The Lord called me ... from the midst of a crowd
Mercedes C. (*1972, Spain), social education worker
The beginnings of a love story
Sometimes, when we read about saints or the biographies of important people, we hope to find something surprising: something that distinguishes them from us and that we might want to imitate; or we might want to achieve a goal that they have achieved. Yet, when you continue reading the history of my vocation, you will find that God's call and the mission that he entrusts to us have both feet on earth, but their gaze toward heaven.
The Lord has called me from the midst of the crowd. I was born into an ordinary family, as the youngest of three children. Early on, my mother was widowed. In raising us, she fought hard to send us along with a rather traditional faith and with human values that she herself exemplified. She gave us an example by living for and with the poor and generously receiving anyone who came into her house. So far nothing new and surprising. At the age of 14, I started to work in a factory that made clothes, and I also spent time in the parish of "Santos Mártires": as a young catechist, in the parish choir and in the parish youth group (led by two members of the Institute St. Boniface). As a young woman, I lived a "normal" young person's life with my friends, spending the weekends on parties and in the disco. I also had a boyfriend ... but the Lord could do more than that. When I was 18, the Lord looked at me, and after several months of decision-making and personal struggle, I decided to embark on this adventure of love and service in the Institute St. Boniface.
Near my parents' house, there is a school for children and young people with special needs, the diocesan centre "Madre de la Esperanza". There I first had contact with members of the community, because at that time the management and parts of the staff were members of the Institute. What particularly struck me was their internationality, German and Spanish members living together. The community invited us members of the parish youth group and other young people to learn about the pastoral activities of the Institute in the different countries in Europe, Guatemala and Africa. And the Lord awakened in me the desire to follow him in this community ... "so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5,16).
Integrate the pain into the joy about the new that is coming. Yes, pain, because when in October 1990, I tell my mother that I have decided to enter the Institute, she immediately opposes it and reacts very negatively towards me. My mother falls ill, and my brothers indirectly oppose my idea, which means that I have to wait until April 3, 1991, before being able to enter the institute.
The joy of the new – and the worry of the first night in the chapel, where I was praying on my knees before the Lord, saying: "Lord, if I have made a mistake, make me see it!" I felt so small in the face of something so wonderful. In December 1991, a new mission begins for our Spanish group of the community: We open a hall of residence for young female students in our "Casa Santa Lioba". In 1993, I travel to Germany, the centre of our community, to do a work experience before taking my vows, which I do on June 25, 1994. I return to Spain, graduate from evening school and study social education.
"Behold, I am sending you..." After the end of my studies, the Lord let me travel to Guatemala – from 2001 to 2006. In 2003, I made my final commitment to the Institute in the consecration of life. My stay and the experiences in Guatemala – the contact with the poor, the presence of God, to give love and receive love, to serve, to pray in full awareness of being so small – have brought me closer to the mystery of Christ's dignity in its various manifestations.
I return to Spain and the Lord sends me on a new mission: to Caritas Talavera, a joint project of various parishes in Talavera for homeless people. Later, a new experience begins in a project for immigrant women and their children, for which the Institute is responsible. I work at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, advising and accompanying interns and giving lectures at the university.
I thank God for these 24 years that he has let me be part of the Secular Institute of St. Boniface. He shows himself in everyday life. That is why you will have found nothing unusual in this record, as I said in the beginning. However, I would want to encourage young people to be open and generous when they hear the call of God, and to read the signs that God repeatedly gives them on their way with Christ.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her." (Hosea 2,14)