Sandy Price tells how volunteering in high school with children with cerebral palsy led her to consider a religious vocation. Despite the excellent physical therapy the children received, she saw a tremendous need for spiritual values to sustain them through life. “I thought of religious life as a way of helping people realize their value regardless of disability. Teaching values through education seemed a way to go.”
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 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. 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. Decades later she described her ministry as “forever new and a daily blessing.”
In the difficult years of continuing war she says she simply accompanied communities in their suffering. There were almost no schools in the mountains as teachers were targets of the contra army. Sandy says, “We began in 1990 with home schools. Parents who had learned to read taught their children and others close by. We also began intensive primary classes for parent teachers. Most only had a third-grade education. No one had reached sixth grade.”
Later she helped raise funds and organize people to build schools. She helped start programs for handicapped children and adult literacy and works with the mountain “doctors” setting up monthly training sessions for them. “Their work and dedication is admirable and many, many lives have been saved through their efforts.” Sister describes her role as mostly that of a catalyst. “I am just part of a much bigger picture. All of the work is carried out with many other people and groups.”
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.”