LEFT: One of several trailer park communities in California’s Coachella Valley.
RIGHT: Sister Gabi leading children in a procession following Mass. The sister’s work touched 130,000 people in the area.
"In a Red Pickup Truck, Stirring Up Dust and Hope"
Sister Gabriella Williams, or “Sister Gabi” as she became known, was an example of a hands-on evangelizer, ministering to 130,000 in California’s Coachella Valley. She drove a red pickup truck, stirring up dust in trailer parks that housed migrant farm workers and their families. But she stirred up more than dust in her work with the people there. She served as their advocate for better working conditions, their spiritual leader and their friend. Nearly all of the workers were Catholic, so Sister Gabi connected them to local parishes so they could receive the sacraments. On a daily basis, she engaged in personal relationships and assisted them with everything from faith formation to securing basic necessities.
“I often visit families one by one, to listen, encourage, build trust and support the gifts they have,” said Sister Gabi. “As I’ve worked with families, they have come to feel like my own family.” At the time of her award in 2011, Sister Gabi was working on building a community and education center – a place where everyone would feel welcome and have opportunities to learn. Said one man who was part of the community she served, “Sister Gabi was my introduction to the power of the Good Lord, and an unbelievable person.”
Video: 'Catholic Extension Presents the 2011 Lumen Christi Award'