Sister Lelia Mattingly

“It is inspiring to be in touch with the many groups who are coming to learn by talking with the people and seeing realities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.” Sister Lelia (Lil) Mattingly was born in Owensboro, KY, and grew up in Louisville, entering Maryknoll in 1960. As a newly-graduated nurse from Cornell University School of Nursing, she was assigned in 1971 to Bolivia, where she trained health promoters and encouraged community development in the far-flung jungle settlements of Cobija. Her learning experiences continued with the Aymara Indigenous peoples in the mountains that reach 13,500 feet and then on a hillside barrio in La Paz with many migrants from the countryside where she had lived. For six months, she accompanied the people and the Maryknoll Sisters in Nicaragua during the Contra war.

Beginning in 1997, Sister Lelia began participating in the annual Vigil and Protest at the SOA (School of the Americas) at Fort Benning, GA, where soldiers from Latin America are trained in skills for low-intensity warfare. Eventually, after discerning and receiving Community support, she took the non-violent direct action, along with 14 others in 2004, to “cross the line” at Fort Benning. The story is long but basically she was sentenced to six months in prison, which she served in 2005. She felt overwhelmed by the support of so many.

Sister Lelia recently served with Borderlinks, a group that worked on immigration issues at the southwestern U.S. border in Arizona, where many from Mexico and Central America have crossed a dangerous desert looking for work.

Most recently, Sister Lelia has returned to a ministry among the peoples of Bolivia, where she is concerned about indigenous people who have been migrating from more rural areas of the country. Specifically, Sister Lelia visits several prisons near Cochabamba to care for inmate families, especially children who need nutritional support.