Maria Imelda Quechol Varela
From: Puebla, Mexico
Chattanoogan since 1993-2000,
What do you do for work and/or what are you known for in the community (i.e. what is your community role)?
Here in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, I am the coordinator of the Hispanic community, but as missionary sisters we also help and give support to all those who need it, mainly forming people who are leaders in our parish and community. Commonly everyone knows me as Sister or Mother Imelda.
When we saw a crisis begin to strike our city, what were your first thoughts when deciding to step up for your community?
My first thoughts were sad because many began to lose their jobs, several began to be infected and at the same time, they infected their children and all their family. I saw several cases of families where everyone had been infected and could not go out to buy food or medicine, it was very sad to know that many suffered alone and the treatment they received from other people. That's when we started helping everyone who needed food or money to pay for their bills. We also received help from several organizations that many times joined our cause or vice versa we joined theirs.
Who are some of your own heroes that inspire you?
My mom is definitely one of my heroes. She, with her example, taught me to be strong, responsible, and honest. Through her life, I learned to be a person who is never defeated, who fights and gets ahead despite difficulties. She was always faithful in her marriage and to her children. Sadly, my mom died in 2012, but I left the teachings of an extraordinary human being, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, she always gave the best she had. My mom marked me with her love and kindness and her smile will always live in me.
Another of my heroes is Saint John Paul II. He was an exemplary person, always ready to spread kindness and peace. He was a truly good man who taught us to see the best in others, who always traveled and visited many countries looking for unity. He always fought for peace and the well-being of others. It is for all this that he is one of my heroes, and my inspiration to be someone full of love for others.
When you think about everything that has happened this year and what you have done, what message would you give yourself before all this happened?
Before all this happened I would have told myself that love for others is the most precious thing in this world because God presents himself in different ways for everyone and perhaps one of those ways is oneself giving hope to someone else.
What has been the greatest challenge for you in 2020?
The biggest challenge this year has been to be able to express to others that feeling of community and unity when for a long time we could not meet or when many times we cannot experience special moments together. And also being able to teach our community to not be afraid to ask for help if they need it. It is okay to admit that sometimes we need help, and you are not alone in this fight.
What has been the most rewarding part of 2020?
The most rewarding part has been being able to see the smile on someone who was perhaps in tears. The power to give a little hope to all those who perhaps wondered what they were going to eat tomorrow or a word of support to those who were ill and wondering if everything was going to be okay. So many sad stories have emerged during this time; in the pandemic, many lost loved ones, friends, children, parents, siblings, cousins and yet are willing to give others words of encouragement, the desire to keep going, and that despite the pain there is hope and that is something so important - empathy for others.