Mary Olivia focuses on inspirational poems, women’s spirituality, nature, and God. Her writings can be found on her website and in her published books and other publications, as she has journeyed through life in school, college, career, and now retirement. This entire page is devoted to learning more about what this amazing poet, writer, and published author has to say about so much.
About Mary Olivia
Mary Olivia is a native Texan, currently residing in San Antonio, Texas. She inspires others with her poetic memoir writings, having written and published two books, Moments of Grace and Living in Heaven’s Earth, over the past few years. Both books are available online and at the Barnes & Noble (Bandera Pointe) in San Antonio, as well as online stores. (Links to purchase Mary Olivia’s books are located toward the lower portion of this page as well as when visiting her website.)
Mary Olivia is currently working on her third book. She also facilitates a faith-based writing group, Writing With Angels, based at St. Brigid Catholic Church, and has been diligently pursuing formation at the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery and the Oblate Program in Boerne, Texas.
Mary Olivia’s Website
Filled with inspirational, spiritual, and writing resources, Mary Olivia’s website is a delight to visit.
Mary Olivia features creatively written blogs, inspirational audio clips, prayers, fellow inspirational authors, and writing tips, as well as links to inspirational, spiritual, and writing resources. In addition to her books, she also features coffee mugs and greeting cards with her photography and inspirational writings.
If you have time, I hope you’ll click through. I always enjoy her blogs!
Authors Supporting Authors
Mary Olivia has been a wonderful supporter of my writing. Over the years, while we worked and volunteered at St. Brigid Catholic Church together, we have – at times – collaborated on church publications such as the Lenten booklet in the spring of 2012 and then a monthly newsletter.
Back in April 2021, Mary Olivia featured my book, Honor One Another: The ABCs of Embracing Our Spirit Within, in one of her blogs. I was so honored!
And, in August 2021, Mary Olivia was kind enough to invite me as a guest author to her faith-based writing group, Writing With Angels.
During the past year, we have worked to get each other’s books into the local Texas libraries of Falfurrias, George West, and Three Rivers. Teamwork is how things get done, and I’m so honored to have Mary Olivia as part of my team.
Following is an interview I hope you will take time to read and enjoy. Mary Olivia has a wonderfully creative and spiritual insight to many subjects. And, although most of the interview focuses on her, as it should, she descriptively shares her journey with us including friends, family, and many others she has met along the way. I know you will be inspired.
Mary Olivia: First, I’d like to thank you, Virginia Alice Crawford, for your friendship through the years and for your invitation to share about myself on your website and also about my journey as a writer.
Virginia Alice: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Mary Olivia: In responding to this question, I first ask myself: when or how does a person know with certainty what she/he desires out of life? Then, specifically, what sparks the desire to write? Imagination, Childhood, Memories, Loss, Love of Creation and Nature…a Sense of Adventure? Curiosity? Perhaps it was the inevitable blend of these aspects of my life that prompted me to write. If I were to write my personal story, I might use these topics as subtitles!
An image ignites in my mind: ‘light’.
When I strike a match to light a candle, I usually stand by a sink with water running, so that I can completely put out the match. Sound crazy? Too cautious? Maybe. It’s just that I want to douse the burst of fire from the matchstick. Sparks also fly when I light the match. But the sparks, blue, yellow, red…all are beautiful! For a few seconds, they are like fireworks. That’s how I see the desire to write. It is born of several sparks, or as I mentioned earlier, ‘aspects of my life’, and I will never know which one took off like a rocket.
Maybe I knew intuitively. Since an early age – as soon as I learned to read – I’ve love reading.
Or, perhaps my studies and extracurricular activities at Harlandale High School birthed early hints. In a Journalism class, I worked on the Yearbook and on the school anthology: Smoke Signals. I was a member of two literary societies: Bards & Scribes and Quill & Scroll.
I definitely caught the ‘bug’ to write while studying for my Master in Theological Studies at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. I was fascinated with the world of learning. It was during my Culture & Religion class that I wrote about the myth of La Llorona (the Wailing Woman). This story, told to me by my abuelita (grandmother) and repeated by other family members, fascinated me since childhood. I also began pestering my mother for stories of my childhood, of her family and her childhood. Although reluctant, she only began to share when I told her that I needed this for my class. In actuality, I mostly just wanted to hear my mother’s stories!
