Sister Ana Maria Gomez, SDS felt honored to be named Religious Volunteer of the Year by the Arizona Department of Corrections back in 2010, but the feeling couldn’t compare to the fulfillment of her longtime prison ministry. She dedicated more than 23 of her years as a Sister of the Divine Savior to serving the spiritual needs of persons in federal, state and private prisons around Florence, Ariz. Sr. Ana Maria’s weekly prison visits fed a hunger for God that inmates experience as they reflect on lives devoid of hope, family and friends.
Sr. Ana Maria was born in Colombia and came to Milwaukee to enter the SDS community in 1948. For years she ministered to the sick and elderly as a licensed practical nurse. Sr. Ana Maria was working in an Arizona nursing home when a priest asked her to join him on prison visits to offer bilingual interpretation. That first visit sparked a passion for prison ministry that grew into distributing the Eucharist and leading prayer services. Her work also evolved into a “listening” ministry for prisoners who needed to talk to someone who deemed them worthy of forgiveness.
“I love this ministry,” says Sr. Ana Maria. I went to the prisons to find Jesus and I saw Him in each prisoner’s eyes.
Sr. Ana Maria’s decision to enter the Salvatorian Sisters’ community was influenced by her high school religion teacher, the late Fr. Robert Weber, SDS, one of the first Salvatorians to go to Colombia. For Sr. Ana Maria, belonging to the international Salvatorian Family of sisters, priests, brothers and Lay Salvatorian women and men is a special gift of her religious community. Asked how she would encourage young women to consider Salvatorian religious life, Sr. Ana Maria responds, “All I can say is come and see–you’ll find love and a bigger family.”