It is very difficult to briefly sum up what it means for 16 sisters from the International Juniorate in Italy to be in Argentina, the fatherland of our Congregation, to have Mass at “the Finca”, to visit these places which are so cherished by all.
We were able to experience very vividly the family spirit… and from the first moment it seemed to us that we were at home. All of the students felt the same; beginning with our arrival at Santa Catalina’s the evening of September 13th. Not only with the classic “welcome” song, with its laughter and clapping, but also on account of the sacrifices and the effort that was made every day in organizing and helping us to travel from one site to another in order to visit different places in San Rafael, such as the mercy homes, the monastery, the school…
We were drawn in by the good examples. With enthusiasm and joy, fathers, mothers, sisters, and even families recounted to us about the beginning of our Congregation. And they rejoiced to see the fruits now: in Egypt, Holland, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, Spain, even Hong Kong and the Philippines… I think we bombarded more than one person with our questions and videos…
Among the people who are well known to us through “stories”, it is fitting to describe the entertaining talk we were able to have with Br. Jorge Pedernera, better known as “el Payo”, who shared innumerable anecdotes with us, including how he and the seminarian Marcelo Morsella were inspired to write together to Sr. Lucia of Fatima, asking her to be the “chaplain” of the IVE and to pray for the “future sisters”.
Our days were passed amid happiness, enthusiasm, and prayer.
One highlight was the trip to Isabella the Catholic school. We first encountered everyone during the Eucharistic break, and when this finished there was an explosion of laughter and comments. The children happily drew near to ask us questions about our countries and for autographs in Chinese, Arabic and all the other languages. We were impressed to see how they studied and how they prayed. One spontaneous child from the kindergarten, after the prayer blessing their breakfast, cried out: “Viva the Virgen” [“Long live the Virgin Mary!”], and the other youths were dancing and singing with us. The friendliness that they demonstrated and the life of grace that was reflected in their little faces truly caught our attention.
We were also able to participate in the youth camp which is organized every year for the students: we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by 530 youths, jumping and singing the students’ anthem. Camping was spectacular. We had heard something about the past camps, but we thoroughly enjoyed being there. We also hiked up a mountain peak and participated in all the activities.
The Mercy Homes, cornerstones of the apostolic growth of our Institute, were an authentic school of virtue. We saw some fairly unusual things, for example, one of the “little angels”, which is how they call the most severely disabled children, with a mate in his hand!; and a very funny little girl who persecuted us throughout the siesta, wanting us to make her mate because the Sisters always did this, and she couldn’t understand why we didn’t know how to prepare it well. [editor’s note: mate is a traditional herbal tea, to prepare it well may be considered a science]
What impressed us about this apostolate, and which serves as a beautiful testimony, was the dedication of the priests and sisters 24 hours/day toward the interns of the house, and their immense trust in Divine Providence. It caught our attention at the feasts, how they transport wheelchairs from one place to another so that the sick could enjoy and participate in the skits and songs, demonstrating always such good spirit.
The trip was made complete with a classic Argentine asado [barbeque] with one of the families of the Third Order. We were also able to visit many families of the sisters. One of the mothers was greatly moved when we entered her house singing, because she remembered her daughter who is now a missionary far away.
We went to the cemetery at the Finca, and prayed at the tombs of the deceased members of our Institute. We also visited the museum of Marcelo Morsella, which is located in the only one of the original cabins that remains. We could see many things, among them: the handkerchief that wiped away his blood before dying, and the clothes that he wore at that moment, etc. For many of us, this visit and the trip to Nihuil were an occasion to awaken a real devotion to Marcelito, who together with the others who have “already arrived” to eternity, are concrete examples of how to live our charism and how to fight for sanctity.
We wanted to visit Cristo de la Quebrada, but a fire in San Luis impeded our arrival there, so we changed our course and went to the home of the mother of Fr. Diego Cano, where we had an exposition about this image of the Crucified by Sr. Virgine, an ice cream, and a very interesting conversation about the work of Fr. Lojoya in San Luis.
In La Plata, we experienced a very different reality from that which we had experienced up until then. We were impressed by the poverty and the lives of the people whom the sisters do apostolate with. We participated in the “Cruzados de Jesus”, a youth group whom we helped to catechize, shared a snack with them and some songs.
The cherry on top of our pilgrimage, incredible but true as it was, was a Sunday before the Virgin of Lujan, in a magnificent basilica, large and adorned with images of the saints. We took advantage to ask many graces from Her, especially the grace of fidelity to our vocation and to the charism which God has called us to. Afterwards we had a reunion in Bella Vista with all of the families of the Third Order, and, of course, we went to see our sisters in Campo Mayo.
In conclusion, we can say that God has asked us to live out a charism which we have come to know and love, little by little, but without a doubt, in Argentina we have seen, heard, and experienced many things which help us to have an even greater knowledge and love for this charism.
Returning, we had to pay a “toll of tears” at parting, but we filled our suitcases with the goods that we drew from this: the family spirit, the good examples, the love of the charism, and many other things… greater than words can express.
What we have lived, learned, and prayed serves to increase our love of God and our service to souls in the missions, while always in the heart of our beloved Institute. In return, we hope to be able to render lives of self-giving and fidelity in the little things, “seeking to be another Incarnation of the Word”.
In Christ and Mary,
Sister Maria Vera Imago Christi
St. Theresa of Jesus International Juniorate, Bagnoregio, Italy.