25 years ago, on March 8, 1998 in Guatemala City, my family, my Sisters of the Assumption, my friends witnessed this bond of God's tenderness when I pronounced my first vows as a Religious of the Assumption. It is significant that it coincided with the day that civil society dedicates to women, because throughout these years I have met women in the countryside and in the cities who are audacious, resilient, with infinite strength and joy, who are contagious, inspiring and encouraging.
I was born into a "Salvadorian" Catholic family. I am the eldest of 4 siblings and aunt of 7 beautiful nephews and nieces. My parents instilled in us a strong sense of commitment and responsibility. Both of them continue to be an example of total and unconditional dedication at the service of the Church and families.
I give infinite thanks, this day, for experiencing fullness in my life as a Religious of the Assumption through so many Sisters and lay people, those in heaven and here on earth, who have given me life, joy and hope. The Communities of Lechecuagos and León in Nicaragua, Santiago de Chile, San Luis and Vicariate of Petén, San Salvador and Santa Ana have been places of the Kingdom.
Religious life is not easy, like any state in life, but it is fascinating, because in the encounter with so many women, men and young people you are a witness of hope and love. The Mystery of the Incarnation, to which we are called in the Assumption, has made me approach and incline myself, as God does with His people, adapting to different cultures, customs, life styles, getting to know them and becoming one of them. I give thanks for these strong bonds of friendship and affection with so many people who have been part of my journey.
Reflecting on today's Gospel of the Samaritan woman, I reread in this "midday" of my life, a more mature relationship in following Jesus. The woman, whom Jesus invites to drink of the water that will never make her thirsty again, tells Him that the well is deep, how can she draw water... I refer to the well of our own life with deep wounds that only Jesus can heal. Jesus answers her: "If you knew the gift of God". It is He Who knows the deepest part of ourselves, Who heals, cleanses and comforts us. In the Community where I live today, that of the “Santa Familia”, there is a well in the centre of the garden that reminds us that the source of living water, at the beginning and at the end of your life, is Jesus alone. My Community has been a place to live this "midday" to the full because one gets tired of putting all one's trust in oneself but when you discover and realise that there is Someone who has sustained you and continues to sustain you, it is a relief!
When I entered, at the age of 25, I did it with all the energy and passion of my youth that I still feel I possess because all I wanted was to "give myself, not to lend myself" and because I considered that "God had done so much for me, at that age, that I had to do something for Him" paraphrasing Marie Eugenie. Her love set me in motion: "Love and give yourself, your God will be your all".
The phrase on my altar, GOD ALONE, has accompanied me these last years and I can say as Marie Eugenie said during a retreat in 1878: "Love Him with confidence, thanksgiving, courage and a way of security and of leaning on Him. I may have broken the bonds, lessened the help, to turn more towards Him.”
I believe that all the circumstances that surround us in life make us stronger and humbler. From there springs the living water of which Jesus speaks, life in abundance. Detachment purifies from the depths, mourning for Sisters and lay people who have left us, leaving places and projects, but as Marie Eugenie of Jesus says: "In our life it is a wonderful moment when we begin to understand that we can do nothing on our own, but that in God we can do everything".
Two years ago, my mother, after an operation that provoked a brain haemorrhage, repeated this phrase to me: "God arranges everything for the good of those who love Him" (Rom 8:28). and the peace, the confidence that we receive through it is, for my family and those around us, a grace that forces us to live more radically the mission entrusted to us, "God arranges everything. He will provide everything" (MME)
Today I can say, like our Saint Marie Eugenie: "I belong to God, I go to God and I live for God" (1878) and that "The Lord calls me to work tirelessly so that all may know Him, that is why I am a Religious of the Assumption" (May 1886).
Today "I want to make the vow of extending the Kingdom of Jesus Christ throughout my life, first in myself, then in others". (Marie Eugenie, 1886) Amen.
Ethel de Dios,
Community of Santa Familia, Santa Ana, El Salvador.