“Although geographically I remained in my own country, in the highlands I moved into a totally different culture.”
Sister Maria Zeballos was born in the southern city of Arequipa, Peru. One of nine children, Maria grew up in a family of mutual support and solidarity helping one another with their studies and projects so that all could become professionals.After two years Maria left her university studies in biology and education to become a member of a fledgling Peruvian religious community for four years in the Prelature of Juli in the highlands where she felt herself evangelized by the Aymara Indian culture. She also realized that a major necessity in the highlands was in the field of health and that one should have something concrete to serve people and decided to return to Arequipa to be a nurse. Meanwhile the Peruvian community had decided to disband. With the support of her family she completed full time study for her B.S. in Nursing from the Universidad Catalica Santa Maria in Arequipa.
Returning to the highlands she did an investigation of the health promoters and also taught for a year in the university and then continued as part of the nursing team in the highlands. It was there she decided to become a Maryknoll Sister because she had worked with them and “shared the Maryknoll spirit and their desire to work for the poor”. She entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1975 and was assigned to return to Peru in 1978. Sister Maria worked as a nurse member of a pastoral team in the Department of Puno, helping church workers integrate health and pastoral efforts. She studied the Aymara language and immersed herself in that Indian culture saying, “Although geographically I remained in my own country, in the highlands I moved into a totally different culture.”
In 1990 Sister Maria was a delegate from Peru to the Maryknoll Sisters General Assembly and there was elected to be a member of the Central Governing Board until 1997. In one of the talks that Sister Maria gave at a First Commitment Ceremony, she reminded her Sisters: “Being part of a multicultural community, each of us brings distinct gifts which help to enrich and enlarge the ever-growing tapestry of the Maryknolll Sisters Congregation.” In New York Sister Maria studied Therapeutic Massage and Reflexology. In 1998, she returned to South America and continued Reflexology study in Lima, Peru and in Santiago, Chile she studied Reiki, Polarity and Tai Chi.
From 1999 to 2004, she worked at the grassroots level in Vilquechico, a small town on the north shore of Lake Titicaca and continued to focus on Bioenergetics. In 2000, with her studies and previous experience in natural medicine she worked with the dean of the nursing faculty of the Catholic University in Arequipa, creating a program for graduate students (doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, dentists, etc.) to become specialists in Bioenergetic Treatments. At the same time the University granted her credits for her experience and her studies. Sister Maria continues teaching in the University program which has expanded to other places like Cuzco. She works in her ministry in health in the Prelature of Juli teaching Bioenergetics to the local people and the health promoters.
Since 2003 she has participated in the Office of Evangelization and Andean Culture as well as the Prelature’s Pastoral Council. In her 29th year of serving the Aymara people, Sister Maria says, “I am grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge with other people and learn from them also and indeed am energized by their enthusiasm for bio-energetics, this new (and ancient field).”
After an appointment serving as wellness coordinator at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York, where Sister Maria’s responsibilities included promotion of alternative health remedies, she will return to a ministry in Peru.