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Ana Karina Parente - Uruguay, Montevideo


Cruz del SurPersonal experiences

Before all, I must admit that it is hard for me to sit down and write my life testimony as a lay Marist. I feel a great responsibility in doing so and fear comes from the acknowl-edgement that often words remain “short” at the moment of expressing what beats deeply and is only transmitted through the pores. On the other side, the “possible rules of the story…”, instead of facilitating the writing, have complicated it for me and the most amusing of all is that I am very structured in my work but I cannot be so in this testimony. As you say, Pau, this should appear to me to be easy and realisable; so, I decided to respond to a question, simple and profound at the same time: why did I choose to be a Marist?

“There are days when I feel that all is going well, and there are others when I do not know what I want, or even the mirrors are not reflecting my true image and I have my heart full of fears. There are moons that come seeking me and there are nights when I start everything again, it is a matter of seeking and knowing always to look, to set out on the voyage is primordial. Tell me when what I am seeking so much will arrive, tell me how what I always hope for will be.”

I really like singing and that is why I feel that music can help me express myself; as this song, in a few words, sums up my seeking, my fears, my adolescent dreams. My for-mal education was done at a public school and my religious education at the heart of my home and continued in a Vincentian parish named “Saint Joseph the Worker.” At home, the recitation of the rosary was a daily thing, my mother and grandmother be-longed to the Legion of Mary; in the parish it was more the image of the “Miraculous Medal” than Jesus in the Eucharist, so I do not know if it was by simple adolescent re-volt or by the necessity to defend Jesus as the centre of my faith that I was “opposed” to Mary. But she, as a Good Mother, was not opposed to me and she accompanied my journey with her serene, constant and caring presence to help me to realise that her in-tention was to bring me closer to the heart of her son, whispering in my ear “let yourself be redeemed.”

So at seventeen years of age, being the co-ordinator of youth ministry in my diocese, I came across the Marists. At this time Ramer ruled, and my work as co-ordinator was to add this youth movement of Montevideo to the ministry. I could never forget the first meetings with the brothers: the grace of Xavier Bometón. the efficiency of José Khum, the smile of Luis Fernádez (without forgetting the sweetness of the chocolates that filled his pockets), the tenderness of Francisco, Pascual, Roque… it was an experience of very rich work with the animators of the caravels, the sharing of their struggles, of their dreams and the discovery that we were all in the same boat.

The first element of the charism that captivated me was the educational intention of the “Marist”, a form of being Christian in the world and for the world; a situation that had nothing identical in the religious movements of the time. But what brought me to choose to be Marist was a feeling of being confirmed in my being a woman, in my edu-cational being, in my Church being, in a community in which you breathed the air of a family, in the depth and simplicity of links, in accompaniment, in the constant and liber-ating presence, in difficulties, in disagreements, as in any family.

The encounter with “the Marist” helped me to purify my outlook; I could break away from my prejudgements and discover Mary; I discovered in my dream from by Educa-tional being, the dream of God for my life; I found “My Place” in the world to develop my vocation…

The “cherry on the cake” was my meeting with Marcellin, which broke all my schemas. His form of being captivated me, perhaps because I identified with some of his charac-teristics: man of faith, faithful, sensible, practical, a worker, who acted in such a way that he convinced others by his witness: it’s worth doing it and that is why I give “all of my life for this dream.”

Without doubt the Marist entered so profoundly in my heart that I feel that all my life is impregnated by the charism, so much so that I transmit it to my family; with my friends; in the public school, to small children when I give my courses… I believe that an image that permits me to express this feeling with more clarity is the following: my life is like a well, like a cistern where God, through Marcellin, comes to meet me in the depths of myself, so that my well never dries out but that, from him living water surges… but the water is not only for me, because a well only makes sense if it is offered, if it is given to others.

Since 1989 the Marists have been part of my life. That is why today I say affectionately that I am not an employee of an Institution, I Am Marist and that is why I rejoice and give thanks to Mary who knows how to wait her time and accompany me throughout my journey: she is my Educational model.

My experiences with the Marists have been numerous; it would be impossible to re-count all of them. What I think is important to share is what they mean for me. They are responses to a profound need to consecrate time, one to one with me and with God; a time of silence, a time of listening, a time of meeting… They accompany me in my searching, in my person processes, as a stop to recognise myself as a gift from God. These are experiences of profound encounters with what is more authentic in me, with my dreams, with my struggles, with my fears, with my vocation from where I discover God’s dream for my life. It is a time of fraternal life in community which is enriched through the searching and struggles of everyone. It’s a time of experiencing incredible faith where gestures are charged with significant meaning and exceed my own experi-ence; from where I can discover the face and the love of God, in the face, in the hands, in the words, in the look, in each gesture of my friends in passing.

The most difficult thing is to live what you have learnt from each experience in the day-to-day. I admit that there are ties that appear to me to be very simple but others are more complicated and sometimes painful and I risk answering as I did before. The thing that gives me peace and strength to continue is that in this struggle you are not alone, but the other is always there with sincere affection, from his own searching he accompanies my journey; on the other hand, the learnings, having become conscious, are put in front of you to show you the way; and at any moment you feel God’s close presence, firm and tender that supports, accompanies and celebrates our life. It’s worth risking this encounter, to discover what really makes our heart burn!

From my Church being, I sense the Marist charism as a great gift that helps me to look at my life to discover that the project of the vocation consists in welcoming the invitation of Jesus with the strength of the wind of his Spirit to join me to the mission of the Church.

I profoundly believe that our work as laypeople and brothers is to be always attentive to the murmuring of the Spirit so that all can hear the call of God to Fraternity through our voice.

There are some who have the gift of tenderness, others that of work, others that of creativity… others the great gift of expressing with the word the source that agitates in the depths of us and, by stimulating it, that lights the fire of hearts. That’s why I take the permission to quote a brother friend who offered me the following words this year: “Marcellin knew how to listen to the call of God; and as him, we also, we allow our-selves to be inspired by the Spirit to carry before us our Educational Mission. Marcellin leaves us a “colour” and a specific aroma that expresses our manner of being a spiri-tual family in humanity… the simplicity of the violets!”

We share this spiritual richness with the entire Church, but we are “guardians” of two sacred places: the life of children and young people and the spaces of fraternity. There are three attitudes that our heart feels invited to cultivate, because they sum up the spiritual experience of Marcellin: confidence in the presence of God (Incarnation), sim-plicity (transparency) and the relationship of sons confident in the tenderness of Mary.

Each time that “we are there” with all our being, transparent, with God, with our broth-ers of the same family: consecrated and lay, with children, young people and with Mary, we Marists celebrate the sacrament of fraternity which expresses and nourishes our way of being believers today.

It is there where the wind of the Spirit pushes me.

In finishing this kind of response, a Thank you arises…

Thank you Mary for your close and tender presence;
Thank you Marcellin, for instilling this passion in me
and allowing me to join in with your project
so that we can dream together;
Thank you brothers, for sharing your treasure with us,
inviting us to construct Fraternity,
living the same mission with one heart.
Thank you for showing me
that we can live in the world
a happier life,
when we can work and love.
Work for the ones we love,
and love what we are working for.
Ana Karina Parente, Montevideo, Uruguay
Marist Province of Cruz del Sur