Delegation “Maria Puerta de la Aurora” – Holland
May 17, 2023
Dear Religious Family,
The date on which we wrote this chronicle was February 8, a day dedicated to the members of our Religious family who are now living with Christ. For this occasion, we wanted to bring back the memory of one of these members: Annie, a lady who frequented our church in Heiloo, in the North of Holland.
We met Annie in Heiloo a few years ago. She came to Mass in the sanctuary every Wednesday. She would greet us and sometimes stop by for a cup of coffee and give us an envelope with some money for our needs. At first glance, she looked like one of the many people who help our communities in different parts of the world, but to us she was special.
Who was this kind woman? Ana Maria (Annie) was born on January 13, 1928, and was the youngest of a large family of fifteen children. The family suffered the bitterness of losing several children to various illnesses of the time. Annie did not have the opportunity to know some of them. She said that, being the youngest, she was the most spoiled of them all. Her parents, who had a faith strengthened by suffering and hardship, gave her a great example by their words and deeds. For example, Annie said that they prayed the rosary as a family every day and it was very normal for them to help missionaries wherever and however they could.
In her teens, seeing the care that her parents and older siblings had for her, she decided to study nursing so that she could assist them until her death. Thus, Annie never married.
Following her parents’ example and practicing the habit she had learned as a child; Annie was always attentive to our needs. Thus, on her own initiative, she would come from time to time at the time of asparagus or cherries to share them with us and other communities. In the month of our birthdays, she would ask each sister what she wanted or needed. If a sister’s shoes were broken or worn out, Annie always had to go and get new ones, even if the sister was only visiting.
So began our outings with Annie to the store or to the market. Once, walking arm in arm with one of us, she proudly said: “Now they think I’m your grandmother”. From then on, we adopted her as our grandmother, which in Dutch would be Oma. We all used to call her Oma when referring to her, so now we will also refer to her with this affectionate familial title.
On our trips, Oma would ask us questions about faith and tell us about her prayer life, her difficulties and temptations. One of them was that she could not pray attentively the rosary she recited every day. We explained to her how to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary with the help of a passage from Sacred Scripture. This was new for her, and it really helped her a lot. We also gave her the book The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen, with which she was very happy. Oma would imagine how Jesus would feel as she meditated on the mysteries of His life, so that she could talk to him about it afterwards.
Thus, her desire to talk about these fascinating moments of prayer grew more and more, and she looked for the opportunity to “buy new shoes”.
She once recounted to us how many years ago Catholics in Holland were taught that confession was no longer necessary: “Confession… Yes, it was no longer necessary, so I didn’t go to confession either. Until, after twenty years or so without confession, I came to Heiloo, where I saw that the sacrament of confession was offered. I then asked the lady next door if this sacrament still existed, because it had not been necessary for a long time. This lady looked at me and said, “That’s because the devil already has you in his power! He wants us to believe that! I got scared, I kept thinking about it and decided to go to confession”.
Oma loved Our Lady. Every first Saturday she went to the shrine for Holy Mass and confession. She liked to travel to the Marian shrines of Lourdes, Fatima, Banneux… wherever Our Lady was. She wanted to one day take us with her, but it was never possible. Soon the time had come for God to ask her to make a great sacrifice. Oma fell as she got out of bed one morning, and broke her nose and right shoulder. From then on, she could not drive anymore and had to rely on other, very charitable people, to drive her or bring her to where she needed to go. For her this was very difficult. Complaining was not one of her habits and she during this time she never did complain. Rather, she thanked God for everything, something characteristic of Oma. Now she could not go to Mass every day, as usual, which was an enormous cross for her. However, listening to Radio Maria… was a solution… By God’s grace, technology today is very advanced and we can make good use of it. So, we helped Oma to buy a tablet so that she could watch Mass daily, which was better than just listening to it. Every day she gave thanks for the tablet, because it helped her to take better advantage of Mass during the week.
Her relationship with God continued to grow as her faith life grew stronger. Was God asking her to become a member of our Religious Family? Desire for holiness and apostolic zeal were not lacking. Wherever she could, she spoke to people about Jesus and encouraged them to go to confession, especially among her relatives.
We asked her if she wanted to be a member of the Third Order, to which she answered: “What could I do for you with my advanced age?” In the end, convinced that her age was not the most important thing, but being a member of our Religious Family and that her prayers were necessary, she decided to join. After a preparation to live our spirituality – of which she affirmed: “Everything written here (Directory of the Third Order) fits perfectly, it cannot be otherwise” – together with a group of people, she entered as a member of the Third Order on May 8, 2021. At the ceremony she received the little Cross of Matará, which she wore with love and great joy as a “jewel”. Oma was now “our Oma”: within the same Religious Family, all the other members of the Third Order, whom she got to know through the different meetings we organized, affectionately called her by the same name.
God would ask her for one last sacrifice. Oma would be ninety-five years old on January 13, 2023. More than six months before, she was already organizing everything to celebrate her birthday with her “new family” in her home. The date of the party was set for January 19, and Oma invited the sisters and all the members of the Third Order. Months before the party, even before the date was set, she had walked to the Chinese restaurant in order to arrange the food because she was going tohave a big party. When it would be, she didn’t know yet, but it was going to be a big party!
That was Oma, generous, grateful, always thinking of others.
But on January 5, Oma became ill and was taken to the hospital. On January 6 she received the last rites from Fr. Bruno, her parish priest, and on January 7 she died in the hospital. It was surely a great sacrifice for her that none of us could be present. She loved us very much. But we are sure that she offered this sacrifice for our Religious Family.
She was buried on January 13, her birthday, in Broek op Langedijk. We did not celebrate her 95th birthday with her here on earth, but she celebrated it with ours in heaven, in the company of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, to whom she always wanted to lend a hand. So then, yes, it was a great party.
Thank you, Oma, for your example and love for the Church; thank you for being a model of a grateful spirit; for your attentions and generosity; thank you for your prayers. We will miss you. Pray for us there in Heaven where we hope to meet you soon.
Thank you, dear Congregation, for having such precious members preceding us. Thank God for allowing us to have Oma among us.
Below is the letter she wrote when she entered the Third Order.
In Christ and Mary Most Holy,
Missionaries in Heiloo, Holland
Letter from Oma after entering the Third Order.
Saturday, May 16, 2021
A week has passed since then, who would have thought it would lead to such a change in my life. I had no idea what was in store for me.
During the Mass I was completely thrilled by the response I said, “Here I am”, and by my “Fiat” that I signed on the altar. How wonderful!
Yes… That Fiat, that I had to think about for so long, the answer to which I found on page 100 (Oma refers here to a prayer booklet she had). The little cross makes me recall the promise I made, in the mornings I kiss it and it is a jewel around my neck.
When I arrived back to my home, a neighbor asked me how it was, etc… She is a Protestant, but she is interested in my life.
At night I could not sleep, absorbed in my thoughts, it makes me happier and happier to have taken this step, I have a huge sense of happiness.
I see that I am more attentive to my prayers. Before it was something else, something like: “Well, it’s done and now… a cup of coffee”.
My thoughts are deeper… how can I explain it?
I always thought: 93 years old… what can I do, I’m too old to start this… but now I’m more than grateful that I did it. God willing, I hope to be years among you, because now I realize that I started to do many things in a better way and I hope to continue to grow and do it always better. Well, we will do our best.
If this were an exam, you would think that I can’t express well what I have lived (you would give me a 4!).
Greetings from Oma Annie