| By Carla Smith | Correspondent

Religious sisters serve parish with joy

“All for the heart of Jesus through the heart of Mary” is the mission of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a community of religious sisters serving in the Diocese of Austin. Founded in 1990 by Mother Adela Galindo in the Archdiocese of Miami, locally the sisters have been called to serve at St. William Parish in Round Rock.

“What we do flows from who we are,” said Sister Grace Marie Heinrich, superior of the local community. “We are called to enflesh the all-embracing maternity of Our Lady and, as we know, a mother’s love is expressed in many ways. Because we are a Marian charism, our missions are varied and diverse.”

Sister Grace serves with two other sisters at St. William, Sister Martha Maria Gomez-Chow and Sister Clara Maria Malay. Sister Silvia Tarafa, also from the same order, serves as the diocesan director of the Office of Consecrated and Apostolic Life. 

As director of Evangelization at St. William, Sister Grace works closely with the pastor, Father Francisco Rodriguez, to implement his vision for the parish. She is also heavily involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation process for adults, the process through which adults either convert to Catholicism or complete their sacraments of initiation. 

“Much of our ministry is relational; building a home and a family among those whom we serve,” Sister Grace said. “As a mother serves a family in countless ways, we serve in a wide variety of apostolates and in areas where Our Lady’s maternal love is needed. Our main focus is evangelization and the formation of the human heart to build a civilization of love, truth, life and solidarity.”

As the parish coordinator of the Middle School Youth Ministry, Sister Clara Maria strives to create an environment for young hearts to encounter the love of the Lord through Our Lady. She is responsible for developing curriculum for more than 150 middle schoolers and also helps with high school ministry. 

Sister Martha Maria serves as the executive assistant for Father Rodriguez. Sister Grace said just as Our Lady’s heart was a place where the Lord could always find rest, Sister Martha Maria strives to provide a sense of serenity for Father Rodriguez. 

“Sister Martha Maria has a gift for pastoral care and for people who come to our office with crisis situations. Her ministry of presence communicates the love of Our Lady who welcomes all,” Father Rodriguez said. “Part of the sisters’ charism is to be the face, hands, feet and voice of Mary. They all exemplify that in their ministry.”

When Father Rodriguez was assigned pastor of St. William in 2021, his dream was to have sisters serving there. Upon the approval of Bishop Joe Vásquez, he invited the order to send a group of sisters for ministry. The parish then prepared a convent for the sisters, who arrived in July 2022.

The sisters also put on retreats, lead pilgrimages and organize conferences to bring Christ’s love to not only the parish but also throughout the diocese.

Father Rodriguez said the sisters serve joyously and abundantly.

“They are willing to serve and assist anywhere the parish needs and joyfully help in any way possible outside of their specific roles in the parish,” he said. “We desire an environment where people can encounter the Risen Lord and to build God’s Kingdom. Our sisters bring a maternal Marian presence that coincides with my pastoral ministry with the heart of the Father and together we are building a family of missionary disciples.”

Sister Grace is thankful for the opportunity to serve in Round Rock.

“It’s a great gift to be able to serve together as sisters in a parish,” she said. “Although our specific assignments might be different, we’re one body serving together, collaborating with one another, and praying for the intentions entrusted to us.”

For more information on the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, contact St. William Parish at (512) 255-4473.

Carla Smith has written for the Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.

¡Lee este artículo en español! (Spanish Language Version)