Sisters share peace of Christ with others

Pax Christi Sisters Maria Concepcion Lozano (left) and Alicia Garcia, as well as Margarita Muños (not pictured), live and work at the Pax Christi Retreat Center in Brenham. The sisters purchased the property previously owned by the Poor Clares, which includes miniature horses, donkeys and chickens. (Photo by Mary P. Walker)

By Mary P. Walker
Senior Correspondent

As you drive up the hill to the Pax Christi Retreat Center in Brenham, the highway below slips from view. Visitors are greeted by rolling hills of natural beauty and the joyful, smiling faces of the Pax Christi Sisters.
Pax Christi is typically translated as “the peace of Christ,” and it is easy to see that this peace permeates the lives of the sisters. Living in a house on the property, Sisters Alicia Garcia, Maria Concepcion Lozano and Margarita Muñoz operate the retreat center, care for the grounds and animals, and volunteer at St. Mary Parish in Brenham.
Sister Alicia explained that their religious order was founded in the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1969 by Mother Teresa Santoyo. Today there are 35 sisters in Mexico, New York, Virginia, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Brenham.
The Pax Christi spirituality is based on the “oneness” prayer by Jesus in John 17:21, “As you Father are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us.” To foster this oneness and peace within themselves and to offer it to those they meet, each sister recites this prayer throughout the day: “Jesus lives in me. I live in Jesus. Jesus and I are one.”
Prayer, community life and apostolic work are the foundation of the order. The sisters begin their day by praying the divine office together. They also attend Mass, and spend one hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Their apostolic work includes leading others to a more profound understanding of the Mass, evangelization, offering retreats, religious education and parish work. In the evening, they again pray the divine office, pray the rosary and meditate on Scripture.
Sister Alicia and Sister Maria are originally from Mexico, and felt called to join the order after attending a retreat. They came to the U.S. for formation, and Sister Alicia has ministered in this country for most of her 28 years in religious life. Sister Maria has been in religious life for four years, and hopes to make her final profession in two years.
The Pax Christi Sisters came to Brenham in 2011, after their community purchased the property from the Order of St. Clare Sisters, typically known as the Poor Clares. One of the ways in which the Poor Clares supported themselves was by raising miniature horses, and their monastery became a tourist destination for people to see the horses and enjoy the rural beauty.
Although the Pax Christi Sisters are not commercially raising animals, they have miniature horses, donkeys, chickens, dogs and other creatures, who seem to share their joy. A group of devoted, playful and mischievous dogs follows them around as they tend to their chores. When the sisters scold the dogs, it is always with a smile. The donkeys and miniature horses too seem to express excitement and joy in the presence of the consecrated women.
Shortly after the sisters arrived in Brenham, the pastor of St. Mary Parish asked them to help minister to the growing immigrant Hispanic population of the area. Sister Alicia explained that although the immigrants are learning English to participate in life in the U.S., they can more easily understand and absorb the truths of the faith in their native language.
Father Ernesto Elizondo, pastor at St. Mary, expressed his appreciation for the work of the Pax Christi Sisters, who teach sacramental preparation classes, minister to the parish’s small communities and organize evangelical activities. 
“I have a heartfelt gratitude for the sisters. They work with joy and passion in the parish and are always smiling,” Father Elizondo said. 
The parishioners also expressed their appreciation for the good work of the sisters by giving Sister Alicia a surprise party honoring her 25th anniversary of religious life. Recalling the party, Sister Alicia’s smile grew even wider.
The retreat center, a gift shop, visitor fees and the revenue from ceramic painting sessions help to support the sisters. The mission of the retreat center is to provide a place of welcome and peace for people at all stages of their spiritual journey. It is available for parishes, ministries, groups of different faith traditions, businesses and individuals. It can accommodate 57 overnight guests, and has been used for retreats, parties, picnics, meetings and family reunions. 
The grounds are open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for a family, $4 for adults and $3 for children. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature as they walk the grounds, see the animals, paint ceramic figurines and visit the chapel. 
For more information about visiting the Pax Christi Retreat Center or arranging a retreat or ceramic painting session, contact Sister Alicia at (979) 251-7450 or e-mail 
aligarcia_23@yahoo.com.