Immediately after graduation, I accepted an invitation to work with the Oblates as an Associate Director of the Lay Ministry Institute. It was during this time that Fr. Ronald Young, OMI (Professor and Editor), asked me to write an article for the Offerings Journal of Oblate School of Theology (2003). I did it! After much research and procrastination born of fear, I wrote a theological article! I definitely remember that it was while guiding students with their practicums and theological reflection that my desire to write grew stronger. I knew each person has a story, and I wanted to help others to write. I shared my thoughts with a friend. This is how I came to collaborate with the Center for Women in Church and Society at Our Lady of the Lake University with a women’s anthology (2003). In the process, I realized that I wanted to write about my stories, too. And that’s another story in itself.
Virginia Alice: What type of writer do you consider yourself?
Mary Olivia: As a way of introducing myself as a writer: I consider myself an author, a storyteller, a creative writer, and an inspirational writer. I am versatile and write in different genres. I write in various styles, primarily in English and occasionally code-switch to Spanish (my first language). I love to use humor such as when I wrote the poem, “Dinosaurs are Not Just a Part of History!”
At the core of my being, I am a poet. The words flow a little easier, but no less painfully. I have published two books of poetry. Desiring to inspire and encourage my readers, I provide space and tools for journaling and for reflection. As a poet, I often include poetic memoir in my work. I am using poetic memoir in the book I am working on now.
Several of my poems and stories have been published in journals/anthologies as well. What I remember and appreciate is that writing for these journals/anthologies gave me an opportunity to be resourceful, and also to ‘make up stories’ while blending in a bit of non-fiction.
In writing about encounters in my mission experiences, pilgrimages, travel, and about family relationships, I leave a legacy of who I am and what I have done with my life.
Some of my work highlights culture and traditions. I feel very strongly when I write about them and when I write about passages in life, i.e., birth, aging, and loss. Having lost my son when he was twenty-one years old, I know first-hand that loss is painful, but there is also hope. I cherish his memory and wrote “Crossing the Threshold” (Moments of Grace) about him.
I address current social situations, e.g., the Coronavirus Pandemic. I remember almost breaking down in tears when I read “A Miracle,” from Moments of Grace, to a Men’s Group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.
I write about faith; and about life in general, as I mentioned earlier. However, I do not use my work to convert or change anyone’s faith. Faith underlies some of my work, but not always. I write from life experiences, or goals in life in order to inspire, or just to share my story.
Lastly, I could say that sometimes I write to entertain. Not all of life is so serious. I’ve written some stories for Story Circle Journal/Anthologies in which I created in fun. I feel free to laugh, and to write about the ‘What if’s?’ in life.
In one of my writing folders, I have the first few chapters of a mystery. It is fiction, but some of the stories are rooted in real-life stuff. When that is complete, I might add ‘novelist’ or ‘writer of cozy novels’ to my description as a writer. Then again, it might stay as a story.
In 2008, or thereabouts, I was invited to present a series of writing sessions at The SoL Center at University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. I was invited by Lucy Greer Burton (RIP) who had a far-reaching vision for church, the environment, and healthy living.
I felt very blessed in meeting the women and men of different faiths and various walks of life at those workshops. Hearing their stories from the writing prompts that I provided, I learned about the hardships that some had lived, either in Germany during World War II, or of other situations closer to home; some wrote of family, friends, and traditions. The Center printed an in-house anthology of their stories: A Season of Memories. I wish it had been published for others to read. That was years ago, but I still envision them and the fun we had together.
Soon after, in 2010, I formed Writing with Angels, a faith-based writing group at St. Brigid Catholic Church (my parish). We’ve been meeting since then. To my knowledge, this was the first faith-based group in the San Antonio Archdiocese. My desire has always been to encourage others to write. The women and men, members of Writing with Angels, write beautifully about faith, values, family, traditions, fun, and much more. We journal and write our thoughts and inspirations, our stories, and what is meaningful in our lives. In 2012, we published a Lenten Journey anthology for the parish. During the Pandemic, we stopped meeting in person. However, we hope to resume soon.
