Sister Lelia Mattingly

Sister Lelia Mattingly

Current Ministry Location – EUS Region, El Paso, TX

Lelia (Lil) Mattingly was born February 21, 1941 in Owensboro, KY, to Catherine (Kelly) Mattingly and Tom O.M. Mattingly. She grew up in Louisville, KY with 4 brothers: John, Curtis, Tom and William. Lil graduated from Loretto High School in Louisville in 1959.

Lil entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation at their novitiate in Valley Park, MO October 18, 1960. She professed First Vows June 24, 1963 in Valley Park and Final Vows June 24, 1972 in Valley Park. After profession in 1972, Lil and her classmates took the train from St. Louis to NY and to the Sisters Center there. From 1964 – 1970, Sister worked in various departments of the Center and at the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Society. In 1971 she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the Cornell University School of Nursing, NYC. In 1993 she earned a Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University, Chicago, IL.

As a newly-graduated nurse from Cornell University School of Nursing at New York Hospital in NYC, she received her first mission assignment in 1971 to Bolivia. There she trained health promoters and encouraged community development in the far-flung jungle settlements of Cobija. Her service and 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 there.

Assigned to the USA in 1997, Sister Lelia began participating in the annual Vigil and Protest at the SOA (School of the Americas) 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 a women’s prison, which she served in 2005. She felt overwhelmed by the support of so many.

Sister Lelia recently has served with Borderlinks, a group that workes 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.

In 2010, Sister Lelia returned to a ministry among the peoples of Bolivia, where she was concerned about indigenous people who have been migrating from more rural areas of the country. Specifically, Sister Lelia visited several prisons near Cochabamba and cared for inmate families, especially children who needed nutritional support. The following year she returned to the USA resuming her role with Borderlinks.

Sister Lil is now serving in El Paso, TX on the border just over the Rio Grande River from Juarez, Mexico.