St. Joseph Church

Sr. Casillas - Spanish


Sister Maria Elena Casillas


Sister Maria Elena attended the school Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, at Los Mochis, Mexico, from which she received a Business certificate in 1950. In 1959, she graduated from the Catechist Teacher program at the Diocesan School in Aguascalientes, Mexico. In 1960, she graduated from the Colegio Guadalupe Victoria, with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She continued her studies at the school after graduation, earning her certificate to teach high school, majoring in English as a Second Language (ESL). In 1983, She earned a Masters Degree in Spirituality, from Instituto CEVHAC in Mexico City (a University affiliated with the Carmelite College of ‘Teresiano’, in Rome).

Sister Maria Elena started teaching English in 1955, and she continued to teach while studying for her Education degree. In 1963, She went to Sunnyside, WA where she taught 2nd grade Art and English for 5 years. For the next seven years, she taught 5th grade and was Principal of the Catholic school in Sunnyside. She was transferred to Texas for two years, where she taught English as a Second Language in a public high school. She taught Religious Education for 13 years (K-12) in Sunnyside, WA. She came to St. Joseph’s Convent in 2002, where she has done Pastoral work, taught Religious Education, and worked with the Food Bank.

Upon completion of her Master’s degree, in 1983, she went to Rome, Italy, to study and begin work on her thesis. The focus of her thesis was to prove the heroic virtues of the works of Mother Julia Navarrete y Guerrero, Founder of the order ‘Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary, to pursue her beatification as a saint. Mother Julia left her home at the height of the Mexican Revolution, when at that timeit was illegal to celebrate Mass. Mother Julia’s mission, founded in 1916 in Kingsville, TX, was “to educate the children and minister to the adults”.

Sister Maria Elena became a collaborator, and eventually a vice ‘postulator’ for Mother Julia’s canonization, which involves cataloguing her life, writings, teachings and acts of holiness, then submitting the evidence for investigation to a panel of theologians called the ‘Congregation for the Causes of Saints’. Not only is it very rare for a person from the Americas to be considered for sainthood (fewer than 200 people from the Americas have been declared saints) but the process of canonization can take decades. 

Sister Maria Elena’s longsuffering work came to fruition in 2004, when a Council of seven theologians voted unanimously, and Pope John Paul II declared Mother Julia “Venerable”, which means that she is halfway to sainthood. In order to fulfill the requirements for canonization, a postulator must prove that two miracles occurred in Mother Julia’s name, after her death.  Sister Maria Elena submitted one documented miracle to the Vatican for investigation, upon completion of her thesis.

Sister Maria Elena has been a sister of the ‘Missionary Daughters of the M.P.V. Mary’ for 57 years, and she has been an educator for over 48 years. This is Sister Maria Elena’s first year of teaching at St. Joseph School. She makes her Spanish class fun, the students love her calm, patient demeanor, and they are always excited to come to her class! Sister Maria Elena is the oldest of seven children. She has eleven relatives who were either Catholic Priests or Sisters, and another who was a missionary. She states that, “My Passion is serving the people of God. I like challenges, and I enjoy my work”.

When she is not teaching at the school, she runs the Convent food bank and she enjoys cooking. She is the ‘official cook’ at the convent, keeping our sisters and families who need assistance well fed!


Sister Carmen - Spanish

Sister Carmen