Photo by Collin Richie
Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas
Occupation: Superior of the House of the Mercedarian Sisters of Blessed Sacrament
Sister Dulce Maria always has three things in her office: aprons, Kleenex and pink Dubble Bubble gum.
On a Thursday morning, the nun sits brightly in her wheelchair, wearing a blue whale- and dolphin-printed apron over her white robes.
“The dolphin is my symbol. It’s the angel of healing,” she says.
Many around Baton Rouge, though, know Sister Dulce as the angel of healing.
More than 80 people visit her at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center every week, seeking her help with cancer and terminal illnesses, as well as marriage, bereavement and personal matters. Her visitors say her hands can relieve pain or cure illness.
Her aprons protect her white robes from the makeup and oils that might get on them when she hugs tearful patients. She always has tissues for patients who get emotional. And the Dubble Bubble? Bubble gum makes everything better, she says.
Sister Dulce starts each day at 3 a.m., when she awakes for a 4-6 a.m. prayer session. In the mid-morning and afternoons, she meets with two patients every 15 minutes. She spends her evenings on the phone with patients from around the globe.
This morning, a woman has brought her small baby to see Sister Dulce. Dressed in a gray and white striped jumper and tiny brown sandals, he looks like any other little boy—except he has kidney disease.
Sister Dulce places her hand on his lower back and closes her eyes. “Papa,” she says, using her name for the Lord. “I’ll receive his disease into my hands and give it you.”
When she is finished, she assures the baby’s mother he will be fine.
She’s been doing this for more than two decades, relieving everything from toothaches to spinal injuries. Her touch can also alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and help prepare them for death, she says.
She is steadfast that she is not the one doing the healing, though—she’s an instrument for God’s work. She believes strongly in medicine and encourages her patients to talk to their doctors. Above all, it’s about giving her patients support.
“Sometimes people don’t want anything from you. They just want you to hear them out. They just want to know that you care about them,” she says.
Sister Dulce’s whole life has been about caring for others. She has been a nun since she was a teenager growing up in Texas, when she entered the order of the Mercedarian Sisters of Blessed Sacrament.
In 2001, she brought her gift to Baton Rouge. God called her here, she says, and she will stay for the rest of her life.
“I fell in love with the people of Louisiana. I love them as if they were my own,” she says.
Despite the amount of pain that Cypress Springs sees on a daily basis, it is an uplifting place. The prayer partners dress in vibrant colors to create a cheerful environment. Prayer partners include financial planners, lawyers, communications professionals and more, and they all volunteer their time because of how powerfully they feel about the center. Some even commute from as far as Natchez.
Before a patient leaves, Sister Dulce often digs in her apron pockets to give them one more encouraging gift: a piece of Dubble Bubble gum.