50 years of consecrated life in Paysandú-Uruguay
I would like to share with you what has moved me to celebrate and to give thanks: the great Love of God I have experienced in my life and during those 50 years of consecrated life!
I was born in Lota, Chile, a mining town. My parents: Juan de Dios Torres and Berta Estela Zapata, were persons who were very committed: in the church, socially and politically. There were six children, five boys and myself, the only girl. I studied in a private secular school, in a college run by religious and in the state secondary school of the neighbouring town. During that period, my attention was caught by some nuns coming and going on bicycles or walking hurriedly through the streets of my town. They had arrived in Lota when I was fifteen years old. At the age of nineteen I was looking for some excuse to get to know them better. As, at that time, the sisters were running a dispensary it occurred to me that, since I had to have some injections, it was an opportunity to make contact with them. And those nuns were the Little Sisters of the Assumption!
I felt very welcome from the first moment. I began to go out with them “on the mission”, as they described their work of going every day to the houses of miners’ poor families, to places that, being from Lota, I had never imagined could exist. I was a witness of the great love and respect with which they went to the poor and the great affection the families had for "la madrecita" (“the little mother”) or the “monjtas enfermeras” (little nursing nuns) as they were called at that time.
In this environment of humility and simplicity, something beautiful, special, broadened the heart: the Love of God, our Father! And how beautiful it is to experience the Love of God in our lives! The feeling that I was a “favourite” daughter, sometimes having experiences more notable than others! To feel that He is holding your hand, guiding you, as on the occasion, when I was 14 years old and a pan full of boiling sugar fell on me, burning me, I felt that “somebody” was looking after me to put out the flames and save my life!
When, at the age of 19, I expressed the wish to be a little Sister, my mother was happy! Papa accepted at first, and then changed his mind. At that time my little 8-year-old nephew died in an accident, his first grandson and his pet. Papa’s reaction in the midst of his sorrow was: “Truly, when God wants something, he does not ask our permission, he just takes it!” That same month, my parents accompanied me to Santiago where the formation would begin, prior to the departure for the postulate in Argentina.
At that time, I used to think that I had left my family forever, but God is not outdone in generosity: he made it possible for them to be cared for during their final years by their daughter, a religious!
In my life as a Little Sister of the Assumption, I experienced that my family had increased enormously, with all those families and persons with whom I shared the life of a Little Sister in following Jesus Christ, Servant and Saviour. I experienced that God has given me the mission, as to each Little Sister throughout the world, to be that instrument by which God Himself, in visible form, goes to each person in order to show that person his love, at a selected moment, in a discreet way, through simple service, attentive listening, a necessary accompaniment, contributing in this way that the Reign of God, of Truth, of Love and of Justice may continue to be a reality among us.
To illustrate all these experiences, I recall the words of Cristina, a blind and very poor grandmother, whom I looked after for a time. Each day she received me with: “happy the eyes that see you, little sister”! And on the fifth day she said to Manuel, her husband: “See, old man, how God has not abandoned us”!!!
It was the wisdom of the humble! This really left a deep impression on me from the time I was a young Little Sister! We are that instrument of the Love of God in each encounter!!!
Throughout all those years, God was kneading and forming my life in the daily sharing, in the various places to which I was sent. All this fills me with joy and gratitude! Mother Mary is my companion on the way!
On Saturday, 29 October 2016, the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Pilar was gaily decorated.
The Christian community received the persons who had come from the different parts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish and its chapels, and also friends who had come from Concordia-Argentina, where I had spent three lovely years: neighbours, parishioners from the San Pantaleón Chapel, families from the paint workshops, the Franciscan Missionaries of Assisi, friends from two folk-music groups ‘Los Aromos’ and ‘Rio Uruguay’. During those days Mirandolina and I had the company and assistance of Gladys Gutiérrez and Glaides Austria, who had come from Buenos Aires.
There was great participation in the Eucharist, over which Father Jesus Weisensee presided. We had a special thought for my companions: Liliana Salas, Micaela de Wilde and Isabel Taira.
Maria Estela Torres Zapata, LSA