In May 2007, Sister Cecelia was interviewed in Chile by the local TV Channel 2 as a “personaje”, an outstanding person, in a program called “Portfolio”.
Being a neighbor and a friend is part of what mission is about. Sister Cecelia Santos was affirmed in this when she received the “Distinguished Neighbor” award recommended by the people of Coelemu, Chile in 1991.
Sister Cecelia was born in Paia, Maui, Hawaii, the youngest of eleven children. She had imbibed much about mission through her primary and secondary education with Maryknoll Sisters in Wailuku, Maui. After graduating from high school, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1947 and graduated from Maryknoll Teachers College with a Bachelor’s degree in Education in 1954. Assigned to Hawaii that same year, she taught for eight years in elementary schools in Waialua and Kalihi.
She was assigned to Chile in 1962, and after a year of language study in Pucón, she continued her education ministry as both teacher and principal in Maryknoll schools in Santiago, Curepto and Chillán. Sister Cecelia was loaned to Hawaii in 1970 and 1971 to teach in Wailuku, Maui and Waikiki, Honolulu. On her return to Chile she continued living in Chillán, teaching sixth grade and making time also for a bible study group, a course for mothers to do sacramental preparation, and, as always, home visiting.
In 1976, her energies and talents were shared for two years at Maryknoll, New York in Supportive Services. She then spent a year living with the Maryknoll Sisters Contemplative Community, an experience she treasures.
Sister Cecelia returned to Chile and the town which still holds her special affection, Coelemu. Her pastoral work included supporting Basic Christian Communities, youth ministry, catechetics and training lay leaders. She has been involved in endeavors as diverse as building a chapel with a group of women for their village, to operating an eyeglasses bank for those unable to afford glasses, and being chaplain of a 60 bed hospital. She presides at wakes and funerals when needed and also Sunday celebrations not covered by the pastor.
Of the forty years Sister Cecelia has spent in Chile, she has been a “Distinguished Neighbor” in Coelemu for twenty-eight years. Besides all of the above she has an exceptional singing voice and brightens entertainments with both Hawaiian chants and Spanish songs.
In late 2015, Sister Cecelia returned to Hawaii to begin a new mission.