From July 5th-8th of 2015 we had the visit of the Holy Father to our country, during which he visited two cities: Quito and Guayaquil. Quito is 13 hours away from the novitiate and Guayaquil 7 hours. We traveled to Quito with the Mistress of Novices, 11 novices, two postulants and two aspirants. This visit, which we began on July 4th, was quite an adventure for us, and for weeks before we had been selling “Quimbolitos” (a type of corn cake wrapped in a leaf, which is traditional in Ecuador). First we traveled to Alausí, where we were guests at a Dominican Sisters’ boarding school. We left early for Riobamba to go to Mass at the Monastery of the Las Conceptas [Conceptionist Sisters], where there is the image of “Señora del Buen Suceso” [Our Lady of Good Success]. Finally we embarked on our trip to Quito, where we were received by the Franciscan Sisters of Sr. Francisca de las Llagas Cornejo at their retreat house located in Tumbaco. The next day while we awaited the Pope’s arrival in Quito we had the opportunity to get to know the “middle of the world,” since many of us are from other countries and not even all of the Ecuadorians are familiar with Quito.
Upon arriving back at the house we received the news that the Holy Father would pass by just two blocks away from where we were staying and we immediately prepared ourselves to see him. There were already many people waiting on the avenue when we arrived, several of whom moved closer to us with the hope that the Holy Father might stop if he saw religious – but he did not, although many of us were able to see him wave and give a blessing. However, we took advantage of our time here to do apostolate.
The following day we rose early for the Mass in Bicentennial Park, which would be the biggest gathering with the Holy Father. In the hours before the Mass they prayed the Rosary and Lauds, and then sang songs, and we dedicated ourselves to apostolate. We were bearing the Argentinean flag with the name of the Servidoras. The atmosphere was joyful and expectant, we wanted to see the Holy Father, even if he would be far away. First, the image of The Sorrowful Mother of Quito entered (a painting of the Sorrowful Virgin which children at the Jesuit school “La Dolorosa” have seen blink a few times) and then the Holy Father passed throughout the park in the Pope-mobile.
In his homily the Pope constantly exhorted us to unity saying, “Be one so that the world may believe,” “it is impossible for unity to shine if worldliness reigns among us,” “evangelizing means to attract by our witness those who are faraway,” “by giving himself, man finds himself again as a son with the father,” etc. After the Holy Mass, many people approached us as we left the park, attracted by the quantity of sisters and the flag we were carrying, and we were able to talk with them. We returned to the house to rest, and then set out on our journey again, this time to Quinche, where the Holy Father was to meet with religious the following day. By the grace of God we were able to be right in front of the stage. While we awaited the Pope’s arrival, the different religious communities that were in attendance gave presentations of various kinds.
There, the Holy Father gave a discourse in which he gave us two principles that we as religious must keep in mind our entire lives: first, a spirit of gratitude, which should manifest itself in our lives, as we remember that God has given us everything freely and that in the same way we should freely give him everything. “Be careful not to fall into the dangerous sickness of spiritual Alzheimer’s,” he said. Together with this he invited us to profoundly renew again the demands of the religious life, remembering the very special call to perfection that we have received from Jesus Christ. When we arrived, two novices were able to move forward and ended up exactly in front of the Holy Father. When he was leaving, one of them was able to approach him through an opening between the stage and the exit; she told him that she was a Servant of the Lord, gave him a rosary, and the Holy Father blessed her cross. We were all very excited as we watched all of this happen from a distance.
Leaving the park, four sisters went to the church of St. Francis, where you needed tickets to enter, which they gave to us. They gave us seats that were exactly under where the Holy Father was speaking.
After the Pope’s visit, we took the opportunity to stay two more days on pilgrimage to get to know the churches, cathedrals and museums in Quito. We were able to visit two of our saints: St. Mariana de Jesús, who is called the Lily of Quito and is well known for her intense penances (in the same church there is a replica of The Sorrowful Mother of Quito) and St. Brother Miguel Febres Cordero. Furthermore, we visited the tomb of Servant García Moreno (former president of Ecuador) and the convent of Fr. Almeida. We also had the grace to do apostolate there with the children who shine shoes in the plaza.
We give thanks to God for the visit of the Holy Father to our country and for the chance to become more familiar with our country, especially with our saints and history.
The Sisters of the Madre María Reina del Cisne Novitiate