I belong to other writing groups as well. These are not faith-based. We write stories, fiction and non-fiction. We are proud of our work and what we’ve published.
I’ve also incorporated writing and journaling at various spiritual retreats which I’ve presented.
One of my hobbies is photography. I am pleased when I use the photographs in my books. I’ve also used my photographs in designing greeting/note cards and coffee cups with inspirational messages. I see this as part of my journey as a writer.
I just submitted a poem which I composed on the situation of the war in Ukraine. Writing this was very enlightening for me as it gave me an opportunity to work on my craft. It allowed me to use my poetic voice amid the voices of many poets who decry the situation. I hope my poem will be accepted for publication. But, if not, I will save it and publish it elsewhere.
As I said at the beginning, I am an author and a writer. Occasionally, though, work that I submitted for publication was not accepted. This is part of being a writer. I still have much to learn about the art of writing. It is while writing and re-writing that I improve on my range of techniques and advance in my craft. I also re-discover the purpose of my writing a particular piece at a particular time in life.
Virginia Alice: Have you always been interested in writing poetry, and can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Mary Olivia: Although I wrote my first poem as a teenager, I cannot recall always wanting to write poetry.
I was a student at Harlandale High School in San Antonio, Texas, when I wrote my first poem. The poem was published in the High School Anthology: Smoke Signals. Unfortunately, I do not recall the name of the poem, nor the poem itself. I lost my copy of Smoke Signals or it stayed behind when I married and left home.
If you are wondering where the name Smoke Signals came from, we were the Harlandale Indians. Our yearbook was called Redskin. I was, and still am, very proud of our high school. It was a place where I had wonderful teachers, and good friends. I found some of these friends again, later in life, at my parish!
In trying to respond to the question about my first poem, I contacted the school on more than one occasion. Recently, when trying again, I spoke with the Librarian. She asked the English Department and had others search elsewhere, but to no avail. The school did not keep the anthologies. The Librarian tried and even had someone contact our alumni. To be fair, I could not expect records from the 1960’s to still be archived.
Although I do not remember the poem itself, it could have been a story of unspoken love or loss. For most of my life before entering high school, we had moved so often, going to different schools. I felt the loss of not staying to finish in one school and of losing track of friends. School was a delightful place of learning and of making new friends.
Most importantly, I loved reading. This included reading poems, such as “Crossing the Bar” by Lord Alfred Tennyson and “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others. I also liked reading stories and novels. I was enthralled with Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, and felt pain for the protagonists. I was absolutely fascinated with The Secret of the Old Clock, The Mystery at Lilac Inn and The Hidden Staircase, and all the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. I read as many of Keene’s books as possible. I enjoyed them so much that I started a collection for my daughter. She still has the books.
Virginia Alice: How did your idea to publish your poems in a book come to be? And do you write poems to fill the content of your book? Or do your books consist of poems already written?
Mary Olivia: Right after I published my first book, Moments of Grace, I was inspired to send the book to Pope Francis at the Vatican. I did. And a few weeks later, I received a response acknowledging my gift and thanking me. I was amazed! I was ecstatic!
But, how did I decide to publish my poems in a book?
First, I need to share that for years, I had wanted to publish a book related to culture and popular religiosity. This was a result of my own religious and theological studies. I had my topic and began my research and interviewing persons for their stories. I had written the first two chapters. I had also written a Proposal to send to a publisher. The publisher was interested in the book and had encouraged me to submit the Proposal. However, I felt the pressures of submitting the Proposal and had self-doubts. I stalled in writing.
At the same time, I’d been composing poetry and saving my poems in a folder on my computer. I had arranged the poems in a particular order. I’d revisit the poems regularly. One day, I realized that the poems cried out to be published. I told myself: “Do it now, or you’ll never do it.” I first sent them to a local printer so that I could see them in book form. This was important to me as it motivated me further to complete the task. I provided a few copies to a select number of persons to read and give me feedback. But I discovered that they were not sure how to give constructive feedback. I wanted to really know what they thought or felt as they read any of the poems. One person did specify a particular poem that appealed to her. That was good.
