Left, Eillien Mendez; middle, Brother Juan Acuña; right, Precious Blood Sister Terry Maher; contributed photos.
As a high school student, Eillien Mendez wanted to become a nun. She was considering religious life, but her direction changed when a Sister at her school noticed in Mendez a stronger desire to become a mom. The Sister mentioned it. Mendez ended up marrying and having a son and a daughter.
“That definitely was the Lord’s plan,” she said. “That opened my eyes to understanding that there are different calls and all of them are needed and great.”
That’s the perspective Mendez will bring to her work as a member of the Sisters of the Precious Blood Vocations Ministry Committee. She joins Sister Terry Maher and Missionary of the Precious Blood Brother Juan Acuña as new members. The team, which works with Vocations Coordinator Sister Mary Yarger to develop strategies for raising awareness of vocations to the community, consists of lay people and Precious Blood Sisters.
“We’re excited to have the new members and what they bring,” Sister Mary said. “They bring different cultural backgrounds to the committee. We are looking to expand the cultures represented on the committee in order to better connect with those from other parts of the world.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Mendez is the liturgy coordinator at St. Bernardine Parish in San Bernardino, Calif., and works as a part-time secretary there. She is a floral designer by trade.
As part of the committee she wants to help parents be understanding and open if their child has a call to religious life. She also wants to help with the committee’s communications.
“I think as parents we have the responsibility to teach our children to be open to the gift of a call,” she said. “Our kids are gifts and they belong to the Lord, not to us, so we have to be sure to expose them to vocations. We need to give them space and give them the option of becoming a priest, or nun or brother so they can live their lives to the fullest if that’s God’s plan.”
Her Hispanic heritage will also enable her to help the Congregation relate to other cultures.
“I think I will bring another dimension of how my people think and see things,” she said. “You have to integrate everybody, no matter where they come from. You have to bring that melting pot together. You don’t have to let language and culture be a barrier to inclusion.”
Likewise, Brother Juan, a native of Santiago, Chile, brings a Latino perspective.
“There are always cultural issues that can make communication difficult,” he said. “I can help cross that barrier.”
Brother Juan began formation with the Missionaries in 2007. He made temporary incorporation in 2010 and definitive incorporation in 2012. He works as a learning specialist at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind. His work with college students dovetails into vocations work, he said, as most people entering religious life are older.
“It looks like an interesting group,” Brother Juan said of the vocations committee. “It looks like a very diverse group and I look forward to working with them.”
For Sister Terry, a hospital chaplain at St. Bernardine’s Medical Center in San Bernardino, the committee is an extension of vocations efforts she has been involved in while living in the west.
“One of the things that drew me to the Sisters of the Precious Blood, and I try to present that, is a sense of honesty about call and how much God appreciates what one has called her to,” Sister Terry said. “It’s important to be present to the story of the person who’s coming and to listen to how this particular person feels called to religious life without barriers or pre-conceived notions. I get excited by it because it allows me to share who we are as Sisters of the Precious Blood and to share the God experience between two people.”
By Dave Eck