Sister Graciela Martinez



Tell us about your growing up years and family.

As a daughter of migrant farmworkers, my family background gifted me with opportunity of living on the periphery in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California. My heart is with ‘la gente,’ (the people), especially immigrants and the native peoples of Mexico who live in the United States. I am blessed to hold the history, sufferings, and blessings of two cultures in my heart, experiencing at times conflictual energies in me. Maybe this is where my passion for social justice comes from. I can own the anger, frustration, and pain as well as the joy of celebration, laughter, and family with people of color. I can be impatient for changes of unjust oppressive structures, and I can feel the tenderness of compassion from a place deep in my soul. I know the privilege of being an educated woman religious and the feeling of not belonging because of my color and my culture. There is a profound sense of knowing goodness in all these feelings and experiences with which I have been blessed.

My natural gifts and skills have been strengthened and nourished by my family, my community, my culture, and the educational opportunities and diverse ministerial experiences that have shaped me over the years. I was trained as a Neighborhood Community Organizer through the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing in Los Angeles and the Industrial Area Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee. I received a BA Degree in Social Work from California State University Los Angeles. This education was balanced with a strong theological foundation, a master’s degree of Divinity from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California, and eight summers of Pastoral Theology at Centro Antonio de Montesinos in Mexico City.

Please share a favorite story about your early community service.

I supported farm workers, forming Christian Base Communities. I collaborated with Pace Bene (a nonviolent moment), aware that social change needs to include a profound spirituality that is part of peace work. The Spirituality of Nonviolence recognizes goodness in all people and the fact that there is no enemy. True to our Franciscan values, we are all brothers and sisters to one another, in harmony with our Mother Earth.

Why did you decide to become a sister?

I joined religious life because of my desire to serve the Latino Community, el Pueblo de Dios, and I do that every day. I enjoy finding new ways to reach those who live on the margins.

How do you share your Franciscan values and spirituality now?

Sisters Maria Elena, Consuelo, and I moved to Sacramento recently to be closer to our sisters in community. When I entered the Franciscan way of life 43 years ago, my drive was to bring my Franciscan presence by sharing the joy of the Gospel through my various commitments in a spirit of peace and justice—always seeking justice.

What would you like us to know about being a Franciscan?

All this background feels like soil that nurtures the seed of my being, sprouting into a strong, fertilized tree that gives fruit in abundance. For thirty-eight years, I did pastoral ministry in the Franciscan parishes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Jose, and St. Boniface in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, followed by ministry at Sacred Heart Parish in Olima. My pastoral ministry with our Hispanic community incorporated community organizing and citizenship preparation. My justice efforts took me to Washington DC to meet with the head of Immigration to talk about the right to citizenship. I ministered in the San Francisco Archdiocese and the Stockton Diocese as head of Faith Formation for the Hispanic community. This ministry was fired by my passion for consciousness-raising, conscientizatión, critical thinking, training in leadership skills, and encouraging our people to embrace their Baptismal call as priests, prophets, and leaders.

Please share a favorite quote or verse.

“God has told you what good and what God is asks of you: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah: 6:8

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I feel I live with a spirit of constant celebration of the beauty of interculturality! I offer a richly blessed way of thinking, feeling, and sensing, with all of its diversity. I affirm the beauty of our humanity and the goodness of our world through my Franciscan way of life as your sister.

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