Knowing that I wanted to publish my poems, my daughter purchased two books for me: The Fine Art of Self- Publishing by Mark Levine and Writing Poetry from the Inside Out by Sandford Lyne. Her encouragement and specific action in sending me the books motivated me very strongly, as nothing else had. I did my research.
Also, during that time, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I was very moved by my experiences. I did not realize during my pilgrimage that poems were germinating within my soul. But, as soon as I returned, I wrote several poems expressing what I’d seen and felt during my pilgrimage.
I feel that the Holy Spirit guided me throughout my journey to write and to publish my book, and subsequently my next book, Living in Heaven’s Earth, and all my writing.
I am always writing. I am always creating poetry. As I work on my books, I revisit my poems and rearrange them in the order I’d like to give them. I also set some poems aside because I feel that they will fit into another book, at another time. What I feel strongly as essential in my writing is to pray, especially when I am discerning how to publish my poems and stories. I am very humbled too when I receive confirmation from the Holy Spirit. In the parish chapel, before the Blessed Sacrament, I had prayed that if only one person was touched by my work, I would have done the Lord’s Will. I believe that my prayer was answered and that my work was affirmed. I believe too that this is what happened when, at home, I was suddenly inspired to send my book to Pope Francis. It was meant to be.
Virginia Alice: Do you hear from your readers, and do they express to you how your poetry affects them?
Mary Olivia: The following are a few of the reactions that I have received regarding my poetry and Moments of Grace:
A dear friend said she kept my book, Moments of Grace, by her bedside. She prayed and reflected while reading my poetry. Through her words and conversations, I knew that she believed in my work and that she treasured it.
She asked me to help her as she wrote her own book. She would prepare tea, and we’d sit together in her lovely and very peaceful living room. I provided my insights and a few suggestions.
My friend, a retired chaplain, and I had worked together in lay ministry. She was a neighbor, a true friend. I always enjoyed our visits, as I mentioned earlier. Over a year ago, she invited me to her home for what would be one of the last times. She wanted to share the end of her journey as she was preparing for her life on earth to pass. During one of our conversations, I remarked: “I am going to write about you!”
“Go for it, girl!” She was an awesome person.
My next example of how my books affected others also came unexpectedly. A parishioner whom I barely knew at the time surprised me when she purchased more than one of my books. I was very moved when she shared that she would read from my book, Moments of Grace, to a friend. They would both cry each time she read some of my poems.
“Why?” My first impression was that my poems were awful. When I asked her, though, she replied that her friend is almost blind, so she would read to her during her visits. I realized then that my words had healing power in them. I learned from her that she was gifting my book to a woman (a relative) whom she was encouraging to write. My friend never forgot that I was working on another book, and she made sure to purchase it, too.
Another person purchased books for herself and later, for her counselor. As a result, the counselor felt that the book would be helpful for some in the support group. I don’t know what happened from this, but I am grateful that she was inspired by my book.
The above experiences really touched me. But another response to my book which surprised me happened one evening. I was coming out of our church, marveling at the cool breeze near my car. Suddenly a voice rang out: “I really love your book! I’ve been reading it.” I knew the young woman, but didn’t realize she’d heard of my book.
One morning soon after, I was in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at our church. I usually remained silent in prayer and meditation. This day, however, I needed to stretch. I got up, walked to the bookcase which stands in the corner of the chapel. Imagine my shock to see Moments of Grace on the shelf!
Please know that I was unsure of whether to share these stories. But from these experiences, I know that someone is reading my poetry and that my words inspire them. I am very humbled, and grateful for this affirmation of my work.
In regards to Living in Heaven’s Earth, I am grateful for the reviews that readers have posted on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble. Among many gracious comments, I learned that some readers look at their losses through a different light after reading my book. I invite you to follow the reviews, and perhaps send in your own. I’d love to hear what my readers think and how they are affected by my poetry.
Virginia Alice: What is one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself while creating your books?
