Sister Maria Quintanilla, formerly known as Agnes Diego Quintanilla, was a Sister of Mercy for 57 years. She was affectionately called “Mari” by the Sisters of Mercy, her family, and her friends.
Sister Maria felt God calling her to the Mercy way of life when her older sister, Sister Catherine, entered the convent in Mangilao. Sister Maria used to visit Sister Catherine at Tai with her family members. She observed the sisters in prayer and saw the joy they experienced in their community life. She also heard Sister Catherine’s question always resounding in her ears: “Do you want to be a Sister of Mercy?” Deep down, Maria knew the answer was “yes.” God’s call for her to religious life was so strong.
Sister Maria entered the Mercy community on February 2, 1964, at Tai. Within a month, she left for the motherhouse in Belmont, North Carolina, for religious formation training. Sister Maria spent three years there, returning to Guam in 1967 after her profession of first vows. Upon her homecoming, she became a kindergarten teacher at Mercy Heights Nursery and Kindergarten in Tamuning.
On July 28, 1971, Sister Maria professed her final vows. She chose her motto as “Ave Maria – Teach Me to Love.” This was her choice because she wanted Our Lady’s help in opening her heart to embrace others in love as Jesus did.
Sister Maria graduated from George Washington High School. She later took courses in early childhood education at the University of Guam and Guam Community College.
Having worked at the Infant of Prague Nursery and Kindergarten before entering the Mercy community, Sister Maria returned to Tai after seven years at Mercy Heights. She especially loved caring for the infants in the baby room, but she was equally at home with the toddlers and kindergartners. The little children to her simplicity of being. They ran to sit on her lap to listen to Bible stories, sing, and pray. Sister Maria had many beautiful characteristics and qualities that speak clearly of Mercy. She had a spirituality that was so deep yet showed itself in many of the things she said or in the way she told them. Who else but Maria, when looking at some beautifully colored fish in the clear water, would exclaim, “Isn’t God something?” Sister Maria was able to find the SACRED in everything and anything. She was a very warm, outgoing, friendly person. Always forgiving, generous, and humble, Sister Maria was, above all else, prayerful. The Our Father was her favorite way of talking with her Creator, praising Him, and asking for His help.
Sister Maria was like Mother Catherine McAuley, our foundress in so many ways. Hospitality was Sister Maria’s middle name, always making others feel welcome and providing for their needs. In this, she indeed mirrored Mother McAuley.
Sister Maria was not without suffering and pain in her later years. Her prayer of comfort during these times came from a line from Mother McAuley’s Suscipe: “Grant, O most merciful Redeemer, that whatever you ordain, or permit may be acceptable to me.” Sister Maria ran to the cross often to converse with the suffering Jesus. She wanted to share in His passion because it was a selfless act of love.
Anyone who knew Maria was aware that she was adventurous. While growing up, she climbed coconut trees, rode in the bull cart, and drove a car very fast. She was a wonderful cook who loved barbequing and had many other interests. Television provided an avenue for Sister Maria to discover the goodness and magnificence of God. She marveled at the beauty of nature presented on the Discovery Channel, especially seeing the many kinds of animals that God “thought up”—be they giant lizards or long-necked giraffes or silly-faced baboons.
In addition to ministering to the little children in the community’s nurseries, Sister Maria taught CCD classes in seven parishes. She engaged in the prayer ministry at the Mercy Care Center (MCC) in Oka, Tamuning, where her prayers many times manifested themselves into actions. She pushed other Sisters in their wheelchairs outside MCC so they could enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine, or she’d help those to eat who were unable to do so for themselves. Sister Maria had a “heart of gold,” always doing for others. She was very community-minded, and she treasured family and friendships, taking to heart the words of Mother McAuley, “The tender mercy of God has given us one another.” Sister Maria spent 57 years as a Sister of Mercy, loving and caring. And giving of herself. She surely lived out Mother McAuley’s maxim for her sisters: “We should be shining lamps giving light to all around us.” Sister Maria was that shining lamp whose light will never go out because she passed it onto others with her smile and her loving ways.