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Jun 30, 1998

Holy Family Sisters celebrate century of service

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Belize is no stranger to missionaries as they’ve been coming and going to and from these shores for just about as long as their more famous contemporaries, the pirates. But arriving today at the Philip Goldson International Airport was not your usual band of bible toting strangers. These ladies, as their name suggests, are coming as family.

Not since the Sisters of the Holy Family established a convent in Dangriga, one hundred years ago, has there been such a large delegation of the congregation arriving in Belize. The sisters’ visit marks the opening of a week long celebration, observing their work done in the south between 1898 and 1998.

Sylvia Flores, Coordinator, Celebration

“Well, their ministry has been basically education. They have been strictly into education. In fact they were the ones who opened Sacred Heart. All their Catholic schools are in Dangriga and Holy Angels School in Pomona. But they have also been in care of the aged and the indigent of our society and that is basically where their ministry has been.”

Sylvia Flores, who is coordinator of the celebration, says there are a number of activities planned for the event including a street renaming ceremony in honor of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Dangriga.

Sylvia Flores

“We have gotten the town board to rename Front Street in their honor, since that has been the permanent location of the sisters and we feel that after one hundred years, we ought to be able to honor them in a very meaningful and very symbolic way.”

Among the twenty-six nuns who arrived in the country, eight of them are Belizeans who left home to live and work along with the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans.

Josita Marie Olgaldez, Sister, Holy Family

“I entered the Holy Family because I was a native and I used to like to go and visit them when they were at their convent and I was helping them with the convent. While I was there I used to iron their clothes and that helped me. Before I knew, I just felt like I wanted to be a part of that.”

Sylvia Thidadeu, Sister, Holy Family

“It’s really an awesome experience because it is really a testimony to the fidelity of our sisters over the last hundred years, not only here in Belize, but throughout our missionary efforts. It’s like a continuation of the circle that was started by Mother Austin a hundred years ago and we have had a continuous presence here and our coming here is like a celebration of that fidelity and education and commitment that we have had over the years.”

Mary Eleanor Gillett, Sister, Holy Family

“Very heart touching, very and especially the welcome that we received this evening. You know the speech that each one gave showed that they really love the nuns and that we did not work in vain.”

The sisters say besides the scheduled activities, they are also hoping to visit the cayes and other interesting sites around the country. The centennial celebration comes to a close on July eighth with a banquet at Holy Ghost School, after which the nuns are expected to return to New Orleans.

Four more sisters are due to arrive in Belize on Wednesday from California.

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