Today on the Nunday blog, Sister Judith Therese Barial shares her vocation story, ministry, and life as a Sister of the Holy Family in New Orleans, Louisiana.
As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Sister. But as an Afro-American child in Mississippi, I only saw white Irish nuns. So it seemed like an impossible dream.
When I was in seventh grade, my mother attended a Knights of Peter Claver (KPC) meeting at Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana. When she returned she had a brochure from the group of Black Sisters who taught there. When I saw those faces on the cover that looked like my mother, aunts, and grandmother, I knew it was possible. My parents and siblings all sacrificed so that I could attend St. Mary’s Academy boarding school in New Orleans taught by these Sisters of the Holy Family. I entered immediately after graduation at 17.
The best years of my life were spent in Dangriga, Belize (1987-2001), where I ministered to youth who were not able to attend the local high school because there was just not enough room. After teaching at Ecumenical College all day, I would teach about 25 students at the convent from 3:00 – 5:00. Others volunteered to help me. After a couple of years my community released me to teach these students full time.
It was a struggle to get the local people, and the education department of the government to recognize the efforts of these young people. But in 1995, Delille Academy became an accredited Catholic high school. The government of Belize and the U.S. government donated buildings and land for the school in 2000 and the enrollment expanded rapidly. I left before the buildings were completed. Sister Jean Martinez was responsible for the school when I left and oversaw the building and moving. The enrollment peaked at 600. The present enrollment is 300+ since a few local vocational schools have opened in the District. There are no longer any Sisters at the school, but it maintains its Catholic identity.
I returned to Dangriga in 2004, but was diagnosed with breast cancer that summer and was due for surgery as Katrina hit (but that's another story).
Currently, at 74 years old, I am teaching physics and chemistry at the Academy, my Alma Mater, and loving it!
To learn more about the Sisters of the Holy Family, visit their website at sistersoftheholyfamily.com