Maria Cecilia Espinoza

Year Joined MKLM: 1985
Country: United States
City: Ossining, NY
Focus: Pastoral Ministry, Mission Education
Program(s): MKLM Always a Missioner Manager; Friends Across Borders Manager
People Served: Friends Across Borders: Between 150 – 200 people per year (approximately 60 young people, 5 – 10 families, and 100 adults of all ages)
Always a Missioner: approximately 500 returned missioners

Program Goal(s): To bring awareness about laity in mission, to build connections between peoples, churches and communities, to build bridges between U.S. Catholics and the cultures and peoples MKLM missioners serve. To continue a relationship with missioners that have served with MKLM.

Personal Data
Maria Cecilia Espinoza Lopez was born in Santiago, Chile. She completed her studies in Occupational Therapy at the University of Chile. She holds a MS in Family Counseling from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Cecilia worked at the Geriatric Hospital of Santiago as the director of the Occupational Therapy Department. Cecilia grew up in an active Catholic Family and at a very young age she was involved in mission to the rural and isolated sectors in Chile. She served with the Passionists and the Assumptionists. Cecilia met her husband Sam Stanton while he was a Holy Cross Lay Missioner in Chile and they married in 1981. In 1982 they came to the United States where they lived and worked in Phoenix, AZ. In the next three years their three children, Cecilia, Maria Violeta and Victor were born. In 1985 Cecilia and Sam joined the Maryknoll Lay Missioners and were missioned to a small rural village in southern Chile, Nirivilo.

Eventually they moved to the provincial capital of Linares where Cecilia organized a liturgy training center for the diocese based on the needs of its vast rural population and formed the diocesan choir. She was also involved in human rights work, especially in preparation for the national plebiscite, which took place in 1988. In 1992 Cecilia and her family moved to the Maryknoll center in New York where Sam became director of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Cecilia worked on Maryknoll promotions and obtained a master in Family Counseling from Iona College.

In 1996, they returned to Linares, Chile where Cecilia became the director of a mental health center for youth. In the beginning the center worked mainly with the children of detained, disappeared and political prisoners of the dictatorship. Under Cecilia’s administration the center broadened its scope and eventually became a part of the local hospital. In May 2004, Sam and Cecilia returned to the United States where Cecilia assumed the responsibility of the Maryknoll Lay Missioner’s program, Friends Across Borders that coordinates Mission Awareness Experiences.

Current Ministry
Currently Cecilia is the Always a Missioner Manager and the Friends Across Borders Manager for Maryknoll Lay Missioners. In this role, Cecilia plans and promotes mission awareness experiences and is the Returned Missioner liaison.

Friends Across Borders is an Outreach Program of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. It serves as a new form of mission, that of people traveling across borders for a short time as part of an integral effort to build connections between peoples, churches and communities. FAB promotes Mission Education, global spirituality and the life and works of Maryknoll Lay Missioners around the world. It commits to building bridges between U.S. Catholics and the cultures and peoples we serve. FAB ministry is done through the partnership with Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Regions, Returned Missioners, other Maryknoll entities and U.S. Church organizations. Cecilia does her work via e-mail, phone calls, sending letters, face-to-face meetings and exhibits in Universities, Conferences and Parishes.

Always a Missioner is the continuation of telling the story of laity in mission. In telling the story of our Returned Missioners we are helping to weave the fabric of who Maryknoll Lay Missioners is. It is Cecilia’s hope that those interested in mission, will feel moved to serve and help create a more compassionate world through these stories and lives of service. Our Returned Missioners are one of our greatest resources to  promote and recruit potential missioners. They are a valuable  growing network . Their support is essential in accomplishing and expanding the impact of our mission.