Spotlight on Ministry –
Kay Sweeney met the Presentation Sisters when she was participating in a Maryknoll summer program in Guatemala. She had gotten a taste of ministry to the Spanish speaking on a trip the year before to Malinalco Mexico with her parish, St. Bruno’s in San Bruno, California and was drawn to the culture and people.
In Guatemala, she met Sister Tonia Orland, PBVM. Sister Tonia had founded a religious community for Guatemalan Indigenous women and was looking for volunteers to help. Kay returned to the U.S. when the program was over, but felt drawn to return to Guatemala so volunteered to go back as a volunteer with Las Hermanas Misioneras de la Eucaristia, the community Sister Tonia had founded.
Kay was struck by the natural beauty of the country as well as the beauty of the fabric woven by the indigenous women. However, she saw a problem – these women and their families were living very limited lives. Kay learned that many had not attended school and did not speak Spanish, the national language. They longed for an education to learn new things and to earn money to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
This led Kay to establish a fund to accompany Guatemalan women as they worked to change their lives. The fund currently supports two programs – the Kateri Intern Fund and Mission: Guatemala. Kay continues as the Managing Director overseeing a Guatemalan staff that works directly with the program in Guatemala.
Living in a foreign country can be very lonely. The North American religious working in Guatemala became Kay’s community, especially the Presentation Sisters Kathleen Curtin and Joanna Bruno from San Francisco, Marge Healey and Rita Menart from Dubuque, and Evelyn Flanagan from Ireland. Sister Kathleen invited Kay to become an Associate, and that is how she became a part of the San Francisco Associates.
For a non-profit, fundraising is essential and the place to do it was the U.S., so in 2000, Kay changed from living in Guatemala and visiting the U.S to living in the U.S. and visiting Guatemala. At that time, she became more active in the Associate Program and got to know the Sisters in San Francisco.
Kay continues her work with the Kateri Fund as Managing Director with the Guatemalan staff taking on more responsibility for the actual day to day working of programs. With all the new technology it is easy to be kept in touch. She is now looking forward to handing over the reins of the Fund to a new Managing Director. Finding someone who is interested in the work is the job she and the Board of Directors – includes long-term friend, Sister Rita Menart – will be doing for the next two years. She asks you to keep them in your prayers.