By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
There was a time when Sister Arlene Vasquez thought that the religious life wouldn’t be the direction her life would take.
“I don’t know if I was asked the question too soon or too early but I had a whole litany as to why religious life was ineffective in today’s society,” she said. “And God has a sense of humor, He slowly chipped at each of those and life experience taught me that maybe my understanding of religious life was a bit eschewed and incorrect and it was simply a calling that I wanted to share.”
Sister Arlene Vasquez, who has been working as director of religious education at St. Anthony’s parish in Liberal for the last four years, will soon be leaving in June to return to her home parish in San Antonio to do work with the elderly along with serving as coordinator of religious education. She says that while more modern technology can help with some of the problems associated with the distance, she says that the need to move back was very strong.
One of Vasquez’s major accomplishments during her tenure at St. Anthony’s was increasing attendance from the local diocese to the annual L.A. Congress. The Congress is a both a national and international conference of catechists and church leaders that includes workshops that attendees can visit, whether it be about human sexuality, helping with their parish council or about the Catholic faith in general. Vasquez says that her work has indeed made great strides with the event.
“Two years ago we were trying to work and we’ve been setting stepping stones and really building on the work done by previous parishioners, other ministers, and there is a very strong youth component here at the parish,” she said. “we have a great deal of teens that will kind of help be assistants in the classroom with other adults, some that are involved in different choirs and they have more and more interests in wanting to be of service and learning more about the ministries.”
She says that with this year’s Congress, the parish was able to send 35 youths and another 13 adults who were chaperones or parents of the youths. She says that the fact that the church has more open doors for youths and their families, saying that some of the youth work has even helped bring some of their parents back to the parish.
“I have difficulty with people saying ‘well they’re our future’ and for me it’s like ‘well, they’re our present,’” she said. “They’re sharing their presence, their talent, their time and tenacity for life and we’ve got to help expose them to opportunities that will be of help not only to them individually and in their own spirituality and faith but they’ll also be able to share it with others.”
Vasquez says that her favorite thing about working in St. Anthony’s parish has been watching her students grow and mature.
“It’s been a true joy to see some of the infants and toddlers that are now in our early childhood program or to see those who had started in our kindergarten program now getting closer to celebrating first communion,” she said. “It’s those kinds of opportunities where you meet someone at one point in their lives and then being able to have the opportunity to really journey with them and see them mature and grow.”