Loving us into a new understanding of Family. Maria Luisa was consistently building our notion of family. From the way she raised her son Mel as a single mother in close relationship to other Gaston sisters and cousins to the way she became Tia and Abuelita to dozens of young women at College of St. Mary’s, she loved in a way that invited you in and made you feel seen and heard. We vividly remember her face when she would listen. She felt with you. We left these interactions feeling understood and seen at a deep level. She showered this gift of empathy so freely. It helped so many throughout her life and helped us understand a much bolder, broader notion of family.
Deepening Traditions. From making tostones and singing villancicos on so many Christmas eves, to regularly playing dominoes, Maria Luisa helped deepen our traditions and Cuban identity. Bringing family members back to Cuba over the last 20 years helped so many of us connect to our roots. The way she helped us enter into an understanding of what it means to build community, be a Gaston, and a committed Christian.
Mercy with Justice. From her entering the convent to her leadership roles at Catholic Encuentro gatherings to continuing the legacy of “Las Tias” Gaston by the mercy and justice work so integral to her life. Her work implementing the Misericordia scholarship allowed young undocumented women to believe in themselves and take their visions for their contributions to a whole new level.
Lifelong dedication to the Church. From the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami in the 1980s to giving input on a virtual gathering on women in ministry last month, Maria Luisa made remarkable contributions that embodied an authentic love of neighbor.
Joy, Laughter, and Liberation. One of the remarkable parts of Maria Luisa’s life was the incredible way she taught us all to persevere. In living with metastatic breast cancer she modeled a life of freedom and liberation. In struggling with the physical (whether cancer, diabetes, or mental health), she showed us how to consistently turn to laughter and joy.
Courage and Resurrection. We must take courage and be brave. To honor her legacy, we invite you to reflect on the values and memories you most cherish and how you can continue to honor her impact on your life.