VIRIDITAS: GREENING OF THE SOUL
Interviewed by Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP
Catholic Herald of Hawaii
Obedience. Pray. Commitment. Fulfillment. These have characterized my life in ministry. Obedience takes first place in my life, because I only go where I am assigned as a religious. In Hawaii alone, I served at Holy Cross School in Kalaheo, Kauai; at St. John the Baptist School in Kalihi; and at St. Elizabeth’s School in Aiea. Accomplishment comes as a product of what I do.
I’ve never really had a hard time adapting to a new place, whether it’s Hawaii or the continental United States. Since I have never been assigned to ministry in the Philippines, I have no experience there to compare with my experiences in the field of education here. I taught for 16 years in Hawaii and was principal for 34 years. There have been challenges, but I feel fulfilled in my ministry. There has always been the support of the sisters as well as the administration. This was accompanied by much prayer.
When things get 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 chapel when no one else is around just to be alone with God. But silent prayer can be done anywhere – in my room, when I’m walking or even while driving.
Sometimes I use music, like instrumental music to inspire. Other times I might read certain scriptures. I really like the reflections in the books of the author Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM I also like to read the writings of Saint Catherine of Siena. But sometimes his writing is too difficult for me to understand. When this happens, I stop reading and just focus on one word from the passage I read. I then meditate on this single word.
Contemplation and meditation are very important to me in discerning what I am doing.
Where can I find time to pray quietly? 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 get up at 4 a.m., an hour before the community prays together at 5 a.m.
To the people of Hawaii, even though I’ve been away for a while, carry on your aloha spirit. I love the meaning of the word aloha as “love” and “welcome”. Continue to be welcoming. Continue to love your neighbour. 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, which included a priest, Father Socrates Montealto, who died last year. She is 56 years old. His next ministry is as manager of the Arch Memory Care facility in Houston, Texas, a facility for 16 residents.