sister Elise’s full retrospective.


Feature photo: Sister Elise D. García, OP, delivers her presidential address for the 2021 Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) Assembly in August 2021. Her address was recorded in July for the August 2021 virtual assembly.



Search News Articles

Recent Posts

Read More »