The Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, as you may know, founded UD. The sisters were intermittently part of UD’s faculty and staff until 2001, when Sister St. John Begnaud retired from the English Department.
In 2015, one of the sisters, who had received her Master of Theological Studies from the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry, began teaching at UD, finally bringing the presence of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur back to campus.
“I’m overjoyed to have returned to UD to teach,” said Sister Yolanda Cruz, S.S.M.N., MTS ’05, affiliate instructor of Hispanic ministry. She teaches intensive Bible study in Spanish in the Catholic Biblical School as well as pastoral ministry continuing education and deacon formation courses.
Sister Yolanda feels that being part of an international religious congregation has provided the groundwork for her to have an awareness and openness to diversity and the richness of different cultures; the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, with their motherhouse in Belgium, are also in four countries in Africa (Cameroon, Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania), Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, the U.K. and the U.S.
On the local level, Sister Yolanda, who is also a delegate for women religious in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the vocation director for the Sisters of St. Mary in Texas, appreciates the work of Cardinal Kevin Farrell (former bishop of Dallas and chancellor of UD), Bishop of Dallas and current UD chancellor Edward Burns, Bishop of Fort Worth Michael Olson, and UD’s own President Thomas W. Keefe for their vision to embrace all cultures and strive for the formation of all laity.
“We need these local missionaries to understand their faith and witness to it in this world that is in such need of it,” she said.
At UD, beyond teaching, Sister Yolanda participates every year in the Dallas Ministry Conference, which welcomes thousands of participants annually; the 11th annual conference was held in October. Sister Yolanda presented a talk in Spanish titled “¿Cómo enriquecer nuestra espiritualidad para el discipulado?”
“The conference opens the possibilities and opportunities for participation from all dioceses and people of all cultures,” she said. “The keynotes and workshops provide a new richness for everyone in their personal and ministerial lives. All of these offerings and the participation of the faithful in these opportunities for prayer and fellowship with the extended church paint an authentic portrait of a church that is alive.”
As part of the faculty at UD, Sister Yolanda feels she is able to reach further into communities and parishes to which she otherwise would not have been able to connect.
“I would be remiss not to point out the reality of the growing HIspanic population in the church and in our area specifically, all who are seeking better formation and a deepening of their faith,” she said. “As one of the bilingual instructors who teaches in Spanish, I see how we mutually enrich each other, as I remain well-grounded in our local realities and richness in gifts.”
Her students seem eager to learn and to embrace these gifts.
“I find the students are very passionate about growing in their faith and being disciples of Christ,” she said. “They radiate in their desire to achieve academic excellence as well as a strong spiritual foundation.”