Sister Natalia (Mary Benigna) Carrasco

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” – From Matthew 5:1-12

Sister Natalia Carrasco was born in San Francisco, Calif., first generation Mexican-American. She was the second oldest with five siblings, three brothers and a sister. The children all went to Catholic elementary school and a variety of high schools in the San Francisco Mission District. Growing up, her family lived in a neighborhood  that was a mixture of Irish, Italian and Latino families. Later, the neighborhood became more distinctly Latino. Her childhood was a foundation to her life, and, moving from her strong cultural family life to religious life was significant. 

From the time she was young, she knew she had a vocation. “I felt my call when I was about 12,” she says. “From that time, I always knew I wanted to become a religious.”

Natalia had been taught by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in elementary school in San Francisco. Later, Natalia attended Notre Dame High School, San Francisco, but after-school work obligations prevented her from attending activities when students got to know the Sisters better. She considered joining the Sisters of the Holy Cross but the Motherhouse was in Indiana, far from her family home, so she entered the Notre Dame de Namur novitiate at Saratoga. It was then that she really began to know the Sisters, to know St. Julie, and to appreciate Notre Dame spirituality.

Sister Natalia’s ministries span California as they span more than seven decades as a Sister. She was a well-loved and inventive teacher of six-year-olds for 26 years, and ninth graders for several more. She ministered to senior citizens in a senior center. Sister Julie Marie Thorpe, long-time friend and principal in Chico, Millbrae and San Francisco where Sister Natalia taught first graders, remembers that, for Sister  Natalia, no child was a “baby.” “Each was treated with respect and each rose to meet expectations. She was a gifted teacher and steadfast in her commitment to teaching.”

Sisters Natalia Carrasco and Maureen Hilliard at a retreat in Carmel, Calif.

While Sister has a strong relationship with her own family and to her own Mexican-American culture, her sensitivity to people, no matter their ethnicity, age or needs, has been a gift to so many people, young and old alike. Looking back, she says that each ministry was unique; it enriched her life and taught her many lessons that have not ended. Sister is now retired.

At the time she was celebrating 70 years as a Sister, said, “I am grateful for many things: the support and love of my family, my Notre Dame community, and the grace God has given me to walk the journey with many wonderful and diverse people."

When thinking about how she would speak to someone discerning vocation to religious life, Sr. Natalia would want the discerner to know: “What was, is not what is.” She would suggest to the person seeking to explore religious life to find a mentor and to explore with her mentor what she might be seeking. Sr. Natalia considers reflecting on the changes ahead for women religious to be very important for someone discerning vocation. She is made hopeful by the knowledge that that women religious will continue to witness to the goodness of God, especially in the simple, dailiness of their lives.

Her favorite passage from scripture comes from Matthew 5:1-12 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

Enjoy this video reflection, taken at the time of Sister Natalia's 70th Jubilee:

Natalia Carrasco Ministries

St. Lucy’s, Campbell, California

St. Joseph School,  San Jose, Calif.

Notre Dame, Marysville, Calif.

Dolores School, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Immaculate Heart School, Belmont, Calif.

St. Clare’s School, Santa Clara, Calif.

Notre Dame School, Chico, Calif.

St. Dunstan’s School, Millbrae, Calif.

Mission Dolores, San Francisco, Calif.

Notre Dame Elementary, San Francisco, Calif.

Sacred Heart Catechectic, San Jose, Calif.

Catholic Charities Eastside San Jose, Senior Center, Site Manager, Calif.

Notre Dame High School San Jose, San Jose, Calif.

Nativity School, San Jose, Calif.

St. Vincent de Paul, Volunteer, Soup Kitchen, South San Francisco, Calif.