“What has delighted me in my years of ministry is seeing people blossom. So often among the very poor, many have no experience of success and are not even aware of making conscious decisions that affect their lives. It is really good news when they understand what they want for their own lives, families and communities and begin to make this a reality.”
After 26 years in Panama, Sister Carol Marie McDonald was “loaned” for a year to the El Salvador region to help with designing a self-help cottage industry involving HIV/AIDS patients and their families. The “loan” changed to an assignment to El Salvador in 2009.
Presently she shares her background in scripture with the group, Biblista Popular (BIPO), which translates as The Bible in Community. This program provides on-going biblical formation for lay leaders from parishes or Christian communities, giving seven one-day workshops and a week-long intensive workshop each year. The participants leave equipped to reproduce the sessions in their own communities. The program provides a much needed service for parish leaders, especially from the rural areas, as the parishes and dioceses are unable to provide this opportunity. They also publish a monthly magazine for the communities.
She also works with CINDE (Developing Communities for Small Children). This program provides day care, kindergarten and after-school programs for the children and also programs in parenting, money management, etc. for the women whose husbands have been only marginally present, originally because of the conflict and later because of massive migration in search of employment. Sister Carol Marie works with a program of economic alternatives with a group within CINDY; she says they are “spunky ladies.”
Sister Carol Marie entered Maryknoll in 1958 from Cincinnati, Ohio. She was assigned to Chile in 1963, where she studied art at the Universidad Católica and later earned her B.A. in Art and her M.A. in Art Education in Ohio.
Back in Chile, she taught art in high school in Talcahuano and worked in Santiago doing graphic design of materials used to train catechists. She also was a member of a reflection group in national and archdiocesan offices of catechetics and gave courses for religion teachers, adult catechists, and Basic Ecclesial Communities.
In 1981, Sister Carol Marie went to Panama where she marveled at the beauty and diversity of the Panamanian people. “We have so many ethnic groups in this tiny country–the diversity is nothing less than fascinating.” She went to the Apostolic Vicariate of Darien, an isolated rural area, working with basic ecclesial communities and collaborating in training programs and material for pastoral teams throughout the vicariate. She also taught Scripture and theology in the University of Santa Maria la Antigua in both Colon and Panama City.
From this green jungle, Sister Carol Marie moved to Las Mañanitas on the outskirts of Panama City. People had migrated there from the rural areas. She concentrated on two communities, one with no road, electricity or water, and the other a housing project of 400 tiny houses. While teaching at the area’s major seminary and pastoral institute, she felt that the two communities in a poor neighborhood “grounded” her in a good way.
Workshops in creativity brightened the neighborhood summers with theater, puppetry and even marvelous murals that now grace some institutions. “I appreciate space and time for creative work and fostering creative work in others,” said Sister Carol Marie.
Sister Carol Marie currently resides at the Maryknoll Sisters Convent in Monrovia, CA, where she has been since 2014.