Film spotlights saint who founded nursing community

By Christine Bordelon

Catch a glimpse inside the life of St. Maria Soledad Torres Acosta, founder of the Servants of Mary Sisters who care and comfort the sick, at the New Orleans premiere of the award-winning family movie “Light of Soledad” Nov. 10 at the Jefferson Performing Arts Theatre, 6400 Airline Drive, Metairie.

The lobby opens at 6 p.m., and theater doors at 6:30 p.m. General admission is $10.

The Servants of Mary were founded in 1851 in Spain but have been in New Orleans since 1914 and currently have 11 sisters here who are among 1,600 nuns in 122 convents and missions in 22 countries. Their founder, St. Maria Soledad, was canonized in 1970.

They are considered contemplatives in action – spending hours a day in prayer and then caring, mostly at night, for the sick and dying regardless of race, creed or income. They never charge for their services, trusting in divine providence for survival as their founder did, a trait clearly shown in the film.

“It’s our mother,” Mother Lourdes Garcia, local superior, said about how St. Maria is depicted. “It’s our story. We know her spirit, and hopefully that is how we live. It’s almost like being next to her.”

“We cried (when we saw it),” Sister Beatriz Pardo said. “I love my founder.”

Sister Beatriz relates to St. Maria because she, too, was told to wait to enter the order until her English improved and she knew prayers in English. Sister Beatriz’s early struggles in the order also required her “to continue on and pray to God for help, just like Sister Soledad did.”

Mother Lourdes said the movie was produced in Spain by Goya Productions, which has produced two other inspirational movies. “Light of Soledad” was recently translated into English for American audiences.

“And, it’s a good translation,” Sister Susana Orozco, vocations director, assures.

Long time coming

Making a movie about St. Maria was something members had desired for a decade. Like all the saints, St. Maria models how to achieve sainthood through perseverance and trust in God.

“People love our ministry, and we want to let them know where it came from,” Mother Lourdes said.

“You see how she struggles, and we all have our own struggles,” Sister Servant of Mary Guadalupe Buenrostro said. “I admire her fortitude and want to live like she did. You see the Lord’s hands working in her life. I want the Lord to work in my life. You see where our vocation is from – out of her sacrifice.”

Servants of Mary Sisters worldwide not only work in homes but in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes – wherever the Lord calls them. The local branch cares for the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of patients at night at home.

“Our ministry is very silent,” said Sister Guadalupe. “We go out in the night when others are sleeping and keep silent during the day. … I see how Mother went and touched the most important parts of their life – their spiritual and emotional well-being. She had that personal contact without worrying about money. We give of ourselves. We care about the person and pray for the person.”

Because they minister to people of all creeds, they don’t set out to convert people, but sometimes that happens naturally.

“They see the testimony of how we care for others who are suffering, and something about us touches them and leads them to God,” Sister Guadalupe said. “(No matter what religion), they are God’s child, and he puts them into our hands to take care of them. We pray for that patient and offer their suffering to the Lord. We are that bridge that connects them with God.”

At the order’s Thanksgiving Mass in celebration of their 100 years in New Orleans, Archbishop Gregory Aymond called the Servants of Mary “the image of the Good Samaritan present in the archdiocese.”

Vivian Piazza, one of 30 committee members that has worked for the movie’s local screening and a daily Mass attendee at the Sisters, Servants of Mary convent in Gentilly, said this order witnesses the dignity of life from birth to natural death as they compassionately care for those at the end of life.

The nuns hope the movie inspires young people who are discerning religious life.

“The waiting list is long, and we are few. We need vocations,” Mother Lourdes said.

“It can produce vocations, seal the confirmation of those who are discerning a vocation,” Piazza said.

The movie is not a fundraiser, per se, since the sisters share half of the proceeds with Goya Productions. They primarily want to share their founder’s story to inspire others to trust in God and persevere even during difficult times as St. Maria Soledad did in the early years of the order’s founding.

“This movie can instill peace and draw us more in love and service to our Lord,” Mother Lourdes said. “We just want to bring people there and see the movie for inspiration to give them a ‘soul experience.’ It’s touched us, so we want others to experience the same.”

For advance tickets, call the Sisters, Servants of Mary at 282-5549. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10 as well.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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