Sister Reina Paz Kakilala

God lit a uniqueness,
Gave it a name – mine,
To stand firm as palm
In the midst of His glory
Expressions, no two alike,
To be to Him a blade of grass,
Steadfastly communicating
From root to color and grace,
Comforting presence to His earth

Kakilala, Reina PazSister Reina Paz Kakilala has been a Maryknoll Sister for 55 years.  Those years echo through the many verses of poetry she has written about her life experiences, that are neatly tucked away here in her personal file at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.

But beyond that poetry, a fire continues to burn, one which initially brought her to Maryknoll from her home in the Philippines in 1950, then cast her not only back to her home country where she taught second and third graders at Maryknoll College in Manila from 1955-1962, served as superintendent of a grade school in Jimenez, then saw her become assistant principal of a grade school, again in Manila, but also to British Columbia and Alberta Canada, and the western United States.

It was, possibly, in the American west where Sister Reina Paz’s fire for social justice gleamed most brightly.  There she worked as an organizer for a community project aiding retired farm workers in California from 1971-1973, taught self-reliance through pigeon farming to Vietnamese refugees, also in California, in the late 1970s into 1980, and boldly speaking out for rural women, again in California, who were struggling. Back then, brandishing her verbal sword, she told news reporters of the difficulties many women trying to survive in backwoods sections of California, of the difficulty obtaining adequate health care, of the struggle to find consistent funding for agricultural research that played such an important role in meeting human food needs, of the need to increase educational opportunities for women of all ages.

Today, Sister Reina Paz’s life has become a bit quieter, yet her desire to see justice and fairness for the poor has not vanished. Sometimes it shows in an e-mail she circulates throughout the house, urging all within her electronic reach to speak out on important issues of the days.  Other times, she stops by our Communications office to share some interesting word about some important topic or another. “Might we post this to the Communications bulletin board?” she’ll ask meekly. We always agree.