Greetings. My name is Dolores. I have been asked to share with all of you in a few words why I am a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. So I begin by explaining why I follow “this man who gave his life for you and for me.”
Any option today, given the social circumstances, may seem a little naive and daring. But… our Founder, St. Vincent de Paul, told us: “Being a Daughter of Charity is the same as being a good Christian; it consists only in doing what the son of God did on earth, and he went through the world doing good.“ There is the key.
I was born into a Christian family. The testimony of my family was essential when making a choice which was marked by interior journey. With their example, they taught me to love God and help those who are in need. I also had the good fortune to receive education in a school run by the Daughters of Charity in Arucas (Spain), and to belong to a parish community that was led by members of the Congregation of the Mission. Both the Daughters and Fr. Santiago were and are a reference point for me. I was a member of the Vincentian Marian Youth (JMV), growing in my faith and commitment Then, one summer I felt the call to have a missionary experience. I offered my services to Cuba and became engaged in a very enriching Vincentian project, that was also essential when making a decision about options for my life. Without a doubt, when one truly finds oneself with Christ, one does not remain indifferent. But the difficult thing today is to create a space for an encounter with Him. In this climate in which it becomes so easy to focus on material things, the question becomes: why make a choice to follow Jesus? First, one must be willing to engage in a journey and thus, willing to meet the God of Jesus… connect with that Person who gives meaning to everything that happens; then comes the rest.
It is clear that, in these times, it is not easy to be a Christian. We live in a world where events take place, one after the other, and… there are not many spaces that allow stopping, reflecting, thinking… there is a lack of a base that supports and helps integrate what is lived. But that does not mean it is not possible. In the last exhortation of Pope Francis, addressed to the young people and to all the people of God, he makes an extraordinary reference to the Virgin Mary… it was not easy for Her either – imagine the scene and the situation at the time – but Mary took the risk and that’s why she is strong. The Pope calls her the influencer of God, because she is convinced and feels herself the bearer of a promise. In spite of everything, the “yes” and the desire to serve were stronger than doubts and difficulties. If we delve a bit into the Gospel, wherever we read it, we can notice God calling us. For example, I stop to reflect on the text that says: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” And, I add, not so much with our words, but with our testimony, with our way of to live life in God, being the “influencers” of the “now.”
Our society is full of confused and lost individuals who are absorbed in the superficial and their own small world, which, in turn, can make it difficult to discover a God who calls men and women by name. Discovering this does not leave me indifferent; on the contrary, it moves me and calls me to move out into the midst of the world and to confront those situations of injustice that oppress so many of our brothers and sisters … That is why I am a Daughter of Charity, today, in the 21st century. And what do I do? I collaborate with God in the construction of the Kingdom. It is necessary that we unfold the map of the world, that in one hand, we hold the Gospel and in the other hand, we hold the newspaper which contains stories about events where the face of God is present: abandoned children, disasters, prisoners, immigrants, war, hunger, young people without orientation, people who long for justice and the dignity that belongs to them. Are not these also sheep for whom God has given his life? Is a greater reason needed to decide to live life as a Daughter of Charity? I am a Daughter of Charity because of an inner conviction: “What I have received freely, I want to give freely to others.” Because I met Jesus, I could do nothing anything but “get behind him and follow in his footsteps.” The encounter with Jesus impelled to place all that I am and all that I have at the service of others.
Currently I minister at the school in Arucas… the same place where I grew up and became rooted in the faith. Every morning, God gives me the opportunity to encounter situations that speak to me about God and that call me to respond with simple gestures, which are translated into listening, welcoming, being at the side, understanding, accompanying countless men and women… trying to build bridges. Being a Daughter of Charity is a way of understanding life, always reaching out to those most in need… because I believe that this is what Jesus wanted.
I am lucky to be able to live every day the Parable of the Good Samaritan with live images. Today many people are found on the countless “roads” that go from Jerusalem to Jericho… If we were to ask Jesus again: which one of of those travelers has behaved as a neighbor? Without a doubt, he would answer us again: “Those who practice mercy.”
Let us dare to keep alive the closing words of that parable: “go and do the same!”
My vocational history is translated into this, it is my life, it is my passion… at a certain moment it was an encounter with Jesus and now, it is spending my whole day with Him… because each morning I renew my option to follow him, convinced that He needs us to awaken the world and we cannot fall asleep… Pope Francis also tells us: “The Lord is calling us to enkindle stars in the night of other young people. He asks you to look to the true stars…God lights up stars to help us keep walking… Christ himself is our great light of hope and our guide in the night, for he is the bright morning star”… “The stars shine in their watches, and are glad; he calls them and they say: ‘Here we are!'” (Baruch 3:34-35)… I invite you, as the Pope tells us: to “make a mess,” to be the “influencers of the now,” “to make a mark in this world”… to be brave, not to be afraid… I invite you to pray, to pause open your heart to God and… if you listen to his “call,” dare to answer him…
Happy Paschal Journey!
I give you, as a symbol, a “little jingle bell” that represents humility, discretion… but its sound “makes a mess,” attracts, invites, guides, accompanies, is meaningful… let us be, like that rattle, a reflect of the mercy of God there where each one we have been called.
Let us make ours the wish expressed by the Pope at the end of his last Apostolic Exhortation:
“Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, attracted by the face of Christ… The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them!”
Sister María Dolores Guerra Ferrera, Daughter of Charity.