As I mentioned in the last blog post, the Sunday morning routine was quite a bit different from other mornings. Prayers started in the Oratory in the house rather than in the chapel. It turns out Padre Martín was scheduled to say an 11:30 a.m. Mass in Santa Eulalia, a small city up in the hills. As the community said their prayers, I wrote the Day 5 blog knowing there was a busy day ahead. Our Sunday breakfast was these large square tamales with a bit of chicken inside. I remember buying them in the market the other day, but they were wrapped in large green leaves and tied with string. I had no idea they were tamales when we bought them.
Before we left for Santa Eulalia we were joined by Madre Teresa of the female branch and her first Aspirant, María de Guadalupe, a young girl of 17 who moved into the female convent with Madre Teresa in May. Also joining Madre Teresa was her niece, Marice, who also lives in the convent but not as an Aspirant. She is actually a lawyer and has a sweet, bubbly personality. With Brother Pio driving the van, newly repaired after breaking down on Saturday (but still needing a new radiator), we set off for Santa Eulalia. Padre Martín told me it was only 15 minutes away, but it took over 30 minutes to get there.
I had never heard of Saint Eulalia, but she is the co-patron saint of Barcelona and was a 13-year-old Roman Christian virgin who suffered martyrdom in Barcelona during the persecution of Christians in the reign of emperor Diocletian. This local church was built by the community over a hundred years ago so they would have a place to worship. As the preparations for Mass were underway, Brothers Domingo and Miguel Ángel played guitar and sang. The musical talent displayed by some of the brothers is just astonishing. There are at least four who play guitar and sing.
The Mass and homily were all in Spanish of course. Padre Martín had told me he would not be speaking as slowly during the homily and an interpretation would be difficult, so I didn’t bother asking Br. Luis to try. I do know toward the end of the homily he mentioned the video we have on the website where The Lord made his presence known during the Mass in San Antonio. I have the original on both my iPhone and IPAD, so I showed it many times during my trip. The link was since posted by the brothers or other friends of Padre, and it’s been viewed in several South American and European countries since then.
The Female Order
On the drive back Madre Teresa pulled out her wallet and showed me it was completely empty (it was relevant to the conversation at the time). I had several coins in my hand, so I gave them to her along with a Peruvian $20 bill. We made it back to the convent and had a very lively lunch. Madre Teresa really wanted me to visit her convent before I left, and Padre Martín had to perform a burial service so it was a good time to go. Br. Luis and I accompanied Madre Teresa and the two young ladies back to her convent. We were dropped off on a main road, and then we took two motorcycle taxis up the hill to the convent. These little three-wheeled vehicles were all over the place, and I had really wanted to try one. Once was enough!
Madre Teresa gave me a full tour of the convent explaining the improvements and plans she had to build the new order from scratch. When I say from scratch, it is in the most literal terms. There was very little furniture and many empty rooms. We sat down for a full interview so I could learn her story. She felt something stirring at the age of 13, but confirmed her calling to religious life at 16. Her family did not (and still does not) approve. She took her first vows in December of 1983 to join Canonesas de la Cruz in Lima and rotated to several houses of the Order, ending her time with the Order in Huaraz, Peru.
From 1992 she developed a great devotion to Divine Mercy. She spent about seven years discerning the calling she felt to found her own order centered on Divine Mercy. She was very nervous about it, but she knew it was the will of God and it would be okay. As an example of how her trust in God works, she mentioned how in the morning she had no money to pay the motorcycle taxi driver, but then I gave her the coins in the car, “See? Providence!” After conversations with a Franciscan Capuchin priest and another Mother Superior, she was introduced to Padre Martín. Her order did not want to let her go, and they still want her back, but she recieved approval from the Vatican to be released to found the new order, Hermanas Misioneras de la Misericordia de Dios, or Missionary Sisters of God’s Mercy. She also took on her new name, Madre Teresa de la Misericordia de Dios.
Through her outreach efforts at mostly girl’s schools she has about 20 young women who would like to come and “have an experience” as they call it. This is where the young women come and live in the convent for one or two weeks to see if they would like to become an Aspirant. She said it would cost about $100 each, and that would include travel for the girls. She wants to host 10 at a time. I asked about the process to become a nun, and it is somewhat similar to becoming a priest. They spend six months as an Aspirant, one year as a Postulant, and then two years as a Novice (wearing the full habit). After the Novitiate, they take “simple” vows then spend five years in formation as a “Juniorado” (in Spanish). They then take perpetual vows and recieve their ring.
Madre Teresa is so full of love and joy and trust in God. She has a great clarity of purpose about her, but she is in great need of benefactors to help fulfill her vision. Her focus this year is on getting vocations, but she knows she must also establish longer term connections with benefactors for ongoing support. It’s important, I think, to emphasize again that both branches rely solely on Divine Providence for their existence. They do not receive support from the Church. They rely on people like you to be inspired to help them. I’ve never met a more thankful group, even for the smallest contribution.