Sister María Luisa Güereña, CSC (1928-2020)
Amada María Luisa Güereña was born in Los Angeles, California, of parents who had migrated from Mexico. She was the second oldest and first daughter of José María Güereña, a blacksmith, and Magdalena Gómez, a homemaker. As the first girl she must have been “The Beloved,” as her first name in Spanish implies. After graduating in 1946 from a Catholic girls’ high school in Los Angeles, where she was called “Mary Louise,” she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. At the end of her postulancy she received the habit and the name Sister María Dominga. She later wrote that her religious vocation came first from “our home, which was deeply Mexican in its religiosity and in its customs.” Throughout her life she sought to claim an authentic identity and spirituality rooted in her Mexican values and those of the Congregation, which was culturally Euro-American in 1946.
Making her initial profession of vows in February 1949, Sister Maria later earned a Bachelor of Education from the College of Saint Mary of the Wasatch, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1959. Her schooling prepared her for 28 years as an educator—from the care of orphans at St. Ann Orphanage in Salt Lake City to training teachers in Telêmaco Borba, Brazil.
Over a lifetime, Sister María Luisa spent 59 years in full-time ministries of education and pastoral care, in schools, hospitals, and parishes in California, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Indiana, and Brazil. After many years serving the Church and the Congregation so generously, she retired from active ministry in 2008 to live at Saint Catherine by the Sea Convent, Ventura, California, where she served in a ministry of prayer while volunteering in chaplaincy in local hospitals, particularly in neonatal intensive care units, utilizing both her experience and her bilingual skills. As an artist, she had once worked at Franciscan Communications in filmmaking in Los Angeles. In Ventura, she enjoyed making pottery, painting watercolors, and contemplating the garden she tended from the patio outside her bedroom.
Sister María Luisa wrote in a reflection years ago that transitions were difficult and challenging for her, but they opened new vistas and provided “an ongoing pilgrimage of discovery.” After a long illness, Sister María Luisa completed her pilgrimage of discovery dying at Mary Health of the Sick, a skilled nursing facility in Newbury Park, California. –Written by Sister M. Joseph Cecile (Voelker), CSC