Sister Marie Christelle Zabalerio


East Timor

“The charming ways of the Maryknoll Sisters, the way they care for individual students, their interest in us when I was in grade school made me interested in Maryknoll. I was then ten years old.”

czabalerio2_lgBorn in Lucena, Philippines, Sister Marie Christelle’s education continued in Maryknoll Academy there and in Maryknoll College in Quezon City. After graduation her interest in Maryknoll deepened when she taught in her old high school for two years and then in the grade school of Maryknoll College. She entered Maryknoll in Quezon City in 1963 and her first assignment in 1966 was to the Philippines where she was grade school principal in Jimenez and taught high school in Santo Tomas as well as doing pastoral work as a youth coordinator, advisor to adult catechists and giving seminars for women.

In 1972, Sister Christelle gave service at Maryknoll, NY as a nurse’s aide for four years and followed this with nursing studies at Trocaire College, Buffalo. At the end of her first year, Sister Christelle received the Trocaire Award for 1977, and the following year earned her A.A.S. in Nursing.

A new experience in mission began in 1979 when Sister Christelle was assigned to Bangladesh. She worked in the north with tribal people and served as field supervisor of the Natural Family Planning (NFP) program in the Khulna region. Her work involved family counseling, pre-marriage courses, preparation of lay leaders and neighborhood Christian community involvement as well as training Christian, Muslim, Hindu and tribal women to teach Natural Family Planning.

Sister Marie Christelle then served for four years in Congregational Orientation Ministry in Mount Vernon, NY and Chicago, IL. While working in Orientation, she earned her Masters degree in Pastoral Studies at Loyola University. “For me these years, including the challenges, have been a life-giving experience that will certainly help me as I move with joy and excitement into the next phase in my journey.”

The next phase was an assignment to East Timor, February, 2004. After three months of language study with private tutors Sister Christelle started teaching English to the graduating students of the parish high school. She has taught in the Catholic high school, which gave opportunities for sharing on Scripture, peace-building activities and sharing the students’ hopes and dreams for their future. Some students help with the summer school Sister Christelle had for children in the neighborhood. She has also given seminars to couples and those preparing for marriage, on the Billings Method of Natural Family Planning in Aileu and in other places. Sister Christelle has given youth seminars on “Human Sexuality Education” to graduating students from the public high school and those out of school in Aileu and other places. At the request of the “Couples for Christ,” she went to Dili, the capital of East Timor, to give seminars to couples, youth, and also to train trainers.

Sister Marie Christelle moved her ministry to our Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York, where she continues to make God’s love visible in her ministry to others.

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