Spread across 120 active congregations, orders, and religious institutions and living in several hundred different locations in three counties, keeping track of the more than 1,200 religious sisters living and ministering in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is no easy task. 

That job belongs to Sister Maria Carlos Valdez, EIN, vicar for women religious for the archdiocese, who likes to think of the sisters under her purview not as a group but rather a “community of communities.”

After four years on the job for the sister, there still remain some important practical questions to be answered.

How do such religious communities in LA pull together on issues of social justice, health care, education, human rights, or even just gathering in prayer? What communication or cultural challenges do they face in their alliances? In what ways can these consecrated women share their joys and sorrows with the Catholic community?

Some answers are now on their way, with the help of a $190,000 grant provided last summer by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Catholic Sisters Initiative. “The Hilton Foundation has given a beautiful gift to all the people of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez. “This grant will help us to plan for our future and encourage the vital work of our religious sisters in proclaiming the love of Christ and his mercy in our community.”

Sister Maria has seen the need for this kind of project for a while. 

“I remember six months after coming into this office, my first question was: Where is the database for all the sisters in the archdiocese?” said Sister Maria.

She found that database. She also found that it was outdated and often inaccurate. 

“We had no budget, no resources,” she added. “We just kept asking ourselves: Where do we begin?”

International hotelier and well-known Catholic philanthropist Conrad N. Hilton established the grantmaking foundation that bears his name in 1944 to help people living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage worldwide. 

Last year, the foundation awarded its $2.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize — the world’s largest annual humanitarian award presented to nonprofit organizations — to LA’s own Homeboy Industries, run by Jesuit Father Greg Boyle. 

Full story at Angelus News.