Madonna House

She Was a Missionary

by Kathy McVady

Maria Guadalupe Zabaco de Miguel was born near Burgos, Spain, on April 22, 1924, the seventh of eight children. She had a twin who died at birth.

Lupe (pronounced “Lu pay”) remembered a happy childhood, even though several of her teen years took place during the Spanish Civil War.

Lupe left home in her mid-teens to work and to continue her studies, eventually receiving her nursing degree at the University of Madrid. She also worked for a time as a professional dancer with a folk dancing troupe.

After a few years, Lupe had an offer of employment in Nicaragua, and she jumped at the chance. Her family was surprised at her fearlessness and her adventurous spirit, but that was just the beginning!

It was in Nicaragua that Lupe heard about Catherine Doherty and Madonna House Apostolate, and she decided to stop in Combermere on her way home to Spain! Well, it’s sort of on the way if you go a bit further north before you head east.

That was in late spring/early summer of 1958, and by September, she had become an applicant, that is someone in formation for membership in our community.

Lupe made her first Promises on August 15, 1959, and a year later she was on her way to her first assignment: Whitehorse in the Yukon.

A few years later, she was transferred to Marian Centre, Edmonton, where someone wrote in a newsletter to our community:

“She continues to cheer, encourage, and delight the MC staff. It is hard to keep track of her these days. She can be found in the laundry, the sacristy, the kitchen, the handicraft room, at the bedside of a sick sister, and other innumerable places. What would we do without her?”

Well, the staff of Marian Centre did have to learn to “do without her,” for Lupe was soon on her way to Lima, Peru, with Josephine Halfman and Clare Becker, to open a house in a barriada (slum) outside of Lima, Peru.

There, aside from helping in a private and a government medical clinic as needed, Lupe walked all over, visiting people in their homes and caring for the their sick and for those who came to Madonna House as well.

For those who could not afford needed medications, she used her well-honed begging skills to obtain them from hospitals and clinics in Lima.

Two years after our opening that house, a devastating earthquake hit Peru, and Lupe was called on to use her nursing skills in the disaster area. (See “Adventure in the Andes” in this issue.)

A year later, Catherine called Lupe home for a six-month sabbatical rest. During this time, she visited our houses in Virginia and Arizona.

While she was in Winslow, Arizona, she joined Father Eddie Doherty and a friend of his on a trip to the Benedictine Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico.

The monastery was just completing renovations, including indoor carpeting in many of the rooms.

Lupe, who could never bear to see anything go to waste, asked for the scraps of carpeting. Since they wouldn’t fit in Fr. Eddie’s friend’s little Volkswagen, the monastery agreed to ship the five large boxes to Winslow.

Of course, by the time they arrived, Lupe had left to return to Combermere!

A rejuvenated Lupe was soon on her way to Victoria, Grenada, in the West Indies. For seven years, she worked both in our small prayer/listening house in that poor fishing village and in our house on the small island of Carriacou.

Then when Madonna House established a house in Verdun, Barbados, for training of lay leaders for the Caribbean Church, Lupe was assigned there, and she also helped as needed at the prayer/listening house on the other side of that island.

One of the other staff wrote that “Lupe opens her heart and ears to those who stop by to see her. Her wisdom and her prayerfulness have attracted several young and old Barbadians who come to share their life and problems with her and seek guidance.”

By then, Lupe had developed her unique blend of the chit-chat apostolate with prayer and the deep listening that would be continued in a later assignment to Winslow, Arizona, and a return assignment to Barbados.

She brought these same gifts to still another environment when she was again assigned to Marian Centre Edmonton, which works with transient men.

There it was noted that she could “often be seen at the door giving out bag lunches to those in need, offering a smile, a word of encouragement, a listening ear, or even, at times, a scolding.”

There she also had a personal outreach to the Spanish-speaking community in the city.

While at Marian Centre, she had some time to paint and do crafts, such as pulled-thread embroidery, activities she loved but had not had much time to do during her busy apostolic life.

Now she also restored broken statues and other items, bringing beauty to her call to “gather up the fragments lest they be lost.”

In 2005, at age 81, Lupe came to Our Lady of the Visitation, our “wing” for the elderly at St. Mary’s in Combermere, and continued her practice of weekly poustinia. One of her “words” from Poustinia was: “Increase my faith, increase my faith, increase my faith!”

Lupe continued making weekly jaunts to help at St. Joseph’s House as long as she was able, and she helped in the kitchen at St. Mary’s and in the bakery, by panning bread, even when she could only do the latter in her wheel chair.

One time while panning bread, she said, “My life is getting shorter and shorter, but happily,” and when Kathy Rodman and Lupe were at their regular place of drying dishes, Kathy exclaimed, “Lupe, you’re a real trouper! You deserve a gold medal.”

Lupe immediately and strongly retorted: “We don’t have gold medals. But if we did, I do deserve one!”

On April 1, 2016, at 10:30 a.m., Guadalupe Zabaco got her gold medal. She had finished the race. In fact, she received more than a gold medal; she was given abundantly far more than she could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).