All things possible: Sister Marilú Covani
She is trained in cytogenetics and worked as a technician with chromosomes and genetics. She is a widow, mother and grandmother. She is a Sister of Providence. She is the first member of the Congregation to walk that path.
“I thought about a religious vocation when I was young. I thought about it before I was married and while I was in medical school. It was still with me all the years I was married,” Sister Marilú said.
Sister Marilú grew up in Argentina where she attended schools staffed by Sisters of Mercy. “I loved the sisters at my school. They were good teachers, good people. I thought I would like to do what they did,” she said.
She came to the United States in 1967 with her husband, Enrique, a medical doctor. He died in 1977. She continued to raise her son, Ricky, who was 9 years old when his father passed away. By 1987, her calling to the Sisters of Providence was affirmed but not without an emotional moment with her son, by then himself a young father.
“I asked my son how he really felt,” Sister Marilú said. “He said, ‘How do you want me to feel? I will have no home to go back to.’ We both cried. I told him a home is not a building, but it is where the heart it. I told him he always has a home with me. He said, ‘Mother, I love you.’ It was a difficult decision. I felt like maybe I was failing my responsibility as a mother, but I am as present to my family as if I were married.”
Sister Marilú said being the first woman with a family to join the Congregation holds no special meaning. “It was just what happened. To have two life experience like this and balance family and community is not easy. But it is also a great gift. I (and my sisters) learn to balance this different reality as circumstances develop.”
Sister Marilú had many friends who were sisters in other congregations. Her connection with the Sisters of Providence came while she was attending medical school in Michigan. Sister Susan Dinnin was working with African-Americans in a Detroit-area parish, and Sister Marilú also was involved in parish work.
Sister Susan invited Sister Marilú to gatherings and eventually to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“I really felt that the whole charism of Providence was very much something that touched my heart. It was what God has wanted me to be,” Sister Marilú said.
Within her call to serve as a woman religious, Sister Marilú has focused her ministry along a specific path. She is committed to breaking boundaries of cultural differences and creating hope by welcoming minorities into active roles within the Church.
“I have a responsibility in helping the Spanish-speaking Catholics,” Sister Marilú said. “I really felt called to work with the Hispanic Catholics in the United States. I asked to come here [Southern California] after my canonical novitiate year.”
She has served as pastoral coordinator for Hispanic ministry and coordinator of Hispanic Liturgy in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She now serves as director for worship for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She also has helped lay women at Casa Providencia, where women contemplated religious life while living, working and studying with sisters.
“I like what I do. I like working with people, working with parishes, working with formation,” Sister Marilú said. “Formation is very, very important today because the lay Catholic is the future leadership in the Church. Our mission is to help the lay people assume positions of leadership in their parishes.”
Sister Marilú works directly with the bishop in San Bernardino. She handles correspondence, organizes events, plans formation classes and even serves as a presenter for a few of those. As many as 400 lay presiders, lay ministers and deacons attend those classes.
“There are a lot of crises in the Church, a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen, but I know from my own experience, my own pain, the changes in my life, that changes are needed. Many times, from chaos and hard times come a lot of learning and wonderful new growth, and I want to be part of that,” Sister Marilú said.
“I am willing to be flexible. That is really important – to move with the times and be willing to take the next step. I don’t know where that step is going to be. I have some idea that minorities are becoming majorities. The multicultural reality of our Church today is changing,” Sister Marilú said. “Also, young people today are very different and need something very different. I want to be part of that flexibility. We have to be willing to let go of certain things and learn new things.”
Without question, Sister Marilú has stretched her personal boundaries as a Sister of Providence while maintaining her relationship with her son, his wife and five grandchildren. “I have many more possibilities as a sister than I could has as a lay woman,” she said.