When Sister Regina Marie Baker entered the convent at the age of 14, she says, "I knew precious little about life in general and religious life in particular. I simply wanted to teach and to be like the Sisters who had taught me in grade school. They were special role models for me and I could envision myself in no better company for life's journey."
As she looks back over her now 60 years of religious life, she has a different perspective. "I now know it was 'the love of Christ' that impelled me, as St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and this love sustains me even to this day. Fifty years ago I thought I was choosing Christ; today I know Christ has been choosing me and loving me each day through fifty years of joys and sorrows, accomplishments and defeats."
Her first twenty years of ministry were spent teaching. She worked in elementary classrooms in Tacoma Park and Lanham, Maryland; Ludlow, Lexington, Frankfort, and Melbourne, Kentucky. "I dearly loved working with children, especially those in primary grades.," she says. "I hope they learned a lot from me as a teacher; I know I learned a lot from them. Their simplicity, innocence, curiosity, and questions full of wonder helped me see ordinary things from their extraordinary perspective. These years of teaching children served as a solid basis upon which I could dare to move into another ministry."
That new ministry came in the most Providential of ways. "I I was one of a group of CDP's who studied Spanish one summer at Thomas More College. I loved the language and found I had a facility for remembering it. In the next few years there was a growing interest on the part of many church leaders in the church of Latin America and the faith of the people there as expressed in comunidades de base. I experienced a growing desire to live among and serve the people of Latin America. It remains my most concrete experience of a call from God. Yet I also see that I was surely one of the least likely persons for such a call. Of myself, I am not a person to launch off in a direction where others in the community have not yet ventured."
Her ministry in Latin America did not last too long—just two years in Mexico and a year and a half in Ecuador—but it gave her a new perspective. "I learned firsthand of the faith, the national pride, the industriousness, and the creativity of people in their country of origin," she says.
After returning to the United States, she was able to serve in Hispanic ministry around the country—in La Joya, Texas; Gary, Indiana; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Walhalla, South Carolina; and Elkton and Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. "It has been a privilege to walk with immigrants to the United States," she says, "especially knowing what they have sacrificed to seek the necessities of life."
Later years of ministry gave her the opportunity to serve as a parish life director in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. It was big job, but one she loved. "I found it to be a unique and challenging way for laity in the Church to walk with people in all aspects of parish life. Lexington was a mission diocese and did not have enough priests for each parish in its fifty counties," she says. "Ten parishes were served by parish life directors who lead the small faith communities in the administration of the parish, pastoral care, liturgical planning, and faith formation."
A favorite Scripture story of mine is the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew's Gospel. This woman is a woman of Providence for me, humbly abandoning herself to God's mercy in order to gain her deepest desire. I pray often that in my life of commitment, God will one day say to me, "O woman, great is your faith!"