Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Sister Marie Tolle, Guatemala mission staff, will be part of celebration at Barrister Winery

the Inland Register

(From the April 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

The polite, unassuming graduate of St. Peter’s High School in New York had no clue what God had in store for her when she entered the Sisters of Charity convent in 1950. Little did she know that she would be spending most of her coming years bringing Christ to the poorest of God’s people in the mountains of Central America. And little did she know that her instruction and love would touch the lives of thousands of Mayan women, giving them faith, hope, and consolation.

After some teaching in the states, and cultural studies in Bolivia, Sister Theodora Marie Tolle transferred to the Spokane Mission in Novillero, Guatemala in 1971. Her first stay was interrupted by the violence associated with the earlier U.S. overthrow of the democratically elected government.

She returned to Guatemala in 1981, only to experience more turbulent times. Over 200,000 native people were killed and hundreds of Indian villages were abandoned during the Guatemalan Civil War. Amid the danger, however, she remained a source of compassion and hope to the affected native people in her area.

During the violence of the 1980s, much of Sister Marie’s effort was directed to the training of native catechists, who were among the targets of violence during Guatemala’s Civil War. She also developed weaving and other programs to enable widows to earn some income to support their children. And her consoling care extended to others who lost their homes and income due to the earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters.

As the Spokane Mission activities expanded following the violence, the spiritual impact of Sister Marie’s dedication spread throughout the region. Her talents surfaced in a range of activities that extended from preparing youngsters for First Communion in a remote village to organizing a preschool for children living near the Pan American Highway. When not assisting in the health care for expectant mothers, she might be found organizing perpetual adoration at a local church. She truly is one who lives her faith.

If one were to ask how a soft-spoken nun was able to touch the lives of so many thousands of Mayan women scattered throughout the volcanic mountains of Western Guatemala, Sister Marie would disclaim any credit. With the hint of a New York accent in her voice, she would probably declare it was “God’s will.” She simply happened to be there at the time, and was just following orders – her order being the Sisters of Charity of New York.

No earthly celebration can do justice to the dedication with which Sister Marie Tolle has served the poor in Guatemala. Some of her accomplishments were recognized earlier at a special jubilarian Mass at Mt. St. Vincent in New York. Here in Spokane, the Guatemala Commission is taking the opportunity of expressing its appreciation to her by honoring her at the fourth annual mission event at Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave., Spokane, on Tuesday, May 17, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Father David Baronti, the Spokane Diocese priest serving in Guatemala, and Dr. José Miguel, the director of clinics in the mission area, will also attend the Barrister event. The people of the Spokane Diocese are invited to come and add their thanks to those who have, for so many years, faithfully served in our Spokane Diocese mission in Guatemala.

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