Today, she is Sister Carmen. In years past, she was Officer Silva.
Not many women make the transition from police officer to religious life, but Sister Carmen Silva did.
“I certainly never saw myself in religious life,” Sister Carmen says. “I was happy where I was. I thought of religious life as teaching and nursing. It wasn’t until I saw that it was all about service to others, that I began to think about joining.”
Sister Carmen entered religious life in her late 30s. Sister Carmen is a native of Pueblo of Isleta nation in the White Mountains, Arizona. She first came into contact with Sisters of Notre Dame through Cursillo retreats. She later became a Notre Dame Associate, and last year, celebrated her silver jubilee as Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.
For 12 years, Sister Carmen was the Phoenix Site Director of the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps. NDA members work at four different sites, including schools, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Southwest Key Program, which shelters unaccompanied children. The members help adults with job and life-readiness skills, help recruit other volunteers from the neighborhood, and tutor children in reading and math. They also help children experience new things, such as gardening and singing in the choir. At one site, an elementary school, they work at an on-campus animal habitat where children learn about various farm animals and how to care for them.
The members themselves come from various parts of the country, from Boston to California, and have various faith backgrounds, from Catholic to Mennonite. Many are on their second sign-up. “We try to foster their own individual spiritual development,” Sister Carmen says, “while sharing our Notre Dame ministry of service to the community. Hopefully, they’ll want to continue in this kind of ministry and to keep helping others improve their lives.”
“Because this is bigger than local,” Sister Carmen says. “It’s connected to a larger dimension.”
Sister Carmen attended the Notre Dame AmeriCorps Mission Volunteers MidYear Conference last month in Baltimore, MD. We asked Sister Carmen about her experience as Site Director in Phoenix, AZ:
Tell us a little bit about your experience as a Site Director in Phoenix:
When I was a Site Director, we had quite a few of local leaders who became a member. We see a lot of college graduates here, but when I served, many members were local leaders who didn't get a chance to finish their education and had the desire to use the experience to finish their degrees. One member in particular, was a local member from Phoenix, who was a great teacher. After she finished with AmeriCorps, she got a teaching degree and now teaching with a local parish. That changed her life. There were a lot of stories like that.
Why did you attend MidYear this year?
I always love coming to these conferences and meeting with Notre Dame AmeriCorps from all over the country. I see how our mission is continued through the service of these young people throughout the country. I'm always delighted to see the diversity here, from the members, their faiths, and their ages as well. I see the future here.
Learn more about NDMVA at NDMVA.org