As a young woman, Missionary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Sister Lucero Romero was attracted to religious life, but considered herself “unworthy.” An immigrant daughter of a single, teenage mother, Sister Lucero found it hard to believe God was calling her to consecrated life.
She wanted to be an actress, astronaut or a lawyer so she could be financially well-off and help her hardworking mother, but the idea of becoming a missionary seemed more exciting than all her other dreams.
“I didn’t want to get to 80 and have that ‘what if,’ so I pushed myself to go check it out,” Sister Lucero said. “I would rather go and say ‘no, this is not for me,’ and cross it out of the list than staying with that desire.”
Sister Lucero made her first vows in 2017 and is preparing to profess her perpetual vows this year or next year. She serves as pastoral associate of St. Joseph in Cockeysville, serving English and Spanish ministries. She acts as a bridge between cultures within the parish, translating documents and introducing faith formation materials.
Looking back on her journey into religious life, she sees the hand of God.
A native of Moctezuma in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Sister Lucero arrived in the United States at age 9.
“My mom left me at 2 years old (in Mexico) with some family members to go to work in the United States for a year, but that year turned into six years,” she said. “That was until my mom took the risk and paid for me to be taken to her.”
One day her aunt told her, “We’re going to see your grandma.”
“My grandma lived far, but I knew she didn’t live that far,” said Sister Lucero, recalling crossing cold water. “I didn’t know where we were going but it was disrespectful to question my elders.
“I crossed the river (Rio Grande) on a piggy-back ride,” she remembered.
When Sister Lucero was reunited with her mother, she found her with a new partner and a 3-year-old daughter.
“I never thought of religious life because of stigmas such as ‘I was born outside of marriage’ or ‘my parents were not in a state of grace,’ ” she said. She changed her mindset when she read Bible stories, particularly about David and Moses, in which not everything was perfect.
“I often think one sets the limits and says, ‘until here, you can love me God.’ So I thought, ‘Why not let God act in this story?’ ” she noted.
Although she did not grow up in a practicing Catholic family, she got close to her Catholic faith while preparing for confirmation. She became involved in several English and Spanish ministries at her home parish of Holy Name of Jesus in Gulfport, Fla.
As an undocumented immigrant, she feared deportation for herself and her mother. She couldn’t go to college and was frustrated knowing she couldn’t visit her family in Mexico.
“You fear more (as an undocumented immigrant), but at the same time you trust God more,” she said. “Your faith makes it easier, not perfect, but there is some sort of comfort when you invoke the presence of God.”
Eventually, Sister Lucero became a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. DACA is a U.S. immigration policy that allows undocumented individuals brought to the country as children to receive employment authorization and protection from deportation.
Sister Lucero met the Missionaries of Our Lady of Perpetual Help while attending St. Petersburg High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., when her mother signed her up to assist the sisters in finding Hispanic families in their door-to-door evangelization ministry.
“I was surprised to see how people greeted the sisters and offered them coffee, and the way the sisters treated the people. It was as if they knew each other for an eternity,” she said. “I was inspired to see them walking and praying with the people.”
The Missionaries of Our Lady of Perpetual Help are a congregation founded in Mexico in 1934. Similar to that of Redemptorist priests and brothers, the sisters’ charism is to follow Christ the Redeemer and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They serve in Mexico, the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, the Philippines, China and India.
It has been 22 years since Sister Lucero left her country. Her religious order might require her to travel overseas and, as a DACA recipient, she might not be re-admitted entrance to the U.S.
“I’ll go wherever God sends me,” she said.
Email Priscila González de Doran at [email protected]
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