The Las Samaritanas Hispanic women’s group meets weekly at St. John Paul II Parish, Milwaukee. (Submitted photo)

In 2011, the St. Adalbert women’s group was growing larger and larger, and it was getting difficult to receive input from everyone at the group’s meetings.

On Jan. 7, 2011, seven women from the St. Adalbert group (Discipulas de Maria) formed Las Samaritanas.

The group of 25-30 Hispanic women meets Tuesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. at St. John Paul II Parish, 3307 S. 10th St., Milwaukee, to share faith and life experiences, and develop deep personal relationships with each other. They strive to grow and restore their relationships with God and their faith, and serve others.

Las Samaritanas is a sisterhood of support, said Cynthia Rivera-Garcia, a member since the beginning. She served as the women’s group coordinator from 2019-21. Her mother was one of the founders.

“We are all united, and if any of us are in need of help, everyone without question is there and willing to help. It is truly another family,” Rivera-Garcia said.

Their mission is to offer their service to God and teach other women to reconcile with the Catholic Church and especially with Jesus Christ. Their mission includes teaching women the importance of the Holy Eucharist in the life of each woman: “Every Christian woman, being a member of the community of faith in Jesus Christ, is motivated to carry out the mission at least in her home and in her community because of her faith, her identity, her dignity and her vocation. One area is to live according to your call to serve and teach others that God restored in Christ, the cross of Calvary, and the dignity of women according to the original design of their creation.”

Additionally, part of the group’s vision is to help them realize that Jesus is their only savior, and they can only be happy through him.

“Another of our visions as a group is to have open doors for so many women who still live in the dark and are looking for comfort, and are looking for spiritual support,” said Rivera-Garcia.

Similar groups have formed at St. Adalbert (AMAR) and St. Rafael (A Los Pies de Cristo).

“Not everyone serves the community in the same way,” said Rivera-Garcia. “Most only serve their parishes.”

Rivera-Garcia said the seven women who started the group received support from the St. John Paul II staff.

“Our meetings begin with prayer; we grow through presentations, have announcements and a final prayer,” she said. “We support the parish and Archdiocese of Milwaukee in ministries and events, and hold annual Women’s Retreats. We have one for the larger community and invite women that have never lived our retreat to do so. It is once a year, usually in October and we limit this to 35-40 women. We also have a retreat just for the group members to create more unity and help each other learn new things in our faith journeys. Those retreats are usually in March.”

Additionally, Las Samaritanas assists as requested by the community, such as providing clothing and household items to migrants. When needed, they also assist with the parish for the St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program.

“We are usually asked by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Hispanic Ministry to volunteer at the Mass for Mexican Fiesta, Gema de Dios (and) with any areas that they need help,” said Rivera-Garcia. “We also help with registrations for conferences.”

Officers for Las Samaritanas include Antonia Marquez (coordinator), Maria Duran (sub-coordinator; she will replace Marquez in 2025), Irene Ramirez (treasurer), and Martha Veritz (secretary).

St. John Paul II Pastor Fr. Michael Ignaszak recently appointed Dcn. Manuel Maldonado-Villalobos as the group’s spiritual director, with Rivera-Garcia serving as the group’s guide for retreats.