Mary Olivia: Each time I create stories or poems, I learn more about myself. But I’m not always conscious of this until I’ve actually written down my little ‘masterpieces’.
At times, I really surprise myself.
One or two things, or more, that surprise me:
I sometimes look at my stories, poems, and books as little masterpieces because they take so much work and much re-writing, editing, and agonizing. Even so, I discover a few typos. That’s not healthy for a writer. Creativity gives way to painful angst. Can you imagine how horrified the artist feels when seeing even a tiny speck of the wrong paint on his canvas?
Thus, I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try, I might expect an ‘imperfection’.
What surprises me is that once completed or published, I let go. Words have the power to affect, to inspire, and to transform. But we don’t control them once they are printed and published.
I surprise myself when I write what I feel most deeply. Because it’s there, for anyone to see, once it’s published.
I write about the social issues that impact people; and also about what appeals to me as I see the world from my perspective. Depending on the topic, I love to use humor in my work. I had fun creating the poem, “Pesky Squirrel”:
“I look out the window
And what do I see?
That pesky squirrel
Looking back at me!”
(from Living in Heaven’s Earth)
Whenever I read this poem, I laugh! It surprises me to see the words and thoughts jump onto the page, as if of their own accord, as I begin creating.
I’ve learned that I am very imaginative, very intense, and that my spirit is alive, always moved by what is around me: people, creatures, nature, events, and places.
Virginia Alice: As a child, what did you want to be or do when you grew up? Did you have any idea it would include not just writing poetry but also publishing it?
Mary Olivia: As a child, I do not remember if I had any idea of what I wanted to be or become. I do remember that I could play forever in the backyard, lost in my imagination, creating houses and their rooms out of sticks and stones. That I loved climbing trees and jumping down from the branches. That I shivered at the spooky stories my aunt told us to scare us right before bedtime. That my mother told us of the hidden buried treasures left behind by the revolutionaries in Mexico. I remember walking in my sleep! Unconsciously, I went outdoors in the middle of night to the edge of our yard. I then stepped on and walked on the stone fence. Fortunately, my mother and my aunt saw me and followed me until they gently guided me back home. How do I remember if I was asleep? I don’t know, but I can see me as if I am recalling a dream.
You know what else I remember from my childhood? It was my mother. I loved my mother, and enjoyed singing along with her while we listened to the songs on the radio. I was just a child, but already had a deep love for the Mexican songs sung by the greatest of artists. This was natural to us, as we spoke Spanish at home. I learned English when I started elementary. It’s so funny. I remember “A Frog Went a Courting” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Maybe I wanted to be a singer?
Virginia Alice: How do you keep inspired to be a creative writer and inspirational poet?
Mary Olivia: Retreats and day trips are restful and energizing. They refresh me with new and beautiful experiences.
In December, 2019, before the Coronavirus Pandemic hit, I drove to Boerne for a week-long Silent Retreat at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Scholastica. Although packing lightly on some items, I went sort of ‘heavy’ on the reading and prayer material: my Office of Readings Prayer Book, paper, pen, pencil, sketch book, and a journal. I had my cell phone, but only took it out to photograph the beautiful cross and trees before me in the meditation garden. Otherwise, it too was ‘silent’.
This was not my first time for a retreat in Boerne; however, it was my first Silent Retreat there. Joining the Holy Sisters for prayer, Mass, and lunch was an added blessing. I also had a Spiritual Director who guided me through my stay.
My heart had been yearning to return to the Monastery before that December. I feel that It was very providential as the Coronavirus Pandemic began soon after. A foretelling, perhaps?
I ask myself this also because I’m presently in ‘formation’ to become an Oblate of the Benedictine Sisters at St. Scholastica Monastery*. While we can’t meet in person due to the current virus situation, we do meet on Zoom. I pray, and ask for your prayers, as I continue on this spiritual journey.
Revisiting my journal from my retreat, I found a reflection. Here’s a snippet:
“Sister came by to begin guiding me through spiritual direction. She offered some readings from the prophet Samuel for me to reflect on and to allow God to speak to me…to take my time with the Scriptures….
