by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Known for her joyful disposition and love of celebrations, Sister Luisa Irizarry Jusino, SSM, marked her 100th birthday on July 1 at the convent of the Sisters, Servants of Mary here. The happiness Sister Luisa shared with others during her many years of service was returned to her a hundredfold on her special day.
Isabel Irizarry Jusino was born on July 1, 1921, in San Germán, Puerto Rico. She was the third of 14 children. From an early age, she helped her mother with the care of the other children. As a young girl, Isabel noticed the Sisters, Servants of Mary who made their nursing rounds through the city. Later, her mother took her to visit the convent.
Isabel joined the Sisters, Servants as a postulant on Dec. 8, 1946, in Puerto Rico and began her novitiate on July 4, 1947, in Medellin, Colombia. She took her mother’s name “Luisa” as her religious name. In 1949, she made her temporal vows in Medellin and transferred to Kansas City, Kansas, where she professed her perpetual vows on July 5, 1955.
Sister Luisa dedicated herself primarily to the culinary needs of the religious community, particularly in the kitchen where she prepared exquisite and delicious dishes. For 49 years, Sister Luisa served at the Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital in Newbury Park, California. This ministry of the Sisters, Servants cares for elderly and chronically ill adults.
Now here, said Sister Ema Muñoz, SSM, local superior of the Kansas City, Kansas, convent, everyone loves Sister Luisa. In the past, she loved to organize activities, including contests with prizes for the best costumes. Generally, the residents she helped with their costumes were winners — and so was Sister Luisa! On each Sister’s feast day, Sister Luisa prepared that person’s favorite food. She always ran to meet and greet the Sisters who came to the convalescent hospital. While Sister Luisa didn’t speak English, everyone understood the language of love she spoke.
As she celebrates her 100th birthday, Sister Luisa is marking 72 years as a Sister, Servant of Mary. She appreciates that she has had the opportunity to bring hope and peace to people she has encountered and served. She enjoys being part of this religious family and sharing in the spirituality of St. Maria Soledad, the community’s foundress.
By nature, Sister Luisa has always been service-oriented, friendly, cheerful, humorous and self-sacrificing. To this day, her determination and strong will are inspiring to the young Sisters. Wheelchair-bound, Sister Luisa sings as she is transported to the chapel for daily Mass. She continues to enjoy feast day celebrations. The rosary is a devotion that is special to the centenarian, and sometimes she chooses to talk out loud to Jesus.
In addition, Sister Luisa enjoys visits with her sibling, Sister Esther Irizarry, also a Sister, Servant who lives in the Kansas City, Kansas, infirmary. Sister Esther, who will be 97 in November, had ministered as a licensed practical nurse in Mexico and New Orleans. She and Sister Luisa reunited at the nursing home in Newbury Park. In 2014, Sister Luisa came to the infirmary of the Sisters, Servants in Kansas City, Kansas. Three years later, Sister Esther followed.
“It’s admirable the way both Sisters adapted to their new community in Kansas City,” said Sister Ema. “It is uncommon for two siblings to live in the same community. They are a joy to all of us and the first to participate in all of our events.”
“We give thanks to God for the gift of Sister Luisa,” concluded Sister Ema, “who has given 100 years of a joyful life of service to others.”