When Sister entered Notre Dame in the '60s, religious life was in a time of change. Sr. Sandy didn't care for the "habit" we wore and was pleased to hear an older Sister predict that in 15 years there would be no habit. "Good," Sr. Sandy thought. "This is not for life." More importantly, the change from semi-cloistered life after Vatican II opened new ways to witness to the Gospel. Besides teaching lower primary grades and learning the Montessori system, she became involved in local issues of justice-racial integration, fair housing and support for the United Farm Workers movement. Sister's easy grasp of the Spanish language led her to ministry among the Spanish-speaking which held an attraction for her.
In 1972 a course on Base Christian Communities given by a team from Brazil was a moment of grace and life-changing for her. With this team she visited Panama, Columbia, Chile, Argentina and Peru, learning about liberation theology along the way. Back in San Jose, CA, she continued to teach in the Alum Rock School District and to collaborate with Rev. Tony McGuire and now Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia, and other women religious at Centro Pastorale serving the East San Jose Hispanic community.
One friend from that time, Consuela Sanchez remembers: "We all loved her. It was an inspiration for me and my husband to see her dedication to us and her nurturing our spiritual growth through study of the Word of God. We chose Sr. Sandy as Godmother for one of my daughters at her First Communion. Sr. Sandy has the spirit of an apostle, working where there is great need."
Another friend, Maria Licea, describes how "God sent me an Angel who invited me to participate in catechism classes for the neighborhood children. At the time I thought the task unreachable because I was new to the country, but she reassured me. . . . She asked me to invite children from the block to come to my house the following Friday. That fun-filled day started with Sister asking me for spoons-two for each of us--and so began our concierto. The catechism class was launched with the first 12 "apostles," but like the fishes and loaves they multiplied." Maria goes on to say that "Sister Sandra taught us to take part in assisting those who need help. She was blind to race, color or sex. In these times we desperately need many Sister Sandras!"
Sr. Sandy loves music. One of her favorite memories is participation in the Sisters' Choral Group, who went on tour locally. "I loved our practices. The joy of being together. The magic of music with Sr. Paula Butier's 'tune-up' and Sr. Emilia Rodriguez' joyous enthusiasm as choir director. We sang at the 25th anniversary of the U.N. in San Francisco in a 2000-voice choir. A moment of eternity in time-so many faith traditions, one God, singing as one voice!"
Sister calls her mission to Nicaragua an unexpected blessing. She found herself the one chosen by leadership in part because of her fluency in Spanish. Twenty-nine years later she describes her ministry as "forever new and a daily blessing." In the difficult years of continuing war she says they simply accompanied communities in their suffering. Later they helped build with the people-starting primary schools, doing teacher training, and health education for leaders. They did formation of catechists, started programs for handicapped children, adult literacy classes, and most recently, gender equality workshops for young adults. Sister describes her role as mostly that of a catalyst. She lives with a congregation of campesina women, the Misioneras de Cristo.
Summing up her years, Sr. Sandra says: "I am grateful for all the wonderful people who have shared the journey with me at different times and different places through the years. I am grateful to those who evangelized me, and those who taught me to minister to the poorest, grateful to so many humble and simple people in many forgotten corners of this world who have shared the beauty of their lives and insights, visions of peace, love, justice and hope against all hope, even in the midst of war and disasters."