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Carmen Garcia How did the Lord call me to Religious Life? Slowly, gently, it was a process.
 

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Carmen García

How did the Lord call me to Religious Life?

Slowly, gently, it was a process

I was born in the small town of La Paz de Ordaz, Jalisco, Mexico, where I lived until my teenage years. From there, my family first and I later on, went to live in a colony on the periphery of the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, about 103 km from my town. My family and I were separated for a year or so, while I remained in my village.  This was a huge change for me. At first I locked myself in my house and within myself.  For a time, I rebelled and felt anger against my family, the world and also God.  Adapting to city life wasn’t easy, it took me several years.

On one occasion, during Lent, at my mother’s  insistence, I attended a youth group in "San Lázaro" parish, where we belonged.  The young people gathered near my house every afternoon, for a week, reflecting on themes in preparation for Easter. That day the subject was about the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Merciful Father).  The young woman who spoke, said that God is a good Father who loves me, is so close to me that he knows and understands everything that happens to me, and understands and forgives me.  Those words and the way she said them, touched something in me.  I felt that she said them just for me.   Although years had passed since my rebellious days, something was still not right within me.  On the other hand, I had another image of God, and what was being presented to me now, was new and unknown to me.

Over the next few days, I felt a sense of expectation about the theme.  I wanted to continue hearing about this God I was coming to know. The last day I went to the group, I felt sad that this experience which was helping me so much, would come to an end.  At the end of the week, I was happy when the young woman who had presented the themes, asked if we would like to continue to meet as a group of young people, once a week, in the same place.  Most of us agreed, and so the group continued for some time.  It was in this space, little by little, without realizing it, that Jesus was attracting me, was entering my heart and winning it over.  I felt him close in my life and I was finding new meaning in life.

One day, on my way home from work, I went past my bus stop and got off at Christ the King Parish.  I entered the Church and went to the Blessed Sacrament chapel.  I stayed until the 7:00 pm Mass started, talking with Jesus.  I stayed for Mass.  When I left, I felt calm and content.  I repeated these visits whenever I could.  

When it would be time to leave work, my thoughts went to Jesus: I wanted to be with him, to talk to him, to be silent, to feel him.  A phrase repeated within me, again and again: "Jesus, I love you", "Jesus, I love you."  This was a prayer born before the Blessed Sacrament and extended to other times of the day.  I addressed this prayer to Jesus, knowing that he, more than anyone, knew and understood me and saw its depth and sincerity.  Along with this, I got psychological help and worked through the difficult period I had experienced.  It was a slow process, being healed interiorly, coming out of my small world.  I became more attentive to what was happening in my family.  I became more interested in my neighbours, talking with some of them and getting to know their reality and needs.  I felt good when I could visit them and they were grateful for my visits.  Those little gestures nourished me.  I felt closer to my parish: I went to mass and participated in the activities there.  Whenever I passed and saw the chapel door open, I would go in to greet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

I began to help with the children’s catechesis, which I enjoyed, because I liked to be with them, to tell them about the love that God and Jesus have for them; the love that I was experiencing.

I began to realize that other people could know and experience God like I was experiencing God: being close and giving meaning to their lives.  One Saturday at noon, while I was doing my laundry, the doorbell rang.  It was Paz del Castillo (R.I.P.) an older woman, whom I did not know.  She asked me: "Are you Carmelita?" I answered ‘yes’.   She introduced herself as a Sister of Marie Reparatrice.  A Reparatrice community lived only a block and a half from my house, but she herself lived in the community of Avenue La Paz.   She had come to invite me to a youth group.  I remember not really understanding what the meetings were about, but happy that I would continue to come to know God, Jesus.  The invitation was to make the Exercises in daily life.

 

The Exercises in daily life lasted about a year.  During that time, I was closely accompanied by Paz.  I remember once I did not go to the weekly meeting and without warning, Paz came to my house in the afternoon and said, "I just came to see how you are and if all is well with your family."  That gesture surprised and pleased me.  There were days when I would call her from work and tell her that I needed to share what was happening with me.  Her reply was ‘would you like to come over after work?’I would go to her house.      

One day I really needed to talk.  I called Paz, asking her to talk, by phone, as a few days earlier, she had had knee surgery.  With her usual warm welcome she asked, "Do you want to come after work?"  That day she received me in her room.  Paz’s availability, welcome, kindness, interest and closeness, helped me connect with the experience of the closeness of God.

 

I started to become aware of the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice, who had lived in my street, twenty years previously.  I watched them with more attention now: I saw them talking outside someone's house; being friendly with everyone, including young people addicted to drugs, who used to gather at the corner of my street.  More than once, I saw one of them stop to talk to a young drug addict.  I saw how they related to people in the Church; selling slices of cake, or biscuits, after Mass.  I was struck by their simplicity, their gestures towards the people and their way of living in the reality of the place.  I wanted to live this too.

 

In light of the experience of the Exercises in daily life and Paz’s accompaniment, I felt that I was being called to Religious Life.  At first I tried not to think about it.  I thought it was just me and I did not share it with Paz initially.  However, I later realized that she saw this in me, because when we touched on the subject, she told me that she saw that the Lord was calling me to Religious Life.  After the Exercises in daily life, Paz invited me to live in an SMR Community in San Juan Tecuaco, Guatemala, for two months.  Unfortunately, I could only take one month off work.  This was sufficient time, with what I lived in community with the sisters and the people of the town, I felt that God had confirmed my call.  When I returned from this experience, I was happy, because something told me that I had found what would make sense in my life.  Accompanied by Paz and having reflected on my lived experience in Guatemala, I spoke with Mom and Dad.  I asked to join the Congregation in 2006, I was 37 years old.  Leaving my family, especially my parents, was difficult.  However, I felt God close-by in the conviction and inner peace that he gave me.

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