In July 1977 I set out to join my sisters in Maracaibo Venezuela: our community, the Servants of the Mother of God, established a missionary presence there in 1972. The first couple of years were hard and frustrating as I struggled with the culture, language, poverty, the terrible heat and many times I was tempted to ‘throw in the towel’.

It was during such times that I would think back to the early days of our Congregation and to all that Mother Magdalen and her companions went through, their great trust in Divine Providence and their great love for people, especially the poor. It was their profound understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, their deep spirit of prayer and their grace-filled humility which kept them going and I saw all these virtues at work in the sisters in Maracaibo as they struggled to live our communities charism, responding to the people and bringing the love of God to them in many and varied ways.

As time went by I increasingly began to realise what a privilege it was for me to be part of this great mission: we had so many opportunities to serve and to be served by the very poor. They were so eager to learn about God and how He works in our lives that it was easy to ‘open the scriptures to them’ and for them to see how wonderfully God was at work in the world and in their lives.

I vividly remember one incident which showed me how these humble and beautiful ‘little people’ of God opened their hearts and their homes to the sisters and allowed us to share their faith as they ‘caught’ our S.M.G. charism in a very deep way.

It was our tenth anniversary and we had a celebration Mass in the patio of our little house in El Cenaculo. All the Missionary of the Sacred Heart Priests with whom we worked together with many parishioners and friends, came and concelebrated a joyful and grace-filled Eucharist.

During a shared homily, one little lady, Nelly Gomez, stood up to share on the first reading,  Isaiah 9:1-7, ‘the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light…’ Nelly said

’We were that people – we were in darkness. Drugs, alcohol and family disunity kept us struggling and in pain. Then along came these lovely sisters dressed in white or sometimes blue, they were that light – they brought us hope and helped us break the yoke of suffering and despair. Like many others, I couldn’t read or write, so they provided courses to help us and it was there that I learned to read. I wanted so badly to be able to read the Bible for I understood that it was from the Word of God that the sisters drew their strength to carry on their mission. Now I read the scriptures to my eight children and I thank God every day for the SMG sisters in our midst’.

Stories like this and so many other God-incidences during my thirty one years in Venezuela helped me realise the great gift Mother Magdalen left us and the Church.  My life has been lit by ‘Lumen Fidei’ (‘the Light of Faith’) which is the ‘Luz para los Pueblos’, (the ‘Light for the People’.)

This article can be found in Mirror 0613.