Who would have ever known that such magic and energy could take place in the middle of a maze of brown office buildings in some business park located off of the freeway? For that matter, who would have ever thought that so many children’s lives could be filled with color and vibrancy at a small parochial school sitting on the U.S.-Mexican border?
Sister Caroline Vasquez knew. That’s why many of her close friends and family members gathered in her honor last week at the Raindrop Turkish House, where a library was named in her honor. Raindrop is a place that not only helps Turkish-Americans integrate into the United States, but to also help introduce Turkish culture into American society.
And I never would have known about this incredible place had it not been for Sister, a woman who, well, was used to spreading magic and energy everywhere she went. Sister passed away during the early morning hours of April Fools Day. And although she lost her short battle with cancer, Sister won the hearts of many over a long career serving God and leading the educational efforts at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School.
Sister Caroline’s love and compassion wasn’t limited to Catholics; her magic spread to the lives of her Islamic friends from Raindrop, who were moved by Sister’s passion for equality, peace and the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with people from other faiths. She took part in a trip to Turkey about seven years ago and came back toEl Pasowith a desire to share the similarities she saw among the Turkish with the same people she worked with back home. In short, Sister Caroline saw people who wanted to live in peace.
“ Shouldn’t we all want to live in peace?” she asked during an emotional video played at the ceremony.
Among the many remembrances and eulogies describing Sister Caroline, it was Sister Sylvia Chacon, an incredible writer, who may have said it best, calling her a “multi-faceted diamond. Chacon’s poem elicited cheers and applause – at a rosary! Here is that poem in it’s entirety, written in English with a little Spanish flavor included:
I think of Carolina, bata de la Jeff,
whose corner house I met every time I climbed
the Paisano overpass to La Jeff
not knowing her Tao and my heart would cross
at Blessed Sacrament en los Nineties in dreams
of a women’s center whose spirit stirred las ganas
de cerrar los ojos and lean into the Spirit’s flow
racing in our veins—plantanado con ánimo,
ayudando a forjar un camino nuevo.
The convent walls wore the brush strokes of
Franciscan saints against plush pines and mountains
never mind que vivíamos en un desierto
whose prevalent dust mocks the tightest of windows,
and whose sand bites
con el filo de víboras.
A ella no le importaba:
Estaba loca, la jainita de la Jeff,
mad like the woman enclosed—
enjarrada—en el barro
de una escuela por tantos años!
¡Y venían leprosos de pobreza
who could not afford to pay
pero ella se las averiguaba con La Divina Providencia
in late night stretches of budget shuffling and creative juggling
as she made room for one more at theInn
–siempre embracing uno más
like adding agua bendita
para hacer rendir!
La chispa de su ánimo sparked fires
in many desert hearts que:
¡SI SE PUEDE! ¡ANIMO! ¡ADELANTE!
Tan loca estaba que she carried that flint wherever she went
ya sea a games, science fairs o classrooms—Loca de ganas, la chava!
She must have really liked the lure of new Crayolas
kicking their scent like crisp sheets snapping
in the school halls on the first days of school.
The scent of moist desert earth
filled her lungs with hope—gobernaba
en su corazón!
De otra manera no entiendo
cómo pudo haber gastado su vida
danzando año tras año,
casting her net into this desert
always hauling enough grace for each day,
—enredada, empapada, enjarrada—
con las palabras de Jesús
que danzaban, que gritaban
en ese corazón eloquecido con amor y fe:
“Let the children come to me.”
And when that final call came
que viniera ella
a su Amado
¡Qué locura de gracia possessed her!
¡Qué locura de Amor y de Paz
in that free-fall into God’s will,
danzando con la gracia que solo Dios da!
mostrando el Camino
hasta su último momento,
esta Jainita, Caroline, de la Jeff.
Gracias, Jesús, por la lluvia de gracia que nos cayó
en este desierto tan seco.
Gracias, Carolina, Jainita de la Jeff,
por tu vida puesta al pie del amor y de la vida de Nuestro Dios,
y al pie de nuestra gente!
Amén! Amén! Amén!
Here’s to you, Sister, to your beautiful life and to the hopes that your magic continues to spread in the lives of all you touched.