VIRIDITAS: GREENING OF THE SOUL
Interviewed by Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP
Catholic Herald of Hawaii
Obedience. Pray. Commitment. Accomplishment. These have characterized my life in the ministry. Obedience comes first in my life, because I only go where I have been assigned as a religious. In Hawaii alone, I served at Holy Cross School in Kalaheo, Kauai; at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste school in Kalihi; and at St. Elizabeth School in Aiea. Fulfillment comes as a product of what I do.
I’ve never really had a hard time adjusting to a new place, whether it’s Hawaii or the continental United States. As I have never been assigned to ministry in the Philippines, I have no experience there to compare with my experiences in education here. I taught for 16 years in Hawaii and was a principal for 34 years. There have been challenges, but I feel fulfilled in my ministry. There was always the support of the sisters as well as the administration. It was accompanied by a lot of prayers.
When the going gets really tough, I turn to silent prayer. This type of prayer can enlighten the mind, enlighten the heart. Silent prayer is talking to God in your heart and listening. Listening is very important. I like going to the chapel when no one else is there just to be alone with God. But silent prayer can be done anywhere – in my bedroom, when I’m walking, or even while driving.
Sometimes I use music, like instrumental music, to inspire. Other times I might read some scripture. I really like the reflections in the author’s books Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM I also like reading the writings of Saint Catherine of Siena. But sometimes his writing is too hard for me to understand. When this happens, I stop reading and focus only on one word of the passage I read. I then contemplate on that single word.
Contemplation and meditation are very important to me in discerning what I am doing.
Where can I find time for silent prayer? There is time in the evening, before going to sleep. There is also time during daily meditation. But I especially like to pray early in the morning. I wake up at 4 a.m., an hour before the community prays together at 5 a.m.
To the people of Hawaii, although I have been away for a while, keep up your aloha spirit. I like the meaning of the word aloha like “love” and “welcome”. Continue to be welcoming. Continue to love your neighbor. And continue to love this beautiful land, these beautiful islands of Hawaii.
Sister M. Leonarda Montealto is a Dominican Sister of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines. She is the sixth of eight children in her family, including a priest, Father Socrates Montealto, who died last year. She is 56 years old in profession. His next ministry is that of facility manager for Arch Memory Care in Houston, Texas, a facility for 16 residents.