It all began in Bikop, my hometown, where, after a conversation with my father about my desire to become a religious, I went to speak with the Sisters in the mission about “how to follow Christ”. Sister Mercedes Quartino was the first Handmaid to welcome me; she lovingly explained the process to follow, and that is how I began my journey.
In the preschool in Bikop, my encounter with two children, Narciso and Christian, both disabled, one mentally and the other physically, was a determining factor. In fact, I became very concerned about them, and I asked myself what would become of these children without the Sisters. That is how I understood, in the deepest part of my being, the voice of the Lord, who was saying to me, “these are the ones to whom I am sending you.” And thus, my religious vocation was confirmed, and my vocation as a teacher was born.
In the juniorate I was sent to study education; I knew that the Lord was offering me the most beautiful gift that I would ever receive. My dream of being a teacher took shape, and at the end of my studies, I understood the importance of education, and our Foundresses’ and the first Handmaids’ commitment to it. Because “to educate” is to be like the potter who skillfully shapes the vessel.
Recently – a few weeks ago – I came to learn that my name means “little blind girl.” The truth is that I didn’t like it very much. The “little” part isn’t bad, but blind? People always connect Cecilias with music because of the saint, but the truth is the truth, and etymologically it means “little blind one.” And even though there is something about it that I still don’t like, this name says a lot about my relationship with Jesus. If there is one phrase in which I can summarize my story and relationship with Him, it is this: “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” In fact, this is the sentence I have engraved in my vows ring.
Since I was a child I have sought Jesus; I have wanted to follow Him. He made my heart burn very early on. In catechesis in the school, the solidarity missions during vacations, my first retreats, my dating relationship, the choice of my career, the Spiritual Exercises in daily life, the entry into the Congregation, the different countries where I have lived – Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, East Timor…the desire has always been the same: to see Him. Contemplating Him in adoration, in the life shared with the poorest and most abandoned… it has always been Him. Even though I am often blind by nature, the knowledge that I am also small and in his hands has saved me. And it is only with Him that I can learn to SEE, to see what God wants me to see, how God wants me to see… and to live accordingly, putting my life at the service of His Kingdom. Because in the end, isn’t that what consecration is all about?
I really like to look at the sea. I grew up by the beach and I was lucky enough to be able to watch the sunset every day. But what I like most is the sound of the waves, and seeing them come and go, to come and go again. And so this story began. And that’s how God came into my life, as the constant that moves and sends you.
The question of religious life came when I was 18 years old. I had just started university and I wanted to give meaning to my life. I imagined myself married with many children, working in the same city where I was born, on familiar ground. But sometimes the waves come in the form of a storm and carry you out to sea. God had another horizon for me and invited me to go out, to go further, and with Him, to “cure every disease and sickness.” He made me this invitation through the suffering and illness of the people I treated in the hospital where I did my internship. And he did it also in the children’s home where I volunteered every Saturday. And his “wave” reached that comfortable reality in which I had settled, to rescue me and attract me with his Gospel through the little ones, the poor, those who suffer. Paradoxically, it was the pain, the silence, the senselessness of suffering, that made the flame of desire ignite in me. I discovered the hidden beauty in the ruptures that I contemplated and I wanted to collaborate on this path of reparation, which was also happening in me.
I trusted and understood that this dream of God’s had to be with others, and that is how I found myself before the question of religious life, which later became a joyful and confident answer. Even today, after 21 years since the beginning of this adventure, God continues to be that constant wave that day by day embraces my small reality and transforms it into desires for more. Even today I wish to let this constant swaying of his call, of his tenderness, of his radical love, continue to transform me and to bring me “deeper.”
When I was younger, I had absolutely no desire to become a religious. In fact, as a child I had had a very bad experience with religious. Growing up, I wanted to have a good job, start my own family, have children and be happy! So, at the age of 24, when I consulted my family about beginning a discernment process with the Handmaids in Vietnam, the response I got from family and friends was laughter; to them it was just a crazy joke.
Although I was settled, with a good job and wonderful friends, the nights were terrible. The only word to describe my inner self was “emptiness”. So, I ran away from that haunting feeling by staying inside an Adoration Chapel after work, gazing silently at Jesus, then asking myself a thousand times the very same question “What’s the meaning of my life?” A friend then asked me to join an Ignatian retreat, which I considered a “vacation” away from that empty life. After the retreat, I was sure that my life could never be the same.
I knew nothing about vocation, I only tried to answer the questions that kept popping up within me, which eventually led me to the Handmaids, once again and forever to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the Congregation.