Women in Mission Annual Celebration

  • What: “Women in Mission: Celebrating the Missionary Call of Women” will include time to enjoy company over a light lunch, a keynote speaker, honoring this year’s award winners and hearing their stories, and learning about the missionary call of women in the Church.
  • When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 7. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
  • Where: School Sisters of St. Francis, 1501 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee
  • Register by Sunday, March 24 at this link: Women in Mission Celebration . The cost is $30 and includes a light lunch.
  • Who: World Mission Ministries is charged with supporting the global missionary call on behalf of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

A passion for missions — that’s what will bring together Lisa Abbott, Sr. Carmelita de Anda, R.M., and many others April 7.

Coming from very different backgrounds, each will receive a Women in Mission award at an event offered by the World Missions Ministries to celebrate the missionary call of women.

Long-time Milwaukee educator María González Edwards will be the keynote speaker at the event. A retired Milwaukee Public Schools principal who continues to serve on several community boards and committees, Edwards has been an active member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish for more than 50 years.

Women in Mission will include social time with food and refreshments, honoring those being awarded and hearing their stories, and learning about the missionary call of women in the Church.

Abbott, a member of Holy Apostles Parish, New Berlin, became aware of the missions as a child growing up in Greenfield through her grandmother, a founder of International Cord Rosary.

Sr. Carmelita, on the other hand, was raised in Mexico and has served in the United States as a missionary for several decades in a variety of pastoral and formation roles. She is now director of religious education at St. Anthony and St. Hyacinth parishes.

Learn more about each award winner here:

Lisa Abbott – The Bridge Builder Award

When it comes to missions, Abbott describes her late grandmother, Dorothy Richter, as an inspiration. Richter was a founder of the International Cord Rosary Society, personally making more than 60,000 rosaries that were distributed worldwide.

“While she did not personally travel internationally, her prayers and rosaries covered the world,” said Abbott, who is an interior designer with Aurora Health Care. “Hearing about all of the different countries they were sent to was fascinating to me.”

After Richter passed away, a memorial gift in her honor was donated to help fund construction of a home for a Haitian family with 12 children living in the city of Sabana Yegua in the Dominican Republic. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are the only two countries on Hispaniola, an island that lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Abbott became familiar with Sabana Yegua through her parish, which began a sister parish relationship about 10 years ago with La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), which is based there. La Sagrada, also the sister parish of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, has been the missionary outreach of the archdiocese since 1981. The parish is headquartered in Sabana Yegua and serves 30,000 people living in 22 towns and villages.

Abbott now heads Holy Apostles’ effort. In addition to fundraising for projects such as outreach, Holy Apostles parishioners travel to La Sagrada yearly to show support and build relationships. The ministry also has been able to offer medical and dental clinics for the community, which have been especially well-received in areas without access to local healthcare services.

One of Abbott’s greatest blessings in mission work was meeting and developing a friendship with Annalise, a 99-year-old Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, through medical outreach at La Sagrada.

“I was very moved by her attitude and strength, despite her physical weakness.  Living in such poverty was hard for me to witness, but she was rich in many other ways.  She had a very close, fun-loving family who treated me as one of their own,” Abbott said.

“Despite the language barriers, we were able to communicate through laughter, love and prayer. She passed away in 2022, but I have remained in touch with her family and visit whenever I am able,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s take away from her mission service, which also includes mission trips or pilgrimages to Bolivia and Ghana: “We are all one human family; love is a universal language.”

Abbott’s advice to anyone considering missionary service? “Listen to that inner voice calling you to serve.  Do not let fear stand in your way of being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Abbott’s first mission trip was to Honduras while attending Mount Mary College (now Mount Mary University).

Sr. Carmelita de Anda – The Being Present Award

Sr. Carmelita said the devotions of her parents had a big impact on her childhood.

“From my mother, I learned to love the Virgin of Guadalupe and to pray the Rosary. From my dad, I learned to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a family, we attended Mass every Sunday, and my family atmosphere was one of unity, sharing, respect and, above all, love,” she said.

As a teenager, Sr. Carmelita helped with her parish’s catechism program, youth group and events.

“As I grew up, God took the initiative in my vocation,” she said.

Sr. Carmelita’s pastor asked her to help with more pastoral activities after a nun shared with him that she thought de Anda may have a vocation.

“Through my increased involvement, I discovered the happiness that comes from helping in the Church. These involvements helped me recognize my love to serve, help others and make God known. I felt that nothing else filled my heart besides this,” she said.

Sr. Carmelita, who entered religious life in Santa Mariana de Jesús Institute, has spent 40 years in mission service in Mexico, Ecuador and the United States.

Locally, she has worked in the parishes of St. Michael, St. Rose, Prince of Peace, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Hyacinth and St. Anthony in Milwaukee, and St. Clement in Sheboygan. Her parish roles have included pastoral associate, directing formation and coordination of the Spanish community.

Sr. Carmelita is now director of religious education at St. Anthony and St. Hyacinth parishes in Milwaukee and teaches Confirmation classes at St. Anthony School.

In the archdiocese, she also provides spiritual support for the Spanish-speaking community and other religious retreats, including Cursillos and Emmaus-Women. She also gives retreat talks and presentations for adult couples throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Recognition for Sr. Carmelita’s service includes a Vatican II Award for Leadership in the Church in 2003; the Trujillo Grande Spirit Award, S.J., for Community Service from the Casa Romero Renewal Center in 2011; and the St. Anthony Parish Award for Service to St. Anthony School during the 2022-23 school year.

Sr. Carmelita’s most memorable moments include being a companion of two seminarians and now seeing them as priests; being an inspiration for one of her students as he or she pursued religious life and leaving Mexico to serve in other countries, and experiencing the love of God in so many people whom she has met.

Sr. Carmelita’s key lessons learned during her missionary service?

  • Trust in God. With God, everything is possible — without him, nothing.
  • Prayer and action must be united.
  • Never give up.
  • Love, kindness and compassion change the world.

She shared this wisdom for people serving, or considering service, as a missionary: “be humble and non-judgmental” and have an “open mind, be patient and quip — in your mind — ‘I am just a servant.’”

Lisa Abbott (right) visits with a 99-year-old Haitian woman, Annalise (center), whom she got to know well during mission trips to the Dominican Republic. “I felt an indescribable closeness to her, almost as if she were my own grandmother,” Abbott said. (Submitted photo)

Sr. Carmelita de Anda, R.M., has worked in the Milwaukee area for many years as a missionary. She presented a talk at the annual Hispanic Catholic Conference held Sept. 23 at Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. (Submitted photo)