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Sister Amalia Marie, CSC
(Maria Amparo Rios)
February 10, 1930 — January 24, 2024
Entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Austin, Texas, on January 29, 1949
Initial Profession of Vows on August 15, 1951
Maria Amparo Rios was born on February 10, 1930, in Austin, Texas, to Frank and Maria (Gallegos) Rios. In Spanish, Amparo means “protection” or “refuge”. As a Mexican American, faith in God was deeply integral to Amparo’s upbringing. Her father was a first generation Mexican American, while her mother was born in Villa Aldama, Mexico. She believed she resembled her mother and grandmothers in that they had a “strong, deep, living faith.” According to Amparo, it was not just the kind of faith that was based on church teachings, but “their faith came from within – it was part of our culture, part of our daily living.” Amparo and her four older siblings were loved “measurelessly” by their parents, with singing, dancing, games, and stories being a part of their daily lives.
Amparo was first introduced to the Sisters of the Holy Cross through attending Our Lady of Guadalupe elementary school in Austin. She loved learning from the sisters, and this love only grew when she continued to be taught by Holy Cross sisters at Saint Mary’s Academy in Austin. The more that she knew and learned about the sisters, the more Amparo felt called to be a Sister of the Holy Cross. After graduating from high school as the class valedictorian in 1948, she worked as a part-time department store clerk for less than a year before deciding to answer the call she felt within her. On January 29, 1949, Amparo entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana. Upon reception of the holy habit, she became Sister Amalia Marie.
For over 20 years, Sister Amalia Marie taught in parochial elementary schools in Alexandria, Virginia; Bexley, Ohio; Marshall, Texas; New York, New York; Greenbelt, Maryland; and McAllen, Texas. 11 of these years were spent teaching in her hometown of Austin, Texas. She continued her own education with earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 1965 from Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Texas, and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling in 1972 from Fordham University, New York City, New York. Sister Amalia Marie was a naturally gifted teacher. Her amiable and easygoing nature made her a teacher that children wanted to learn from, just as her Holy Cross teachers once were for her.
In 1975, Sister Amalia Marie left her education ministry to care for her mother full-time in Austin. While living in Austin, she coordinated the Eucharistic Ministers and lectors at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. She helped many of the elderly in the community learn about programs and services they could benefit from, such as grants, Meals-On-Wheels, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and emergency assistances for food and utilities.
While Sister Amalia Marie was caring for her mother, she began a 32 year-long ministry in housing and social services. After discovering that 18 families would be displaced as a result of a plan to expand and renovate the national park adjacent to her neighborhood, the Hispanic community of Guadalupe, her love of helping people drove her to prevent this from happening. She became an educator for those in the community about the potential displacements, and she helped create The Guadalupe Area Neighborhood Association, which was eventually incorporated into the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. From 1978 to 2010, she was involved in neighborhood community development with the group. She also served as an advocate for the self-determination of neighborhoods and development of affordable low-income housing.
In addition to Sister Amalia Marie’s ministry with the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, she was also on the Board of Trustees of the McAuley Institute from 1989 to 1995. This organization, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and based in Silver Spring, Maryland, focused on building affordable housing and strengthening communities. After her time on the board, she was a consultant for the institute’s program committee that was responsible for building healthy and safe communities for poor women and their children until her retirement.
Sister Amalia Marie was passionate about working with people, women in particular. She helped them learn how to become active members of their communities and contribute to the identity of their neighborhoods. She believed wholeheartedly that everyone deserved to live in a community that was safe and thriving, and know that they had access to programs designed to help them when they need it.
After many years full of helping and teaching others, Sister Amalia Marie retired in 2010 and transitioned to a ministry of prayer in 2011. She eventually moved to live at the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, to spend the final years of her life. Reflecting on her years in Holy Cross, she wrote that “what continues to nourish and strengthen me on my journey is the spirit of faithfulness and solidarity of my companions in Holy Cross – my sisters and friends who daily share their life and love with me. They give true meaning to my life and mission in the ‘kin-dom’ of God.” Sister Amalia Marie died in the morning of January 24, 2024, at Saint Mary’s Convent. She was grateful to live the last chapter of her life in community at Saint Mary’s, surrounded by prayers of love and support from her friends in Holy Cross.
Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 1, 2024, in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. Prayers in the Presence of the Body with memento at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Mass of the Resurrection. Kaniewski Funeral Homes is assisting. Please see the Sisters of the Holy Cross website for details.
-Written by Madisen Toth, archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross Archives and Records