With the oil boom in North Dakota, workers have poured in, including Hispanics.

Some arrived with families, and others solo, but they were unsettled and had not formed communities.

In 2014, three Mexican sisters arrived at St. Joseph Parish in Williston as part of the U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program. Their mission was to bring these immigrants into the Church.

 “When we arrived, the Hispanics were scattered and not members of the parish,” said Sister Brenda Hernández Valdes.

The sisters set off to find them. They went knocking door to door at housing units and invited workers to join the parish.

The sisters frequented laundromats and RV parks. They walked the produce aisle at Walmart.

“It is a perfect place,” Sister Brenda said. “Everyone shops there, so we met lots of people. Many had never even seen a sister in a habit.”

Wherever there were potentially people in need of spiritual nourishment—particularly those who had a deep-rooted faith but were lost in the new city—the sisters were there to embrace them.

“We bring them a sense of belonging,” she said.

“When we arrived, there was a monthly Mass in Spanish that about 30 people attended,” said Sr. Brenda. “Now it’s twice a month and 100 to 200 attend.”

They have created ministries for liturgy, sacramental preparation and faith formation. They visit people’s homes to pray the rosary and organize Hispanic festivals.

“We reach out to the children so that they feel safe and loved when their parents are working so hard,” said Sister Brenda.

“Our impact in the community is our presence,” Sister Brenda said. “We remind people of their relationship to God as baptized people.”

Likewise, she is changed. “I am not the same person I was when I arrived,” she said. “My faith has grown with each encounter.”


You can help strengthen the Catholic Church in the poorest areas of the United States with a donation to the U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program. With the support of donors like you, Catholic Extension helps empower Catholic leaders to make a difference in their communities. 

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