Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Diocese of Gallup, Arizona and New Mexico
Three Daughters of Charity—Sisters Catherine France, Elizabeth Ridell and Mary Frate—are parish life coordinators at St. Jude in Tuba City, Arizona. This parish, located in the northwestern corner of the diocese, serves the Navajo and Hopi people in a deeply impoverished area.
Upon arrival in 1996, the sisters listened to the Native Americans to understand their challenges: drugs, alcohol, poverty, hunger and vast unemployment. They established and expanded ministries to respond to these needs.
Sister Catherine works closely with the St. Vincent de Paul outreach center. She conducts home visits and offers spiritual guidance to parishioners who are unable to attend Mass. Sister Elizabeth is director of St. Jude Food Bank and helps community members become self-sufficient by offering classes on finances, nutrition and employment opportunities. Sister Mary is pastoral assistant and lends a hand for those who need gas money, a meal or warm coat. The sisters offer this assistance without judgement and always respecting Native American traditions.
The pastor of St. Jude, Father Jay Jung, C.M., is grateful for their help. “Our diocese is considered one of the poorest in our country in financial resources, Catholic educational resources and ordained clergy. Our Daughters of Charity have chosen to live, minister and share their Gospel faith. As pastor of two parishes separated by 70 miles, I would never be able to adequately serve my two communities unless I had trained, professional and experienced ministers helping me to serve.”
The director of religious education, Teresa Rojo Tsosie, who works closely with the sisters said, “Each of the sisters is wonderful, hardworking and dedicated. They are well known in this town. People know that if you need help, prayer or just to have a simple conversation, the sisters are there for you.”
A fellow parishioner, who moved to Tuba City in 2015, knows this ministry of presence first-hand. “The sisters have been a huge pillar and strength in making me and my family feel welcomed and helping us to see the light of the Lord in different circumstances in our lives. It is not easy to live away from ‘home’ and family, but the sisters have all done their part to offer prayers, comfort, visits and other means of support to us,” said Damenique DeClay. “It wasn’t until I began volunteering at our St. Jude Food Bank that I was able to see how many lives the sisters truly impact here on the Navajo Reservation.”
Bishop James Wall is also thankful, saying, “Their work has been an inspiration to all of the mission diocese of Gallup, especially those who serve the poor under difficult circumstances. Due to a shortage of priests, these sisters support their part-time pastor in all parish life activities, catechism, sacramental preparation, outreach ministries as well as running the food bank to sustain the poor. They are symbols of those who serve the ‘field hospital’ that is our beloved Catholic Church here in the Diocese of Gallup.”