Sr. Martina Cabrera Salazar is pictured cuddling kittens during a farm visit to members of the Hispanic community she and two other Mexican sisters are ministering to in the Diocese of Superior. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Writer’s note: The Catholic Herald is pleased to share the following vocational testimony, which was submitted in Spanish. Translated by reporter Jenny Snarski, excerpts of Sr. Martina’s original words in Spanish have been included.

Since her arrival in the Diocese of Superior last fall, Sr. Martina Cabrera Salazar has not been able to meet and minister to her fellow Spanish speakers as she has desired. She looks forward to the pandemic subsiding in order to engage with the Hispanic community.

Responding to unexpected circumstances is not unfamiliar for the open-hearted religious, a member of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Therese (Misioneras Eucharísticas de Santa Teresita).

The order’s charism is centered in the Eucharistic confidence and surrender to God and the gift of self to the poor. Their spirituality follows St. Therese of Lisieux’s childlike trust, and Sr. Martina’s own journey exemplifies this simple yet stouthearted generosity.

Sr. Martina was born March 30, 1965, the fifth of 10 siblings, and is originally from Dolores Hidalgo in the state of Guanajuato in Central Mexico, north of Mexico City and east of Guadalajara, the country’s second largest metropolitan zone.

Although her parents passed away a number of years ago, Sr. Martina was particularly influenced by her mother’s living of the faith.

“My mother was a woman of great self-denial and faith. In addition to being a wife, raising her children and caring for the home, she was an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament. She was very surrendered to God in each moment, daily attended Mass and prayed the rosary, and was always helping others,” Sr. Martina shared.

“Mi madre siempre fue una mujer abnegada y de mucha fe. Entre cuidar a los hijos, atender la casa y ser esposa, ella era adoradora del Santísimo Sacramento. Una mujer muy entregada a Dios en todo momento… Siempre ayudando al prójimo.”  

At 17 years old, the young Maria Martina wasn’t crazy about attending Mass. She went, but only out of obedience to her mother. So it was no surprise that did she not want to attend the course being offered at church her mother was sending her to.

The seminar lasted from Monday through Saturday. Midway through the week, the topic of vocations was touched on, and by Friday religious priests and sisters had arrived and were presenting their different congregations.

From that moment something changed, a change that took the young woman herself by surprise.

“I started to feel different,” Sr. Martina expressed. “An unexpected and unexplainable feeling had come over me, and other people started to tell me that religious life was for me, without knowing what was happening inside of me.”

“A partir de ese momento yo me empecé a sentir diferente. Un sentimiento inesperado e inexplicable me invadió. Las personas me decían que eso era para mí, y ellos no sabían lo que pasaba en mi interior.”

Sign-up sheets had been made available for anyone feeling the inkling to follow the path of a religious vocation. Without anyone else noticing or realizing, Maria Martina put her name on the list.

Even when she returned home the day the course ended, a Saturday in April, she didn’t say anything to anyone.

Two months later, her parents were shocked when their parish priest asked to speak with them and their daughter because of her expressed interest in going to the convent.

“My parents were very moved, because they had never imagined that the daughter who fought going to church would want to go to the convent,” she added.

“They couldn’t stop looking at me,” Sr. Martina said of her parents’ reaction during their meeting with the priest.

“When Father asked what they thought, both of them said that they were fine with whatever I would decide, and I confirmed that I wanted to go,” she added.

“Mis padres estaban tan impresionados, pues nunca se imaginaron que la hija que se resistía ir a la Iglesia quisiera irse al convento. Me miraban y me miraban, pero cuando el sacerdote les preguntó qué opinaban, los dos dijeron que lo que yo decidiera estaba bien y yo confirme mi decisión.”

When she started to experience some temptations to back out of that decision, she felt a providential nudge to move forward by the fact that many had become aware of her choice.

“Since then, I have travelled to many places sharing my faith and myself with so many people through different ministries,” Sr. Martina said. “My vocation to the consecrated life is a gift from God, and I am very happy to have received it.”

She continued, “In everything I do, I give the best of myself knowing that God receives everything that is done with love.”

“God is extraordinary, and I experience his presence in every moment,” the missionary sister affirmed. “If I were young again, I would have no doubts in following the same path.”

“Me siento muy feliz por este regalo de Dios, mi vocación a la vida consagrada. En todo lo que realizo pongo lo mejor de mi sabiendo que Dios recibe todo lo que se realiza con amor. Dios es maravilloso y lo experimento a cada instante. Si fuera joven otra vez, no dudaría en seguir el mismo camino.”

Sr. Martina’s most recent assignment was to be in Mexico City. However, as she shared, “God’s plans are not always our plans.”

When the proposal of coming to work in the Diocese of Superior was made, Sr. Martina responded as she has always, never saying “no.”

“This was not an exception, and I arrived with great joy to Chetek and the parishes in the area. I am very happy because the people are very kind and friendly.”

Despite the COVID-19 she has been able to get to know some of them.

“En realidad, mi nueva misión era en la ciudad de México, pero los designios de Dios no son los nuestros. Recibí la propuesta de venir a la Diócesis de Superior y como nunca he dicho no a una misión, esta no fue la excepción.

“Así que llegué con gran alegría a Chetek y a las diferentes Parroquias. Me siento realmente feliz, pues la gente es muy amable y a pesar del COVID-19 he tenido la oportunidad de conocer gente.”

While her great expectations for sharing the good news have, given the COVID-19 pandemic, not been able to be fully realized, Sr. Martina is grateful to Bishop James P. Powers for the opportunity to be in the diocese.

“God willing, we will be able to share our faith wherever our brothers and sisters find themselves,” she said, “And very soon.”

“Traigo grandes expectativas para anunciar la Buena Nueva, pero por la situación de COVID-19 no ha sido posible en su totalidad. Primeramente Dios, esperemos muy pronto podamos llegar hasta donde están nuestros hermanos para compartir nuestra fe.”