At the beginning of this Year of Mercy, we would like to thank God for the many signs of His kindness that we have received this past year of 2015 here at the mission of the Don Bosco Oratory in La Plata.
There is always so much that we would like to share with you, but it is not easy to relate every single grace we have received. Thus, we would like to speak about two of the many graces God has given us.
The first grace begins with the words of one of the children with whom we work: “I am going to get baptized.” Here is a child who is 10 years old, and who has wanted to be baptized since he was two. However, his father had refused to let him, and with every year passing, he sees the other children being baptized and grows sad. This year he told each sister: “This year I am going to get baptized.” And so it was…
His father is a drug addict who suffers from AIDS and is very aggressive. The boy, along with his grandmother (his father’s mother), frequently has to endure some very aggressive situations. Often his father returns home and proceeds to beat everything: things, as well as people—including the boy himself and his grandma (the grandma is the one who takes care of the boy and is in charge of his education, since the boy’s mother died of AIDS after giving birth to him).
We are telling this short story of suffering because the boy told a sister: “I want to be baptized so I can become a child of God…but my dad can’t find out.” His grandma helped us arrange the circumstances so that the baptism could take place.
The day before he was to receive baptism, Sergio joyfully came to tell us: “Everything’s ready, I’m going to get baptized tomorrow…but my dad can’t find out because otherwise he’ll hit me.” Imagine the situation of the sisters. Two sisters went to his house, and to their surprise, everything was prepared but “hidden” from the boy’s father. The boy had a huge smile on his face and whispered in one of the sisters’ ears: “Don’t say anything to my dad…he’s sick today.” (“sick” means: under the influence of drugs and alcohol).
The day anticipated by this soul, who is so small and yet so big, finally arrived, and he received the Sacrament of Baptism. His grandmother accompanied him; his godmother was one of the sisters and a man from the parish was his godfather.
To add one last detail: when they asked the boy his name, he said: Sergio Ezekiel Joseph (Sergio Ezequiel José). The grandmother told him that he did not have ‘Joseph’ in his name. The little one replied, “It’s so he can help me… Can I add ‘Joseph’ to my name? Like St. Joseph?” And in her simple way, the grandmother told him yes.
I believe that God the Father of Kindness does not let Himself be outdone in generosity, as we have so often heard, but to encounter so closely the innocence and kindness of God through St. Joseph has been an incredibly edifying experience for us here in this mission, where we work so closely with children who remain joyful in the midst of thousands of sufferings and challenges.
He not only received baptism, but also continued to receive catechesis for Confession, and at the end of the year, he made his first confession. This next year he will begin preparations to receive Confirmation. Let us give thanks to God, who always cares so delicately for his little devoted ones!
The second grace has to do with a group of siblings. There are five in the family; one of the smallest ones has special needs and one of the girls is in the “Cruzados de Jesús” parish group. All of them have come to the Oratory since they were little. The mother lets her children take part in all the activities the sisters do at the Oratory, because, as she always says: “If they are with the sisters, the sisters will take care of them and everything will be fine.” Two years ago, the girl asked to be baptized; last year she received Confirmation, and this year she has asked to receive her First Communion. This all was a great challenge for her, and here is the story:
For some girls, making one’s First Communion means to renounce many things: no more fighting, no more saying bad words, choosing to do something good, treating well the girl I don’t like, not getting angry when people don’t do what I want and being agreeable with everyone…forgiving even when rejected, etc. All these good actions were interiorized in this girl. She especially helped out with Eucharistic Adoration every Thursday, praying with great fervor. She liked to make offerings to the Child Jesus. The fact that she participated in “los Cruzados de Jesús” allowed her to observe other children who were also striving for virtue and making every effort to behave well. All this, combined with special graces of which only God knows, were working in the girl’s soul. One day, rejoicing, she came to tell us: “Sisters, my mom has decided to baptize my brother with special needs!” She was so happy that she told as many people as she could find.
Not only that, but this little boy, angel of charity, with whom God had blest the family, was also extremely happy. The boy was eleven years old and could not speak very well, only make sounds. Neither could he walk; his siblings had to bring him in a wheelchair. They took care of him as if he were made of glass! It was amazing to see the care with which the children treated their little brother.
And then came the week of graces…Merlina made her First Communion, and the following week Hernan was baptized, and…here was another great grace: for the first time, their parents came to a Celebration of the Holy Mass. It was very edifying to see the little boy as he was being baptized; his joy was so great that it lit up his face! The parents told us: “He’s been awake since six this morning, and he woke the rest of us up as well! Merlina told us… ‘It’s because they’re going to baptize him, and he doesn’t want to be late!’” The world of these children and their great desires is incredible…when the time for communion came, the girl Merlina went up to receive Jesus with such devotion that, I believe, she must have been giving thanks for the many blessings in her family …
Many times, here in this little place in La Plata, in the Don Bosco Oratory, God permits us to witness his kindness and mercy in the midst of such suffering. We do not stop being astonished at ourselves nor do we stop offering our lives so that Jesus Christ may every day be better known and loved by these children and by their families.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said to her sisters, “Serve Jesus with joy and gladness of spirit – casting aside and forgetting all that troubles and worries you. To be able to do all these, pray lovingly like children with an earnest desire to love much and to make loved the Love that is not loved.”
Dear Religious Family, we thank you all for the prayers that unite us to everyone in one “great family.” Know that the children pray for each and every one of you every day. Together we seek that God may every day be better known and loved.
Long live the congregation! Viva la Virgen! Viva Jesús Eucarístico!
Missionary Sisters in La Plata, Argentina –the Don Bosco Oratory