Sister Paula Gonzalez-Visionary and Role Model
In loving memory, from Sara Ward, Director, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light
I’ll never forget the first time I met Sister Paula Gonzalez, PhD. She was the keynote speaker for the National Weatherization Assistance Program conference that was hosted in Columbus, Ohio by my office in the late 80’s. She spoke powerfully of our call to care for all of God’s creation through the work we were doing to help low income families reduce their heating and cooling costs by weatherizing their homes. She artfully connected the dots, speaking to this secular crowd of over 400 from every state in the country, helping us to understand how weatherization for the poor was also helping to reduce our use of fossil fuels which were polluting our air. She was a scientist, biologist, teacher, visionary, and a woman of deep faith; on fire with her message. Known as “the Solar Nun” from Cincinnati, Ohio, Sr. Paula never missed an opportunity to teach about her beloved “Pacha Mama”, Mother Earth.
Often, as I have reflected upon my own career in state government, I am aware that it was an inner call that was the driving force behind my own determination. Sr. Paula gave voice to that inner call and in many ways, inspired us all to be better at this work. This expression of sacred activism was spread by Paula where ever she spoke, gathered, taught and lived. For such a tiny person in stature, her voice was sure and strong, full of the story of the Universe and our Oneness with all of creation. She was a mentor to me, a courageous role model and full of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Sr. Paula co-founded, with Keith Mills, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light in 2007. Paula moved from founder to active board member to inspirational advisory council member during her time with OhIPL. When we gathered in Cincinnati at EarthConnection in June this year for our board retreat, I knew that we would find renewal and hope just being in that special place, which she also founded. Even in her limited physical capacity Paula mustered the strength to join us each day for a few hours, lifting us all with her presence and yes, her still strong voice for caring for God’s amazing creation. She praised us often for being her beloved community and we all knew that it was our good fortune to be included in her inner circle. My colleague, Deb Steele, said it best when she commented, “Sister Paula had such vision that made our home better. We stand on the shoulders of this giant.”
I know for certain that it will be her voice echoing in my soul that will give me the strength, courage and hope for our future.
We love you dear Sister Paula and are joyful that you now reside in eternal wholeness.
View this wonderful interview of Sister Paula by Mary Evelyn Tucker as part of the Journey of the Universe Educational Series. Sister Paula narrates the efforts of Catholic sisters to harness solar power and other natural systems as a means of protecting the Earth community. Scroll down to # 16. CLICK HERE.
Please share your own reflections…Sister Paula touched so many lives.