The Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph are well-known throughout the community of Gallup, NM. Clad in navy blue and white habits, the sisters have served for decades as teachers, daycare workers, and advocates for immigrants. Many of the sisters divide their time between their home in Gallup and orphanages in Mexico.
Three of the sisters celebrated religious anniversaries in 2021. Mother Rosa Zuniga has served as a religious sister for 40 years, and Sisters Liliana Garcia and Lyliana Ricaud have each served for 25 years.
They reflected on their vocations in an interview with The Voice of the Southwest, printed below.
Editor’s note: Some answers have been slightly edited for clarity.
Voice of the Southwest: How did you discover your vocation to the consecrated life?
Mother Rosa Maria Zuniga: In 1981 I entered with another girl. A few days later, my companion decided that this was not her vocation and left. I was a little confused because I saw her happy and she looked to me to be fine, but she left. I went to the chapel of our Casa Reina [home] and asked Our Lord: “Jesus, what do you want me to do? What do you want of me?”
In my heart I felt a very soft voice that said: “You follow Me.”
I said “Yes, Lord, I will follow You, but help me. I really want to do it. Give me your strength, your grace. Here I am.”
I like the way the Sisters lived their vocation. They prayed together, [took] meals in Community, recreations, and one special thing I noticed – they enjoyed helping people who came to the house. This I liked very much, especially when I started to do the same. This was really good.
Sister Liliana Garcia: When I was preparing to make my first communion, I had never met a nun. When we went to see the chapel where my parents wanted us to make first communion, it was the first time that I met a nun.
Since then, I began to feel that I had a religious vocation, and when I made my first communion in a private chapel of the Perpetual Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the nuns and ask them what I needed to be a religious.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: When I was at high school in the Colegio Ilustración in my native city of Guaymas, Mexico, the Sisters every two months invited the students to take part in the spiritual retreats in the different houses they had. Sometimes in Ciudad Obregón, Hermosillo, or in Guaymas. The priests many times spoke about religious life. I started thinking about it and liked it, but I did not do anything.
Years later, I spoke with the pastor of my parish about it. He recommended that I think seriously about it. At that time, I knew a friend of the Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph in Gallup, New Mexico. She introduced me to the superior, we talked and she asked to pray, to ask Our Lord and Our Lady to really tell me if this was my vocation. After the time she gave me, I proceeded to apply for my entrance.
What do you like best about being a Sister?
Mother Rosa Maria Zuniga: A real privilege is our Chapel of Perpetual Adoration in Gallup. [It is] open 24 hours, seven days a week. It is something that has no comparison.
For me, a real privilege is to be a Religious. I have enjoyed every day of my consecration and give my whole self to God. Under the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph, I feel so blessed. I celebrate the date of my entrance, the date of receiving my habit to be a novice, and with great joy the anniversary of my first and final vows.
Sister Liliana Garcia: One of the things that I like about being a religious is that despite the many activities we have, we enjoy the fact that we offer Our Lord everything we do. We have our lives and serving others in the different apostolates that our community has.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: I really enjoy being with Our Lord. Sharing my love of Him with the people, talking to people about His love so they can get closer to God or get to know Him more and more so they can love Him with all their hearts. In other words, to work on the salvation of the souls of everybody.
What are some challenges you’ve faced over the years?
Mother Rosa Maria Zuniga: For me it is easy to communicate with children. I do like and it is easy for me to teach in CCD, Preschool, and these areas. But it is a little more difficult to communicate with adults. I try my best, and I really hope I am doing better each day.
Sister Liliana Garcia: I am a person considered quiet or reserved. A big challenge for me has been to speak, especially in a meeting or in front of a group of adults. I have overcome a lot, but I still must make myself work in this area a lot more.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: It is easy for me to speak in Spanish, but it has been difficult for me to speak English. I still talk with people that speak only English and try to make myself understood. Since I like to help people, I really try my best speaking even in English.
Can you describe how you serve the people of your community?
Sister Liliana Garcia: I serve the Gallup community as a minister of communion, a reader, a CCD teacher, as a Saint Francis of Assisi School teacher, and now the Preschool Director.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: For years and years, I visited the sick in their homes, hospital, praying with them. I was more than happy taking the most Blessed Sacrament to them, sharing the love of the Eucharistic Jesus with them. March 2020 put a stop to this service and deprived me of doing it. So now, I call on the phone, and also, I have attended when there is an opportunity the funerals of my so dear sick [people].
Do you have any insights for those who wish to deepen their relationship with God?
Sister Liliana Garcia: The importance of visiting Our Lord in Adoration, being a few moments alone with Him, having communication with Him through prayer. That makes a lot of difference in our lives. A closer friendship with the Eucharistic Jesus will bring peace and joy to the heart.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: I have found that being in contact with the Eucharist has given me the strength to do many things that I thought I was never be able to do. Jesus gives peace and a lot of joy. His love makes you wish that many people could understand His love and in this way love Him more and more – take His love to their homes, teach their children and be a lot happier.
Do you have a favorite book, Saint, or fun hobby?
Mother Rosa Maria Zuniga: A good friend of us Sisters gave us the book Consecration to Saint Joseph, written by Father Donald H. Calloway. This book has helped me so much and knowing more and more about our principal patron St. Joseph (together with Our Lady of Guadalupe) helps me to relate a lot more with the special Saint who takes care of our Mother Church. I have learned how much the whole world and I owe to St. Joseph. Being the Father of Jesus is a real treasure that we should appreciate and love more.
I enjoy playing table games in community with my Sisters, praying in Community, sharing a conversation during the meals. I love my congregation. Now, I am serving as Superior General which is a great opportunity to do what our mission is: Prayer and Service in Peace, Joy and Love.
Sister Liliana Garcia: Since I started my religious life my favorite saint is Saint Therese of Lisieux, and I really like the books that talk about her life.
Some of my hobbies are reading, knitting, and assembling puzzles, and I enjoy all of them.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: I recently received a book: Consoling the Heart of Jesus, by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley. I really enjoyed it and it makes me feel closer to Jesus and the people.
Saint Joseph has been for me a father, just as he helped and took care of his Son Jesus, St. Joseph helps me.
[For fun, I enjoy] recreation with my sisters. I like to tell stories. Sometimes we watch a movie that tells us about saints, or one that is comical.
Do you have any other advice or reflections to share with people?
Mother Rosa Maria Zuniga: Invite your children or help them learn about a vocation to consecrated life. Priests, Sisters, etc. – talk to them about it. Who knows? God keeps calling, but are your children listening?
Our Chapel of Adoration is open for everybody who needs or want to see and talk to Jesus. He is here and calls you.
Sr. Maria Lyliana Ricaud: I really wish that many girls, young women or not so young ladies who feel the wish to do something beautiful with their lives would come to [our home] Casa Reina, experience religious life, and see the beauty of being a spouse of Christ.