Sister Milagros Tormo, MJMJ is the third of five children born to Antonio and Diodora Abad Tormo in Madrid, Spain. They were devoted parents who—though poor in material things—were rich in faith and strong in family values. “I didn’t know we were poor. I had a great childhood,” Sister Milagros said.
Her mother was very creative. In winter, the family had no heat for their house, so her mother—using a funnel—filled empty wine bottles with boiling hot water to heat up their beds at night. “You had to be more than poor not to have wine at the dinner table,” Sister Milagros said.
The mother rolled the bottles back and forth across each of their beds and one by one she tucked them in. Then, when the last child was tucked in, she rolled each bottle up in a towel and placed one in each of their beds. The children felt warm all night long, Sister Milagros said.
“My father was a great musician. He could play nine instruments and had been blind since he was 12-years-old,” she said. “There were very little opportunities for blind people, but he worked where he could, sometimes working three jobs in one day. In the morning he sold pharmacy products, in the afternoon he sold lottery tickets and at night he played background music in a restaurant, still managing to teach his children how to read and write.”
Her mother appointed the child who had done all their chores, or who had finished all their homework, to walk their father to the subway. This did not make sense to 10-year-old Milagros, who thought that no one would want to finish first.
Sister Milagros’ mother explained it this way, “He puts all his trust in you. You are going to cross the street with no cars coming; you have to tell him where the sidewalk is and that he needs to put his feet up. To do that he has to trust you or he falls down. It’s a great responsibility.”
Her family was very active in the Church. One day, Sister Milagros and some girls from her parish went to meet the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their convent and clinic. Seeing the happiness in the faces of the young sisters is what first attracted Sister Milagros to a life serving God. It was 1959 and she was 13-years-old.
She watched the sisters as they tended to the sick and dying. She watched junior nuns dress the bodies of the dead, and she prayed with them. She was amazed these young women could be happy far from their families.
When she told her mother she wanted to be a sister in consecrated life, she remembers her mother—who was in the kitchen at the time—telling her that she honored the family. “But I want to tell you that if one day you feel that you cannot do it, be brave and leave the congregation. Don’t be a bad testimony for the Church,” her mother said. Her father told her that their door would always be open for her.
At the age of 19 she joined the sisters as a postulant and left her family. She spent a year in Aravaca, Spain then four years back in Madrid, close to her family. It was not easy. The convent house had a deck where she studied and could often see her family pass by. They waved, but she was not allowed to wave back. Her little sister pestered her when they walked down the street.
Sister Milagros made her First Profession on June 18, 1967. Her mother attended all her celebrations and continued to write to her until her death in 1977.
In 1971, Sister Milagros was sent to the United States. Her first assignment was in El Paso. Six months later she was working with Msgr. Robert Freeman for Catholic Charities in Corpus Christi.
She went to rural areas like Mathis, Sinton and Kingsville. She asked the parish priests which families needed help, she determined what their needs were, made an assessment of each family and reported back to Msgr. Freeman. “The majority of the time they didn’t have money to pay an electric bill, make a car payment or maybe they needed to see a doctor,” she said.
“I had the pleasure to work with Msgr. Freeman for many, many years,” she said. In between working with Msgr. Freeman, Sister Milagros was assigned to Corpus Christi Minor Seminary, then to Laredo doing pastoral work with youth from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Holy Family Mission. She returned to Corpus Christi and became Emergency Aid Director, then Executive Director of Catholic Charities.
Meanwhile in Madrid, Mother Dolores Domingo, the foundress of the congregation, asked her to be the superior of Mount Thabor Convent and she has been superior off and on for many years. “It’s a service, a big responsibility,” she said.
In 1971, the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph started a weekend prevention program called “New Life” for girls and “Turnaround” for boys. The sisters provided food, shelter and aid for troubled youth. Delma Trejo, a nine-year veteran volunteer and administrator of the prevention programs felt youth needed more—a program not limited to weekends.
With the support of Msgr. Freeman and Bishop Rene Gracida, the congregation’s council established a new program that offered services 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. The Diocese of Corpus Christi deeded five acres of land for the project, which was named “The Ark.”
In the beginning the sisters housed 13 children (ages six-17) and the youth lived in their retreat house. “We had a philosophy to not build without funds. We had the property, but no building,” Sister Milagros said.
In 2002, they were able to open the main building. It could accommodate 37 children—from infants to 17-years-old. Today, the Ark is licensed by the State of Texas for 61 children. Presently, there are 33 children living at The Ark, with the oldest being six-years-old. They usually house 30-40 youth and are always in need of funds. To learn more about The Ark go to
“Vocation is a dedication. It’s more than what we do. Anybody can be a social worker. It’s a commitment with the Lord—a big responsibility. Milagros Tormo is nothing; I represent the congregation. I have to be careful how I talk and how I act. I have to remember this 24-hours-a-day. To say ‘yes’ to the Lord and have the Lord affect me is a privilege. He called me, and yes I responded, but he chose me!”
She says she has never felt like quitting. “I’m convinced the Lord is never going to ask me to do more than what I can do. I take God with me wherever I go,” Sister Milagros said.
To others considering a vocation to religious life she says, “You have to be brave—I’m never going to be able to repay God for all he has given me.”
Sister Milagros will celebrate her golden jubilee in Madrid in June, then in September at Mount Thabor Convent in Corpus Christi.