By Dominique Johnson
The North Star Catholic
Sister Frances Vista, D.C., recalls having an interest in religious life when she was 13 years old, living in the Philippines. “I saw a group of sisters wearing habits walking in a little town in the Philippines. I thought, wow, look at them; they look so happy,” Sister Frances said. That image of the happy sisters stayed in her mind as she discerned her vocation.
In 1975, Sister Frances moved to the San Francisco Bay area of California to pursue a degree in social work. While attending school, she worked at Safeway and would see members of the Daughters of Charity frequently at the store. “Seeing them reawakened the thought of becoming a sister,” she said.
The Daughters of Charity motherhouse was located near the Safeway, and eventually, Sister Frances started joining the daughters for liturgy of the hours and learning more about the community. Though she became close with the sisters in the community, joining the Daughters of Charity was not her first choice. “I really wanted to become a missionary sister,” she shared. Sister Frances wrote the Maryknoll Sisters to pursue the calling of becoming a missionary, but she never received a response.
After multiple inquiries without a response, Sister Frances said she still had the urge to serve in a religious community and started having conversations with the vocations director for the Daughters of Charity. In beginning this discussion, she learned the sisters had been praying for her and they continued to support and pray for her during her discernment.
Sister Frances made her vows as a Daughter of Charity in 1982, and she said as she looks back on her ministry over the years, she learned that she has been a missionary the whole time. “I was born and raised in the Philippines, and here I am serving in the United States,” she said. “Sometimes, you don’t understand the journey part until you are there.”
Sister Frances’ ministry has taken her to the Navajo reservation in Arizona, starting a Vincentian mission along with five other sisters. She has also served two stints in Alaska from 2011 to 2013, and her current term began in 2019.
For the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, Sister Frances leads the Native Ministry. The ministry’s mission is to empower Native leadership in roles of worship, evangelization, peace and justice, and cultural preservation. She said that her role in the ministry has been to listen to the people and hear what their needs are.
Towards the end of her first assignment in Anchorage, Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized as a saint, and that moment helped members share their faith by sharing the life of Saint Kateri. After the canonization, the ministry “emerged and the members became leaders,” Sister Frances said. She added that it was not anything she said that helped the ministry, but just being present to the people. “What I’ve learned is how important the ministry of presence is,” Sister Frances said.
Due to the pandemic, the ministry hasn’t been able to have their weekly Kateri Circle meetings, but they have stayed connected by sharing prayer intentions and needs in a group text. The ministry also continues to meet for Mass every third Saturday of the month at St. Anthony’s parish in Anchorage.
If you are interested in participating in the Alaska Native Ministry, you can contact Sister Frances Vista, D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org.