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Elsa Medina Rivera Named 2018 Woman of Providence

In 1963, the Sisters of Divine Providence founded La Roche College and named it for the co-founder of their religious community, Mother Marie de la Roche. Since then, the Sisters have taken a vital interest in the ongoing mission and development of the College and continue to animate the values and inspire the College community. The Woman of Providence Award is given annually at the spring Commencement to a member of the Congregation of Divine Providence whose life of service, as a part of the mission of the Congregation, is a compelling example of God’s Providence made visible.

Sister Elsa Medina Rivera entered religious life in 1992 from Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope) in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Of what most influenced her decision to enter religious life, Sister Elsa says, “I was in a vocational workshop with another religious community and the look of one of the sisters there left me restless. That look left me with a strong call, a restlessness and desire of something different in my life. I felt I was meant to be in that workshop taking in and experiencing the message of being the carrier of God’s message of love to human beings. In those moments, I asked myself, ‘What do you want from me?’ I felt the deep call that God makes to us—to live a passionate relationship with Him, who loved us first and, as a result, we experience the joy of commitment and charitable outreach to our brothers and sisters.”

While living and ministering in Arecibo with other members of the congregation, Sister Elsa experienced first-hand the terror and devastation of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Despite dealing with the storm’s aftermath, including destruction to the convent, living without electricity for two months and struggling each day to find gasoline and clean water, Sister Elsa persevered in helping her brothers and sisters in need. Through her leadership, Sister Elsa, along with other Sisters and volunteers, delivered hundreds of water filters, cooked and distributed meals and visited the sick and those left homeless. After many days and weeks of providing assistance to the ravaged communities on the island, Sister Elsa realized it was the personal touch that mattered most; spending time with people and listening to their stories. It was not always about giving things.

Sister Elsa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a minor in computer science. From 2008 to 2010, Sister Elsa was a member of AmeriCorps VISTA, working in the Crianza en Amor (Parenting with Love) Program. Since 2010, she has served as an administrative assistant for the Office for the Promotion of Human Development, Inc. in Arecibo. In 2011, Sister Elsa joined the Evangelization Commission of Puerto Rico, along with six Bishops and other pastoral ministers. In addition, Sister Elsa is the vocation contact in Puerto Rico and belongs to the National and Diocesan Youth Pastoral.

Sister Elsa finds community life most satisfying. She says, “Not feeling alone and working for the same ideal with a group of women at the international level and with different cultures has taught me a lot. It is the possibility of living with other people where we have rich ingredients of love, joy, unity, hope, challenges and the great adventure of our charism—faith and trust—shared with others on the journey.”

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