Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in the series “Nun Better,” which takes a look at the lives and the service of women religious in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
ELMHURST — It could be said that Mother Maria Amador P.C.M. likes to sink her teeth into her work. After all, she’s a licensed dentist.
Mother Maria, the superior of the Preachers of Christ and Mary, a religious order she helped establish, studied dentistry in Paris after having traveled there from her native Colombia years ago.
“After high school, I went to dental school. I moved to Paris after graduation to study pediatric dentistry. After a year and a half, I returned to Colombia,” she recalled.
She has lived in other places, including Lafayette, Louisiana, to serve God and work as a dentist. Most of her young patients over the years have been children from underprivileged families. “I worked with Latino people who didn’t have health insurance,” she said.
Mother Maria, 54, who has lived in the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2011, has enjoyed a unique journey in her life of faith.
She grew up the fourth of seven children in Granada, a small town in Colombia. “I have plenty of good memories of my childhood,” she said. “We used to spend time playing outdoors because it’s always summer there. I loved going to our farm in the countryside on the weekends and traveling on vacation because my father loves to travel. Every year he took us to different places.”
She was educated in Catholic schools and said she always admired the nuns who taught her.
Fast forward to her time in Paris. It was a formative experience in her life. As it turned out, the study of pediatric dentistry wasn’t the only thing occupying her time in the City of Light. She was also forming a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, sparking a discernment process that led her to establish the Preachers of Christ and Mary.
“It was when I was in Paris where I just started that relationship with God — a kind of friendship,” she said. “I think hearing and responding to God’s call is a process that leads to God. For me, that started in Paris. And it was a beautiful time in my life.”
“The most important experience was hearing in my heart how much Jesus loved me,” she added. “It started a process of transformation in my way of thinking and seeing the church and the world.”
When she returned to Colombia from Paris, she began working as a dentist, treating low-income people and their children. After that, “everything changed,” and her path was set.
Around this time, she met a priest whose love for Jesus and the Virgin Mary moved her deeply. “It attracted me to the idea of consecrating my life to the service of God in the Church,” she said.
She met a group of women who lived together in a community and joined them. After a year, they decided to become a religious congregation. Mother Maria, who took her final vows in 2004 at age 36, was asked to serve as the congregation’s superior.
They chose to call the congregation the Preachers of Christ and Mary and dedicated themselves to spreading the word of Jesus’s love using various methods, including reaching people’s hearts through the arts.
“We are united in the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel, using new methods to evangelize, such as the arts and media and social work for the benefit of the disadvantaged,” Mother Maria explained.
The Preachers of Christ and Mary have produced plays such as “The Miracle of Christmas,” a musical performed in 2019. The congregation is also opening the Belfry Centre for Spirituality and the Arts at St. Gabriel Church in East New York, Brooklyn, in early September.
The center will offer theater workshops, singing lessons, and classes in ballet and contemporary dance for kids ages 5-14. The idea is to use the arts to bring children closer to God.
According to Mother Maria, the name was selected for a reason. Belfry refers to the part of a church steeple where bells are stored. With the new program, symbolic bells will ring, welcoming children to a deeper relationship with God, she said.