Sister M. Juanita Villarreal

How is it that I persevere in my religious vocation and in living in a convent with many Sisters?

First, perseverance is a good word to describe anything that we do for which we feel a strong  calling.  I am the sixth child of José and Juanita Villarreal and one of eleven children.  I was born on July 23rd in Asherton, Texas.  Being the middle of eleven children was a task which required a great deal of perseverance. I was too young to do stuff with the older siblings and too old for the younger siblings.

I remember all of us kids had to work very hard as migrant workers. We worked in Minnesota, Illinois, and Washington and later settled in Oregon.  My father considered education very important and so good grades were a must.  It took a lot of perseverance to make those three-day arduous trips from Texas to Oregon every spring and the return trip in the fall.  My father helped prepare the fields for planting and we joined him in the field work in the summer.  He was a strict field boss.

At the age of 17, I decided to join the convent.  Would I join the Benedictine Sisters of Crookston, Minnesota who were missionaries in Asherton, Texas?   Or, would I join the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who taught me in St. Paul, OR?   One day I visited the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon in Beaverton and I knew immediately that this was the place for me.  I joined them at the beginning of my senior year.  I felt a strong call to be a Sister and I wanted to do hard work for the Lord.

It has been 50 years now and I feel that the Lord has given me the grace to persevere living my life as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon.  When I was a young Sister, a priest said that living life in a religious community was a kind of slow martyrdom.  But now that I am older and wiser I think that living here on earth…traveling on this arduous road to heaven is just as difficult as spending those three days on the back of a truck traveling all together in a small space without all the conveniences of our real home.  I try to keep my eyes on the destination.  I will get there soon enough and all will be great.

Photos of Sr. M. Juanita Villarreal’s life and ministry are available on our Flickr site.