Sister Delia Marie (Dee) Smith
Current Ministry Location – Guatemala
Delia Marie (Dee) Smith was born in June 23, 1954 in Bury, Lancashire, England, to Marguerite (Conway) Smith and James Henry Smith. She had 1 sister: Vivien and 1 brother: Nigel James. Dee graduated from Derby High School, Lancashire, England in 1970 and earned a Certificate in Education from St. Mary’s College in London. Then Dee served 13 years as a lay missioner in Kenya with the Volunteer Missionary Movement where she taught and then coordinated an education program for semi-nomadic cattle herders in eastern Baringo.
Dee heard of the Maryknoll Sisters in 1980 when she read of the death of the four churchwomen in El Salvador. Eventually she connected with several Maryknoll Sisters living in Kenya and her interest in joining them was sparked. She said, “I had been working for many years as an independent lay missioner and I felt I needed the support of a community to respond to God’s call to be a witness of justice and peace.”
Delia (Dee) Smith entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation August 25, 1990 at the Center in NY. She professed First Vows August 15, 1992 at the Center and Final Vows July 31, 1999 in Guatemala. During her orientation program, her ministry was counseling people with AIDS in the African American community of Newburgh, N.Y and, when needed, driving for Sisters at the Center.
In 1993 Sister Dee’s first overseas mission assigned was to Guatemala where she continued her ministry with people with AIDS through education programs and counseling. Eventually this led her, with another Maryknoll Sister and many Guatemalans and other collaborators, to found Proyecto Vida (Project Life).
Proyecto Vida had three elements: a youth group of HIV/AIDS educators; people infected with HIV; and a technical and professional team. This was an integrated project of prevention attending to the affected and the involvement of people with HIV as part of the educational process giving talks and testimony. With much collaboration, a dream became a reality in 2005 when Santa Maria, a Proyecto Vida hospice for terminally ill people suffering with HIV/AIDS, was completed.
As lives were threatened with Hurricane Stan in that same year, the hospice, with only very minor damage, reached out to the broader community with its staff who helped in the various shelters, communicated information, and received calls on the local radio station and shared what they could of their food supply for the hospice. Proyecto Vida was an integral part of the community.
As director of Proyecto Vida, Sister Dee ran training workshops and coordinated the sub-commission on HIV of the Bishop’s Conference of Guatemala, motivating prevention and attention to HIV. Sister Dee also co-authored a book, Una Respuesta Cristiana ante el VIH EN en Guatemala.