The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA) gathered to commemorate Sister María Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh as the 2022 Mr. South Texas Award Honoree for the 124th Washington’s Birthday Celebration Saturday, February 19 at the Laredo Country Club at the Mr. South Texas Luncheon Hosted by Texas Community Bank (TCB).
On Friday, February 18, Sister María Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh were awarded with the prestigious Caballero Medallion during Los Caballeros de la Republica del Rio Grande Cocktail Party held at Paseo Real. This select group of national and international distinguished men and women are honored for their dedication and countless hours of service and support to the Washington’s Birthday Celebration.
“Texas Community Bank is pleased to sponsor the Mr. South Texas Luncheon and we congratulate Sister María Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh for their well-deserved recognition as the Mr. South Texas honorees for the 124th Celebration,” said Douglas G. Macdonald, President & CEO of TCB.
The Mr. South Texas designation is presented to a deserving individual or individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the growth and development of Laredo and the South Texas region.
“We are humbled by this honor and grateful to the WBCA, the selection committee of the Mr. South Texas Luncheon, to Mr. Douglas Macdonald, Mr. South Texas honoree in 2017, and to our many friends and supporters of Texas Community Bank,” said Sister María Luisa & Sister Rosemary
Sister María Luisa was born in Brownsville, Texas to the late Placido Vera and Manuela Soto Vera and into a family of four boys and two girls. She is a product of the public – school system and met the Sisters of Mercy when she enrolled in the Canales School of Vocational Nursing of Mercy Hospital in Brownsville. “Mary Lou” Vera joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1963, made her novitiate in St. Louis, Missouri, later attended Mercy School of Nursing in Fort School, KS and received her Registered Nurse License from the Kansas State Board of Nursing in 1970. She received her BSN from Incarnate Word College, now University of the Incarnate Word, in 1975.
“Being of service to those in need is our way of living out the Gospel as expressed in Matthew 25:31-40. It is a call to live out the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. To care is not an option for us, it is a mandate,” said Sr. María Luisa
The Mr. South Texas Selection Committee comprised of past presidents of the WBCA and former Mr. South Texas recipients, who reside in Laredo, meet several times during the year to discuss possible candidates. Committee members take great effort in creating an all-inclusive nominating pool of candidates from all walks of life who have made a significant impact on the area.
As a nurse, Sister María Luisa served in three Mercy Hospitals: Fort Scott, KS, Mercy Hospital, Brownsville, TX, and Mercy Hospital in Laredo, Texas. In the early 1980s she served as vocation minister for the Sisters of Mercy and part-time parish ministry at San Martin De Porres Catholic Church under the leadership of the late Rev. Morgan Rowsome, Pastor. From 1985 to 1995 Sr. María Luisa served on the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of St. Louis and served as the first Mexican-American president of the Community. In 1995, Sr. María Luisa was elected to the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, with offices in Silver Spring, Maryland. She serves on various board of trustees and committees related to healthcare & healthcare education.
Sister María Luisa has served as President of Mercy Ministries of Laredo, with its two ministries, Casa de Misericordia and Mercy Clinic since 2006 to the present. She continues to be active in the Laredo community in a variety of ways including advocating for healthcare for the uninsured and attending to the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy which include: Earth, Immigration, Women, Non-violence, and Anti-racism.
Sister Rosemary Welsh is a native of Springfield, Missouri; she is the youngest of four children born to the late Thomas and Mildred Welsh. In 1967, after graduating from St. John’s Mercy School of Nursing, becoming a Registered Nurse and attending to some personal family matters, “Rosie Welsh” took a giant leap of faith and sought admission to the Sister of Mercy in St. Louis, Missouri. Sister graduated with her BSN from St. Louis University in 1973.
“The Sisters of Mercy have been in Laredo for 127 years and I am very clear that everything we have done, has been with the help and support of the Laredo- Webb County community. We have never said or believed we have accomplished anything alone,” said Sr. Rosemary.
Sister Rosemary is a nurse by education and professional choice and loves it. She has served in a variety of positions in various Mercy hospitals. She served as a missionary for 10 years in Guatemala and Southern Mexico in the early ‘80s and ‘90s. She worked very hard to master the Spanish language and when she got to Guatemala she soon realized it was back to the books; she needed to learn the K’ekchi, the language of the people living throughout the Rio Dulce region in the Diocese of Izabal in Eastern Guatemala.
Upon returning to the United States in 1992, Sister Rosemary was invited by the late Ernesto “Buddy” Flores, then Administrator of Mercy Medical Center, to return to Laredo and re-establish herself in ministry in Laredo. Sister Rosemary celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2017. She is quick to say, “I love being a Sister of Mercy and could do it again in a heartbeat.”
Sister Rosemary has been in Laredo, Texas for 29 consecutive years serving in various roles and advocating for some of Laredo’s most needy and vulnerable persons. Currently Sister serves as Director of Outreach Services at Mercy Clinic and Executive Director of Casa de Misericordia. These two positions are supposed to each be part-time but everyone who knows her will tell you that is not the case. When permitted, she also visits detainees at the local detention centers and hopes to be allowed to do that again soon. Sr. Rosemary is now collaborating with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Laredo, and Holding Institute to assist and support their efforts in caring to asylum seekers. She also makes home visits, hospital visits and responds to invitations for public speaking. She serves on multiple boards and committees and still manages to keep up her obligations to the religious community.
Both Sisters have received numerous honors and awards over the years. Among their favorite is being selected as co-presidents of the Republic of the Rio Grande by the Webb County Heritage Foundation in 2013.
Together with the Mr. South Texas designation, Ambassadors Sister María Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh become a member of a select group of national and international distinguished men and women who are honored for their dedication and countless hours of service and support to the Washington’s Birthday Celebration each year by an official induction ceremony and presentation of the Caballero Medallion.
The Mr. South Texas Luncheon Hosted by Texas Community Bank is one of more than 32 events in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Calendar. Throughout the years, the Celebration has grown to be over a month long and consists of parades, dazzling pageants, fireworks, a carnival, an air show, a sizzling jalapeño festival and much more.