If there’s one thing Sister Graciela Rosas does not want, it’s an award. The 66-year-old sister of the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary is distressed by the way her joy in serving others with love seems to keep bringing her so much attention.
For the last 50 years of her religious life, Sister Graciela has dedicated herself to serving the least in society, a vocation she says has filled her life with blessings. (See related story on this page.) It pains her to receive awards when what she really wants is to go on serving quietly, as God asked.
She was persuaded to accept this year’s Justice in Action award from the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities only when she learned it would be presented at the Justice for All dinner, a benefit for the poor.
“If I can help the poor I will do it,” she finally replied to the dinner’s organizers who urged her to accept.
For the last five years in her work at the Parish of the Holy Cross in Bridgeton, and her 50 years of consecrated life, those words might have been her motto.
At the parish, Sister Graciela leads an ESL (English as a Second Language) program, prepares young people to receive confirmation, helps with the parish’s Code Blue program offering shelter to the homeless during the winter, has established small faith-sharing groups for the community, and runs a weekly group that advocates for justice for immigrants, just to name a few.
“Sister Graciela for me really embodies what Pope Francis is calling priests and religious to be, that is, workers in the field hospital caring for those who have been wounded,” said Father Vincent Guest, pastor of the Parish of the Holy Cross.
“She walks with people thorough the various difficulties they face in life and she walks as a religious, whether it’s accompanying a family to the hospital to see a loved one or going to immigration court for a detained parishioner who is not documented, or peacefully protesting in front of a congressman’s office advocating for a change in immigration laws. Sister is there, representing the church for people who are in need.”
Catholic Charities’ Justice for All Dinner annually honors one organization and one individual who work for justice in the Diocese of Camden. This year’s individual honoree is Sister Graciela and the organizational honoree is the Camden County Police Department under the leadership of Police Chief J. Scott Thomson.
The Justice For All Dinner raises funds that allow Catholic Charities to provide direct assistance to those experiencing financial crises in South Jersey.
“Sister Graciela’s work with and on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Camden, particularly those who are undocumented, is a great example of the importance of working for justice through love,” said Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities. “During this Year of Consecrated Life, and Sister Graciela’s Golden Jubilee year as a religious sister, it is a fitting time to honor that witness.”
If you go:
The Justice for All dinner will be held Thursday, Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. at the Adelphia Grand Ballroom, Deptford. To buy a ticket or become a sponsor, visit CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/JFA.