If Eva Queral Fiastro could write a book about the three women who greatly impacted her life, it would focus on her mother and two nuns at Notre Dame Preparatory School, Towson, from where she graduated in 1969.
“They were incredible,” said Mrs. Fiastro, 56, a dentist, speaking of the late Sister Helen Marie Duffy, S.S.N.D., and the late Sister Ellis Denny, S.S.N.D. “They were dynamic women who made me believe in myself and who demanded excellence. They gave me the tools to do well in school, and inspired confidence.”
Arriving in Baltimore in 1957 at age 5 from Havana, Cuba, the then-Miss Queral and her brother (Dr. Luis A. Queral, chief vascular surgeon at Mercy Hospital, Baltimore) were immediately enrolled in the former St. Bernard School, Baltimore.
The Querals knew a Catholic school would be the best place for their children to make the cultural transition, said their daughter. Without speaking English, the young girl was the only immigrant in the first-grade class.
“My parents were right,” said Mrs. Fiastro. “The sisters set the example. I was never made to feel different. They never tried to squash out the Hispanic component. They reinforced what my parents were already teaching me, belief in myself and respect for others.”
The Queral children transferred to St. William of York School, Baltimore, when the family moved. Stretching to pay the $45 annual tuition for both children as they juggled through an internship and residency as physicians, Mrs. Fiastro said her parents worked very hard.
Now in their mid-80s, they live close by their daughter, who assists them with age-related issues.
Mrs. Fiastro entered NDP with a sound grammar school education, she believed, strong in reading, writing and arithmetic, along with a grounding in the “Baltimore Catechism.”
An all-girls high school further challenged her to view the world as a place where she could make a difference.
Over the years she has serviced parishes, NDP and Boys Hope, for which she offers dentistry pro bono in the Baltimore Highlands private practice she shares with her husband, John Fiastro.
“But,” she said with a winning smile, “I am most proud of my service to the Hispanic community, first through the Hispanic Apostolate and now through my dental practice.”
An officer on the NDP board of trustees, she is also head of their Institutional Advancement Committee. Mrs. Fiastro’s goal is to establish an endowment at NDP to assist Hispanic girls.
“One thing NDP did for me as an immigrant,” she said, “was help me understand I needed to be aware of society, to give back.”
At the Church of the Nativity in Lutherville, Mrs. Fiastro serves on the host ministry (greeting and welcoming Mass attendees), and as extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Formerly she served on the parish council, and has organized and fundraised for World Youth Day trips to Rome, Toronto and Cologne, Germany.
The Fiastros chose to educate their three children the Catholic way, via the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Homeland; Loyola Blakefield, Towson; and NDP.
“The excellent education I received those 12 years,” she said of her upbringing, “without a doubt prepared me intellectually for success in college and dental school. Catholic education prepared me to be an educated, confident woman who values and respects others, understands her responsibility to society, and challenges herself to make a difference in the world.”