As a nine-year-old, Jacinta came to San Francisco with her mother and sister from Nicaragua. They had family who lived not far from Notre Dame School on Dolores Street so she started there in fourth grade.
Her family was religiously oriented and their parish, Mission Dolores, was very important. Each month the children got a little booklet with stories of saints who made God known by their lives, and she wanted to be like them, to make God known in love. Given the family’s religious orientation, her mother considered her vocation a blessing.
When Jacinta became Sister Jacinta, she taught first grade for many years and loved it. Then, she was sent to Holy Angels School in Yuba City, Calif., as principal where she inherited a huge science program that another Sister had started. Each week she joined other science teachers in writing lesson plans. This experience led to a love of science and outdoor education. To this day, Sister’s spirituality includes a great love of the natural world. She enjoys gardening and starting things from tiny seeds. Many birds, even a woodpecker, come to her feeder every day. “Even if you are down,” she says, “a bird makes you smile.”
When she retired from 30 years of teaching, she trained to be a chaplain at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. “Chaplaincy work is preaching the goodness of God by being present.” Many, many times, both in her training and during her eight years at St. Luke’s Hospital, San Francisco, she felt inadequate to the challenges of her work, but something good always came of it.
While still very involved in her volunteer ministries, Sister Jacinta says, “The best time is prayer. Gathering the whole world into prayer.” Amy Jobin, and Associate of Notre Dame and former Campus Minister at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), says, “Sister Jacinta is a contemplative in action, as St. Julie wanted her Sisters to be.” Diana Enriquez-Field, former director of NDNU’s Dorothy Stang Center, appreciates Sister too. She says, “Sister Jacinta shows so much love, joy, caring and faith with the students and they love her. Her love of science is obvious; it is part of her spirituality.”
Now after more than 60 years as an SNDdeN, Sister "J" is loving it all! Many days, you will meet her on the NDNU campus helping with student retreats or in the campus ministry center. She once accompanied a group of students to her native Nicaragua where she was an invaluable resource for culture and language. Other days she drives Sisters or neighbors who need help getting to a doctor or running errands. For Sister Jacinta, whether it is NDNU students, other SNDdeNs, or her neighbors, retirement is a time for learning, generosity, friendships and prayer.
She is grateful for all the people, the students, parents, parishes, friendships. “I’ve done it all and all of it is grace and gratitude. It is time to slow down now and spend more time in meditation and contemplation. Life is prayer. I want to reflect on the gift of these years.”