SHAVERTOWN — Sister Sponsa Beltran, a native of Wilkes-Barre, is a Bernadine Franciscan nun whose life has been dedicated to helping children with disabilities in Liberia, West Africa.
Beltran, now 88 and residing in St. Joseph’s Villa in Reading, the retirement home for the order, has passed the torch to an organization named in memory of her nephew, the Jerry Cebulski African Disability Foundation (JCADF).
On Nov. 9, the recently released religious film “The Triumph” will be shown at 2 p.m. at R/C Movies 14 in downtown Wilkes-Barre, and the proceeds will benefit the work begun by Beltran in tending to the needs of the downtrodden in West Africa.
The 90-minute documentary film chronicles the purported Marian apparitions in Medjugorje in Eastern Europe and, specifically, the story of one young American man’s journey to the remote village to experience the events first hand.
Beltran resided in Ashley, where she attended St. Leo’s School. She graduated from Marymount High School.
“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” she said.
Eileen Rockensies and her son, Kevin, of Shavertown, head the JCADF and they have been gathering donations of school supplies, clothing and personal hygiene items to send to the villages served by Sister Sponsa over the years.
“We have no endowment as yet,” Eileen said. “We are awaiting IRS approval. However, we have had more than 1,000 donors who believe in our foundation and the work being done in Liberia.”
During her 30 years in Africa, Beltran helped establish an orphanage, schools and rehabilitation centers in Liberia, a region of West Africa known for civil war, poverty and corruption.
Kevin Rockensies handles the public relations, website management, fundraising and troubleshooting for the foundation. He also communicates with staff people in Africa to assure the work is getting done.
“This is something Sister Sponsa dedicated her life to,” he said. “We want to assure her work continues.”
The foundation’s mission statement states,“We strive to uplift the status of ‘witched’ or disabled persons in Africa and America to the level of fully contributing citizens living with the dignity that God intended for all.”
The goal is to inspire each person to “seek their place in society using their unique gifts” that each has been given and that “disability does not mean inability.”