In Bolivia and Guatemala, Sister Judy actually lived alongside local peoples. In Bolivia, she helped resettle migrant workers, led literacy programs, taught adult education classes, and did home visiting in remote areas.
Sister Judy entered the Maryknoll Sisters from her hometown of Alexandria, Va. She had been a Maryknoll Sister little more than 10 years when a seminal event happened in her missioner life. In December 1980, two Maryknoll Sisters along with two other American missioners were slain by a military unit in El Salvador. The two Maryknoll Sisters, an Ursuline Sister and a lay missioner were working among the poor in El Salvador at the time of their murders.
Back home, the American public was stunned by their deaths, and Maryknollers like Sister Judy tried to make sense of what had happened. In 1981, she collected, in a paperback book, the letters the martyrs had written from their mission in El Salvador.
“The Same Fate As the Poor” included the life stories of each of the missioner martyrs and reflections on the environment in which the Maryknoll Sisters had worked. The book made headlines in newspapers and magazines.
Since 1985, Sister Judy has moved her ministry to Guatemala, where she lived among the Quiche peoples as they labored as subsistence farmers. Sister Judy learned their local language and helped them celebrate their Mayan heritage.
Sister Judy’s present ministry is an outgrowth of the November 1993 diocesan assembly in San Marcos, Guatemala, when the bishop spoke of the urgent need for Sisters to do pastoral work with the women in the diocese, especially in the rural areas.
Along with four other Maryknoll Sisters who work there, Sister Judy coordinates projects and workshops so Guatemalans can work on a community level and bridge discriminatory attitudes. Workshops on domestic violence, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, gender issues and ecology, along with Bible studies and literacy, help adults respond to problems that have become rampant in Guatemalan society.
With a master’s degree in anthropology, Sister Judy can more than just appreciate the cultures of these indigenous peoples. She has also helped local Guatemalans earn their own income through home-grown businesses that sell and market fruits and vegetables, candles and soaps, and a variety of woven products.