Sister Evelyn Mourey Center: Nun honored for mission to unify community

February 27, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

It was a mission, a mission to bring unity to a gang-ridden community.

It was a mission that one woman worked hard to complete and Monday the community gathered to dedicate and rename in her honor a religious-based learning center she started.

Sister Evelyn Mourey of the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters was honored when the 10-year-old Posada Del Sol community was renamed from Centro Siempre Aprendiendo, or Always Learning Center, to the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center.

The center is a combination of three apartments in the large complex in north El Centro.

The center opened on Feb. 2, 1991, as Mourey was looking to help low-income, Spanish- speaking people.

"I felt they were neglected," she said.

Mourey went to Rev. Peter Navarra of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in El Centro with the idea of opening a community center at Posada Del Sol.


Navarra said he would help in any way possible but could not assist her financially.

Mourey then went to the owner of the apartments, Cliff Samples, and asked if he would rent one apartment to her for half-price.

Samples instead leased her the apartment for $1 a month and forgave her even that amount to avoid bookkeeping problems.

The center, which eventually grew to three apartments, received many donations, everything from furniture to manual labor, from community members and numerous organizations.

"They have accepted us very well," said Mourey.

Posada Del Sol 10 years ago was full of vandalism, drugs, gangs and violence.

Now the apartment complex has turned around, with no more significant gang presence and little if any violence, according to some residents

Mourey said she hopes the center was part of that turnaround.

"It's hard to know, really," she said. "But that was our hope, to get people out of the Posada Del Sol and help them be on their own."

"The loyalty by the community has really touched my heart," said Mourey.

During the renaming ceremony colleagues, friends and neighbors gathered to congratulate Mourey.

Sister Mary Jo Maes, co-director of the center, said, "I think she deserves to be honored in this way. She helped the community to grow and bring them together."

Sister Betty Anderson spoke about Mourey to those attending the ceremony.

"She was always at the service of the poor and a great missionary," she said.

Holding back tears, Anderson praised God for helping the center grow.

Sister Maria Luisa Valdez told those gathered: "I saw Sister Evelyn with nails and a hammer making tables for the center. That's how dedicated she was."

Then Valdez thanked those who have helped run the center.

"Without all of you, this center would not be here. You have made this center a dream for Sister Evelyn," she said.

Mourey also was holding back tears at that point.

The center offers English classes as well as sewing, knitting and crocheting classes. It is also used as a food distribution center.

For more information or to volunteer, call 352-1039.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 370-8549.

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