Sister Grace Dorothy Lim, MM

Born: January 4, 1926
Entered: March 4, 1951
Died: February 28, 2008

Lifelong pathways between the Philippines and Hawaii with links to our Maryknoll Congregational Center in New York marked Sister Grace Dorothy Lim’s fifty-six years in mission which ended by her death on February 28, 2008 in Burgos, Pangasinan, Philippines.

Cristeta Lorente Lim was born January 4, 1926 to Urbana Lorente and Doroteo Jaramillo Lim in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. She is one of 4 children including two sisters and a brother.

She entered the Maryknoll Congregation on March 4, 1951 and received the name of Grace Dorothy, which she kept for the remainder of her life. Her First Profession of Vows was March 7, 1954 at Maryknoll, NY and her Final Vows six years later in the Philippines.

Prior to her entrance to Maryknoll she studied at Christ the King Junior College, 1946-48 and St. Theresa College in Manila, 1948-1950 graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Education. During her Maryknoll years her educational endeavors included a Master’s degree from the Ateneo de Manila 1967-68, a Master’s in Community Leadership from Central Michigan University 1973 and a Master’s degree and Licentiate in Canon Law from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada 1984. Each of her degrees was granted with distinction.

Sister Grace Dorothy’s passion for education and empowerment of people operated in every facet of her life. Beginning with an assignment to St. Anthony School, Wailuku, Maui, HI she taught junior high school and occasional senior high classes. After one year, a disruption in her immigration status required a return to the Philippines where she worked for the next thirteen years. As a teacher at Maryknoll (now Miriam) College, an elementary school Principal at LaSalette College in Santiago, Isabela, and as the superintendent of Maryknoll Schools in the Philippines Sister Grace Dorothy took each task as a challenge. After attending the Maryknoll Sisters’ Chapter of Affairs in 1968, as a delegate from the Philippine Region, she returned to her first mission as both Principal of St. Anthony’s in Wailuku, Maui and as Coordinator of Religious Education.

From 1969 to 2005, Sister Grace Dorothy’s ministry moved through various spheres, each flowing from her realization that a work needed to be addressed, or a need required work. Sister recognized that the influx of Filipino immigrants to Hawaii necessitated the direction of a person knowledgeable in Filipino culture and United States Immigration Laws and Regulations. Sister Grace Dorothy began in 1971 as a volunteer with Filipino immigrants, helping organize the Filipino Catholic Clubs on each Island. From 1980-83 she held the position of Honolulu’s Coordinator of the Catholic Immigrant Project, which was later subsumed by Catholic Charities. The Diocese of Honolulu retained its interest in the immigrant church and ultimately developed an Office of Ethnic Ministries, which grew from Sister Grace Dorothy’s initial efforts. Along the way her skills at organizing grass root groups gave birth to many entities: the Missionary Basic Christian Community (MBCC), the Antonianas, the Society of the Holy Face, and the youth group AGAPE. All of these are healthy organizations in the Diocese.

Her interest in the legal concerns of her people led her to pursue a Canon Law specialty. In 1985 she was appointed to the Diocesan Tribunal and in 1991 was named the Chancellor of the Diocese of Honolulu, the Promoter of Justice and the Director of the Office of Filipino Ministry. Her position as Chancellor was unique as she was the first person of Filipino ancestry in such a role in the United States. An expert at multi-tasking, her support system included several individuals who served as secretaries for each particular activity, and a cadre of supporters who responded to the growing needs of her apostolate. Not having money in the budget was never a deterrent nor a distraction for her as those who recognized the needs joined her in ministry making the necessary contributions to make her work possible. Both Bishop Joseph Ferrario and Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo honored her as one whose vitality became an important part of the local Church.

In 1997, she was appointed Vicar of Ethnic Ministries for the Diocese expanding the work of support beyond the Filipino community. This allowed her to continue her recruitment of clergy from the Philippines and begin the support network for the other Pacific Rim groups who had arrived with such similar needs. Once again, her work built upon her own experience and to date, clergy and support services span seven distinct ethnic groups all sourced from the vast Pacific. Thirty-six years of continuous effort in Hawaii to better the life of those who immigrated to the Islands culminated in 2005.

In 2006, Sister Grace Dorothy responded to a request from Bishop Jesus A. Cabrera, D.D., Bishop of Alaminos for a multi-task ministry: to help set up the Marriage Tribunal with a newly trained Canon lawyer just finishing his studies in Rome, to bring the St. Isidore Learning Center to the level needed for accreditation, and to assist in the financial development for the Opifices Christi Missionary Priests, the Workers for Christ Community, whose mission is to work for FAFILAM: Farmers, Fisherfolk, Laborers Ministry in Itinerant Mission in rural areas. With the approval of the Maryknoll Sisters in the Central Pacific Region, Sister Grace Dorothy ventured to Pangasinan for what became the triumphant years of her ministry. She was needed, God gave her health and energy, and her impact was almost without measure as testified at her death.

Sister died on February 28 at 7:30 p.m. Father Benedicto, priest in charge of the O.C. Community because of Father Aaron Bamba’s travels in the United States, stayed with the body all night. The following morning she was brought from the hospital to the mortuary to the Sanctuary of the Last Supper to begin the nine-day wake. Friends and associates kept vigil all day and night in preparation for her funeral on Saturday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m. Bishop Marlo M. Peralta, D.D. Co-adjutor Bishop of Alaminos, was the celebrant with eight other priests including two from Honolulu, Father Joven Junio, M.S. one of the first priests to work in the Ethnic Ministry Program and Father Augustine Cheerakathil, M.S. current pastor at St. Anthony, Kalihi, HI, where Sister Grace Dorothy had been living and had planned to return on April 24 this year.

Also at the altar was Father Manuel de la Cruz, M.S.- the brother of Sister Aurora de la Cruz, MM, who is the Superior General of the La Salette Fathers, the largest group of missionary priests now serving in Hawaii. Several people from the MBCC and the Filipino Catholic Clubs of Hawaii also attended. Sister Grace Dorothy was buried in a newly dug grave on a hill behind the sanctuary. Following the Mass and the various eulogies, the coffin was carried by the seminarians to the grave site. School children from St. Isidore spread flower petals in the path. The dining room of the Opifices Christi had been in operation around the clock but was ready for the influx from those who knew Sister Grace Dorothy in the breaking of the bread and the witness of her faith.

Many of the simple touches and details were donated, and made the celebration of her life so remarkable. Fresh flowers from Honolulu surrounded her head and an orchid lei sealed her connections with Hawaii.

On March 29, Bishop Larry Silva, Diocese of Honolulu, will preside at the Celebration of Her Life at St. Anthony Parish in Kalihi which was Sister Grace Dorothy’s last residence, to which she intended to return in another month at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartes. It is that community of Sisters who will be assuming the leadership at the newly accredited St. Isidore Learning Center. Once again, Sister Grace Dorothy’s life and death become a connecting link between Hawaii and the Philippines.