San Pedro, located in San Juan de Lurigancho, is one of the Asentamientos Humanos in Lima (Peru). These are groups of families established lacking basic services such as water, sewage, etc.
I ministered there as a catechist when I was 18 years old. Every weekend I would encounter and play with the children and share the Good News of the Gospel among my peers and their parents. One day, as I was walking through the neighborhood, I saw from a long distance that some of my friends, those lovely kids, were running in front of me. My hands were ready to welcome them and I practically ran towards them. But, from the other side of the road, three women appeared. The children were running to offer many hugs and kisses to the Incarnate Word Sisters (as they were known).
I stopped; I was moved.
Three sisters, one Irish and two Peruvian, dressed like me (pants, t-shirt, and sandals) were happily welcoming the joyful and loud kids. The glow and glee of the children and sisters aroused my curiosity. “Who are these women?” I wondered and voiced it out loud. One of the teenage girls told me, “They are our sisters.” I perceived a lot of love when that young girl was describing the community of nuns who had recently settled in the neighborhood to live not only close to the people, but among them.
From that day on, I have not stopped pondering what it is about these women that makes their impact so meaningful to so many of my people.
Suddenly, almost without realizing it, I was among and with the sisters praying, talking, laughing, eating, ministering, and dreaming. We were all different in age, generation, culture, language and, of course, nationality (four countries to be precise). But there was something in them and in me that matched. I experienced them as sisters, companions in discipleship. That question, these experiences, and so many others led me after a year to open myself to a process of discernment that was affirmed two years later when I began to live in community on a hot Peruvian Wednesday in December 2004, and when I professed my vows to consecrate my life for God and my heart for others as a sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio in 2007.
Right! I am an Incarnate Word Sister. This year I am celebrating my 15th anniversary as a religious woman. This radical love that God holds for us has led me and nurtures my promise to share my passion for life in various places in Peru, Mexico and almost three years in this land, the United States. In fact, living in Missouri has not only made me appreciate more and heed the beauty of God's creation through the noticeable seasons, but also the cries. The cry of the earth and those who are excluded, denounce racism, classism, favoritism, and consumerism, to name some of the wounds. The cry is clear, loud, and it hurts. And, here I am. I continue listening, praying, talking, protesting, being in silence, joining, and collaborating with many others who creatively resist accepting that structural changes are not possible. There are many, many other good people who dream and contribute to build a livable world for ALL.
Religious life has this something that those kids in my neighborhood of San Pedro showed me through their gestures. It seems that to see what it is about and who it is about, it is necessary to get closer, to be there. I found not only my companions to be that real and tangible presence of God's love “where the potatoes are burning” (as Peruvians say to describe the place where it is necessary and urgent to be and respond to), but also a global sisterhood that believes in God's love here and now and prepares for what is to come. Jesus is calling, “come and see.”
Photo: Incarnate Word Sisters (San Antonio) Sr. Katty Huanuco, Sr. Helena Monahan, Carmen Ramirez (novice), and Sr. Cathy Vetter. Courtesy of Sr. Katty Huanuco.