Sister Norma Edith Muñoz admits that in the past eight years of serving in Arkansas, she has put down “deep roots.”
While she and Sister Silvia Garza face their new call to serve in leadership positions with their order, the Missionary Catechists of the Poor in Mexico, both are trusting the Lord will give them strength.
“I was telling the Lord in prayer, all I have is two fish and five loaves of bread, but I know that the Lord will do the rest,” Sister Norma said.
Sister Norma, diocesan director of Hispanic ministry, will leave June 20 to serve as her order’s general treasurer and Sister Silvia, associate director for Hispanic youth and young adult ministry, left May 31 to serve as secretary general and counselor. In her new role, Sister Silvia will be helping make decisions regarding accepting new sisters, women moving forward in their religious life and transfers to new assignments.
They were elected out of roughly 70 eligible sisters in the 132-person order. Other sisters from her order will be chosen to serve in Little Rock.
“I think this is the biggest challenge the Lord has put me up to in the past 54 years I’ve been in the congregation,” Sister Norma said.
She will be responsible for a variety of financial roles, including fundraising, raising $25,000 each month for infirm sisters and reviewing investments.
“If the Lord has entrusted me with the responsibility, maybe he knows I can do something,” she said.
Sister Norma, 70, came to Arkansas in 2011 to serve in Hot Springs for a year and then four years at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Glenwood, helping to build Hispanic ministry in the parishes.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor appointed Sister Norma to diocesan director of Hispanic ministry in August 2016. There were 46 parishes with official Hispanic ministries and today there are 50.
One of her greatest accomplishments was leading V Encuentro or “Fifth Encounter” for the state. V Encuentro was a national evangelization initiative created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to inspire Hispanic and Latino communities to share their faith and become more active in the Church. Beginning in 2016, the program, which 30 parishes in Arkansas participated, included parish workshops to train leaders to evangelize. About 500 leaders were trained using the theme, “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love,” centered on Luke 24:13-35, the story of two disciples walking to Emmaus who encounter Jesus.
It also included Diocesan, Regional and National Encuentros. Sister Norma, along with Sister Silvia and others, helped create a working document with statistics and findings from Arkansas’ V Encuentro to present at the Regional Encuentro. All regional documents throughout the country were combined in one national document.
“One of the things that touched my heart is that people became more aware of really being missionary disciples of the love of God. And reaching out to the people and knocking on doors and meeting the people where they are,” Sister Norma said. The Diocesan Encuentro was a highlight in November 2017, “really coming together, being one Church.”
Sister Silvia, 53, came to Little Rock in August 2017 as associate director to further Hispanic youth and young adult formation. She and fellow associate director Sister Ana Luisa Diaz Vazquez, who is staying in Little Rock, would travel to parishes helping to cultivate Hispanic youth programs and helping run two Búsqueda (Hispanic Search retreat) and two Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil (Encounters of Youth Promotion) each year, along with other programs.
“I feel sad about leaving Little Rock and Hispanic ministry … I’m very thankful to God having given me the opportunity to work in this ministry with the youth and young adults. And because we also have a bishop who is so close to the people. All the coworkers here are so open and ready to serve,” she said in Spanish, translated by Sister Norma.
Sister Silvia added that the youth have a willingness to help and that the priests were “so wonderful coming out to celebrate Mass and hear confessions for hours and hours and hours.” The Carmelite sisters and the Catholic Teachers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (see sidebar) also often helped.
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