When Sister Cecilia Vandal returned to Soyapango, El Salvador on April 26, 2007, the warmth and sensitivity of the Salvadorans was expressed everywhere. “Yes, the Hermana Cecilia is back.” She was welcomed with open arms at every turn. She was immediately incorporated into the Council for the Deanery. The Evangelization Committee was the first to claim her. A beloved missioner of many talents had returned.
Presently Sister Cecilia continues with her ministries among the Soyapango parish communities, a work shared by two other Maryknoll Sisters. She first arrived in El Salvador in January, 1989, and the archbishop asked three Maryknoll Sisters to live in the little agricultural town of Santa Cruz, Analquito that never had church personnel living among them. After four years of collaboration with the townsfolk, they left a loving Christian community and went on, like Paul, “to other places.”
Although the lay missioners, priests and Sisters work in different places and varied ministries in El Salvador, they form a mission community, meeting regularly for reflection days, celebrating holidays and birthdays together, planning orientation of new members, visitors and other occasions as a group.
Assigned to Chile in 1957, Sister Cecilia taught, was principal and a counselor in Maryknoll schools in Santiago, Pemuco and Talcahuano Huachipato, and also served as Regional Coordinator of the Maryknoll Sisters Chile Region for four years. She returned to NY in 1979 to be a staff member in the Maryknoll Mission Institute.
Sister Cecilia entered Maryknoll from Bottineau, ND and grew up with seven sisters and four brothers, a good preparation for community! From 1982 to 1988 she joined the Maryknoll Sisters Eastern U.S. Region and had the opportunity to be in ministry to her aging and ill parents while also serving as a Pastoral Associate in two parishes in Bottineau County. Her main responsibilities were liturgies and religious education. When asked what it was like working in the U.S. Church, she answered, “The best part was getting to know people whom I hadn’t been around since I was eighteen years old. I got to appreciate their family values and my own culture.”
When Sister Cecilia returned to El Salvador in 2007 she had just finished being Co-Coordinator of the Maryknoll Sisters Center Rogers Community for three years.