‘Come, Holy Spirit, come. Open my mind, my heart, my soul, to receive Thy Word.’ “
*To read about the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica and the Oblate Program, visit the link:
Virginia Alice: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Mary Olivia: Writing is one of my major passions, but the creativity, research, and work that goes into it can also exhaust me! So, when I can leave my computer and writer’s journal for awhile to play in other ways, I jump at the opportunity.
Like many people who can’t take several days for vacation or rest, I love day trips! Sometimes, they are planned. Other times, my sisters and I take ‘spur-of-the-moment’ trips to nearby towns. We always find something new in Old Town Helotes. In Bandera, after dining at the Old Spanish Trail Restaurant (I imagined what it’d have been like on the trail, eating out of chuck wagons), we walked on the Main Street, and stopped by the river before heading back home.
At the Gristmill in New Braunfels, ducks paddle on the river while we look on over drinks and appetizers; we celebrate birthdays with breakfast/brunch at the Buttermilk Café. Fredericksburg offers lots of antique stores. Corpus Christi is an all-time favorite. We walk on the coastal beaches, explore the Aquarium, and other sites. Blue skies and waves calm me. I hope to, someday, revisit towns along the way to Corpus Christi.
We could be a team of ‘Day-Tripper’ artists!
We’ve driven to places I never expected in the Hill Country: like the mountaintop where a huge cross stands in a Scripture Garden near Kerrville. Seeing Stonehenge II (Ingram) alongside my three-year-old great-nephew reminded me of the sheer innocence of childhood. We strolled down to the Guadalupe River and rested by its bank.
Then again, we always enjoy San Antonio and dining at the historic Mi Tierra where our mother once worked. We reminisce while walking in the Market Square under bright papel picado waving us on.
At the Witte Museum, my niece, her family, and I explored the Dinosaur exhibit, then headed to the San Antonio river meandering through Brackenridge Park. We’ve tried coffee shops (like Dos Hermanos). Everywhere, we encounter history and vibrant images from our richly diverse cultures.
Going on day trips is like journeying through the Seasons and/or cuisine! We find pumpkin patches, Christmas trees in town squares, bluebonnets in the fields. What greater way is there for us to breathe in the sights and wonderful fragrances of nature?
Lastly, visiting my daughter and her family is always a culinary adventure. She and my son-in-law prepare new coffees for me to taste; English style afternoon teas; delicious meals (Crown Roast of Pork, Brined Turkey with trimmings). They had a bakery in Washington State, and now we enjoy their wonderful breads and desserts. After a long absence from San Antonio, we have lots to talk about and share.
Day trips inspire me. Life is good and fruitful in-between writing!
Mary Olivia’s Books
I have read both of Mary Olivia’s books and I can tell you that her poetry is amazing. One of my favorite poems from her book, Moments of Grace, is “Ancient Crannies” (page 57). And an especially touching poem to me from Living in Heaven’s Earth, is “Lord, You Visited Me” (page 174-177); yes, it is a little long, but wonderful all the same. I know, if you love poetry and read her book, you will fall in love with some of her poems, too.
If you are interested in learning more about Mary Oliva Patiño books, Moments of Grace and Living in Heaven’s Earth, both are available at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers bookstore at Bandera Pointe in San Antonio, Texas. Or you can check out either of her books for purchase at the Barnes & Noble links below.
With Deepest Gratitude
First of all, a huge thank you to Mary Olivia for saying ‘yes’ to being my first Inspirational Author for my website. A website which I envision as a place of fun, inspirational resources for anyone and everyone. Well, for those of us who love to be inspired!
And next, but not last, thank you so much to you, my visitor, for visiting Mary Olivia’s author page. I sure appreciate you dropping by to see my first guest Inspirational Author for this year – and for this website – ever. I’m especially honored for the time you took to see what Mary Olivia is doing with her inspirational writing. And I’m grateful for your interest in what Mary Olivia and I are up to and where we are going with our writing and inspiring of others – separately and as authors supporting one another.
Have a beautiful day and come visit again – anytime. I’ll be keeping this page, as well as all the others, updated on a regular basis.
Blessings from Mary Olivia & my hearts to yours!