Her name was Ofelia. She was born in Mexico and grew up in an orphanage there. In her early twenties she made her way to California, where she married and raised twelve children. She and her family lived in the Hispanic district of Sacramento, and though her home was small, the doors of her house and her heart were always wide open to anyone in need.
Besides her own children, Ofelia helped raise many hundreds of others — loving, teaching, and caring for them. She helped new arrivals from Mexico find jobs and get settled in her community.
A devout Catholic all of her life, she spent many evenings at her church preparing newcomers for catechism. Everyone knew they could find whatever kind of help they needed — food, friendship, comfort, guidance, inspiration — from Ofelia.
I met her because one of her daughters, Irene, became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and moved to Ananda Village. She said to me a few times, “Oh, you should come meet my mother sometime.” So one day, Irene drove me and a few friends to Sacramento to meet Ofelia. Little did I know what awaited me.
A tiny woman met us at the door, with silver-white hair, soft olive skin, a radiant smile, and rich brown eyes that were filled with love for God. But what I noticed most were her boundless energy and total openness to everyone. We were all a part of her family, and she drew all of us in as though she’d known us forever.
Even while we were there, relatives, friends, and neighbors began dropping in. Wanting to feed them, she said to me (whom she’d known for less than an hour), “Go make some tortillas,” and pointed to a huge bag of masa harina, the kind of flour used for tortillas.
Feeling way over my head at this request, I said fumblingly, “But Ofelia, I’ve never made tortillas before.”
“Oh,” she replied, “it’s easy. I’ll show you.” And she did, and I made my first batch of tortillas to feed everyone. (They were all eaten, so I guess I didn’t fail completely.)
Over the years, Ofelia would often visit Irene and her husband, Nishtan, at Ananda Village. Twice during her stays she was blessed by a vision of Master. The first time was after she had fallen and broken her ankle. Because she needed to remain immobile, she stayed here with her daughter to recuperate.
Late one night Ofelia couldn’t sleep because of the throbbing pain. She had been trying to rest on a small window seat, using pillows to keep her ankle elevated. Praying to God for help, Ofelia suddenly saw Yogananda seated just beyond her elevated foot. Lovingly, he placed the hem of his robe over her ankle. Immediately the pain vanished, and over time her ankle healed.
The second time Master appeared to her was a longer encounter, during which they talked about many things. At the end, she asked him, “How often do you come here [to Ananda]?”
“I am always here,” he replied.
Ofelia passed away at home on May 12, 2019. Fittingly, it was Mother’s Day. Her house was filled with people who had been helped by her and loved her.
Throughout her life, she had repeated the prayer in Spanish, “Con Dios, por Dios, y para Dios,” meaning “With God, for God, and through the grace of God.” During her last months, as Irene cared for her, Ofelia told her to repeat those words before she did anything, so that she wouldn’t make mistakes.
“But,” Irene asked, “what if I say them, and still make mistakes?”
Ofelia replied with the simple faith that had filled her life. “If you say, ‘With God, for God, and through the grace of God’ before everything, there won’t be any mistakes.”
As one of Ofelia’s children, I share her wisdom and her love with you. Saints are found in unexpected places.