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OBITUARY: Dominican Sister Iliana Valdes, 73

Ministered at Dominican Retreat House, St. Ann and Sacred Heart in Homestead

MIAMI | Dominican Sister Iliana Valdes, a Cuban exile and Pedro Pan who ministered in Miami for many years, died May 16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had been in religious life for 54 years.

Dominican Sister Iliana Valdes, died May 16 after 54 years in religious life.


Dominican Sister Iliana Valdes, died May 16 after 54 years in religious life.

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1944, Sister Ileana was one of the first of thousands of unaccompanied minors to arrive in Florida after the upheaval of the Cuban revolution. She was 15 at the time.

After joining the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, she ministered at Dominican Retreat Houses in Miami (now the MorningStar Renewal Center), and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She also worked among the poor and the farmworkers at St. Ann Mission in Naranja and Sacred Heart in Homestead. 

Sister Iliana also served as an ambassador for organ donations after she herself received a kidney transplant in 2000. Since 2008, she volunteered at Misíon San Juan Diego in Meadowlake, New Mexico; San Ignacio Church and Risen Savior Catholic Community in Albuquerque.

Sister Iliana earned certificates for retreat work, pastoral ministry, and spiritual direction from both the University of Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s Center in Albuquerque.

She is survived by her sisters, Maria Carlota Valdes and Dania Goicoechea, both of whom reside in Miami, as well as nieces and nephews, many friends and members of her Dominican Community.

A vigil service was held May 23 at Risen Savior Church, followed by a funeral Mass May 24. A memorial Mass was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace chapel in Columbus, Ohio June 1, followed by burial at the Sisters’ cemetery there.

Memorial gifts in Sister Iliana’s name may be made to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr., Columbus, OH 43219.

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