I am Sr. Santos Esperanza Maas Caal, an indigenous woman who belongs to the Congregation of the Religious of the Assumption. In this text, I share my personal experience about the relationship between the culture and the religious vocation.
Religious life and my culture
I am an indigenous woman who has chosen religious life in the Assumption. My language is Q'eqchi and I feel deeply connected to my culture. Being in the Congregation has made me appreciate even more the history and the heritage that I possess. My faith has been strengthened by my cultural environment, and I continue to find and experience the richness that the Congregation offers. God is always present in the least expected moments. Currently, I find myself in a place where the diversity of people is reflected in their language, customs, traditions and much more, with people who speak Mopán, Q'eqchi', and Spanish, among others.
Culture is a totality
Since I began my religious life in the Assumption, many doors have opened for me, doors that have called me to share who I am with the Community. I have perceived this in different places and today it continues to help me welcome other people with their own riches. As I learn more about our Congregation, I also discover that from its beginnings it has been international thanks to our first Sisters. This example is still valid in our Communities, where we are of different nationalities, but what unites us is our faith in Christ. In each experience, we continue to share our riches, values and principles, which guide us in our commitment as women dedicated to the love of God who created us.
This way of living reflects what God is for each of us, a God who is present in different cultures and who is in communion with all of creation. It is life and it unites us as brothers and sisters. God never abandons us and is, rather, close to us.
I also find God in the life experiences of Saint Marie Eugenie, who has been an inspiration on my path towards life and the love of God and others. From there I feel welcomed and loved by the Congregation.
My consecration has been a time of sharing and expressing my entire being before God, before the cosmos and before every created thing. It is there where His love is manifested in everything I am and in everything I do. The most important thing I have discovered is harmony, a harmony that leads me to see others through the eyes of God and to respect them deeply.
Culture is a wealth that promotes an identity rooted in our very own roots, customs, traditions and all of these values are what encompass this lifestyle. Journeying in the Assumption has helped me to accept myself, to value the importance of sharing with others, which in turn allows me to see the Congregation as a gift from God and a space to express what I am and what we are.
For me, culture is a wealth that is nourished by its values, principles and the act of sharing with others, which makes me feel in Community, regardless of where I am.
My experience of religious life with Q’eqchí women
In the Community we work in the Women's Pastoral Program in the parish of San Luis Petén, Guatemala. I am part of the team and our work consists in providing formation to women in rural and urban areas in the 15 sectors of the parish, giving them tools for their lives and helping them strengthen their dedication to the Church and their community, through our listening to them and through the meetings in each of the sectors, motivating them in everything they do.
The deep value that I continue to perceive in them is their love for God and their service within the Church. Their faith leads them to have total closeness with God. Through formation and other moments, I have learned to value more what I do and understand the value of life from my culture. Sometimes, I tell myself how beautiful it is to have these moments to share with them, to learn from their lives, which at times have been difficult and painful, but they continue forward and want to go up higher by discovering their value and contribution to their community.
This sharing with them inspires me in my religious vocation, and I feel that God meets me through these women. These experiences continue to mark my life when I open myself to encountering others.
Harmony with God
God has walked by my side throughout my life, and these experiences with Him and with others have given me the opportunity to recognize the graces I have received at each stage of my life. Harmony with creation makes me remember the moments I lived in the village with my parents, especially when we participated in the Mayejak, the Mayan ceremony performed by the elders.
This ceremony had a deep meaning: to thank God for His wisdom, health, strength and for the harvest, for all the gifts He gives us. Although I do not practice the ceremony in the same way that our ancestors did, I feel that I offer my life to the service of God in the different places where I am.