SISTER JUANA MARGARITA FLORES PEREZ
I was born in a village called Cantón El Carrizal in the Department of Cuzclatán, Cojutepec, El Salvador in 1945. My father’s name is Victor Manuel Flores, and my mom, who died 15 years ago, was María Juana Perez. I am the eldest of my three sisters. My brother died when he was only three days old.
When I was 18 years old, a priest was assigned to our parish and that is when I became more involved in church work, by helping with the catechesis and the youth in the community learning about Catholic teachings. The priest needed young people to help, and I very much liked helping in the community.
One of the priests sent me to San Miguel, about 100 kilometers from my house, for further training in catechism. While attending those classes, I met Sister Francesca Kearns, who came with Sister Carolina Maria Piedad Ramos, to visit the group. Both were members of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston. Sister Carolina was the first woman from Central America to become a member of the Congregation. They talked a little bit about religious life. That was the first time I had ever heard about it.
For two years, Sister Carolina wrote letters to me because there were no cell phones or email. From time to time, Sister Francesca would come to see me, as she was missioned to El Salvador and Guatemala. That is how we started our relationship. I like to help people, and saw how deeply they cared about helping others.
After two years of contact, I decided to enter the convent. At first, my dad did not like the idea. My mom said nothing, but my dad sure did. The first thing he said was, “Why?” I said to him that I was going to try, and if it did not work out, I would come back. With that, he was more at ease. Nowadays, my dad is happy and says that God called me, I answered, and that is beautiful. Each of us has to listen to God’s calling; the paths to which we are called may be very different.
At first I was an Affiliate, the first stage of my formation to see if religious life was right for me and if I was right for the Congregation. I had not finished my basic studies, so I started studying in night school. I worked during the day in the nursing home and studied at night. Sister Ann Mary Brangan was in charge of the Affiliates at that time.
At Casa del Verbo Encarnado in Guatemala City, Guatemala, I did my preparation as a Postulant and Novice, staying there for four years. After I made First Annual Profession of Vows, I received my Bachelor Diploma in Trade and Administration/Accounting from the College Hispanoamerica in Santa Tecla, El Salvador.
I was first missioned to work in El Salvador where I was responsible for the warehouse, where we stored the supplies for the children at Community of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, known simply as COAR. Located in Zaragoza, La Libertad, El Salvador, it is comprised of groups of homes for orphaned and abandoned children, a clinic, and a school. Founded by Father Ken Meyer, COAR was initially intended for the children who were victims of the civil war.
While at COAR, I taught catechism classes in the school. I became Assistant Director of COAR in 1990. I loved COAR and the children will always be in my heart. The children were simply delightful. I made my Perpetual Profession of Vows on March 25, 1992, in El Salvador. It was a beautiful day, and I was very happy. Since then, I’ve worked in various ministries in Central America and I am now working in ministry at la Casa de Retiro Verbo Encarnado in Guatemala.
While religious life might not be right for everyone, it has been a wonderful, faith-filled experience for me. Our Congregation’s founding call states, “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of sick and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands.” As I continue my journey, I am grateful for God’s blessing in calling me to respond to those in need.