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Apostolic Experience in Bolivia, by Pilar García-Junco

December 31, 2016

The apostolic experience is over.
On this first day of my return to Cochabamba I wanted my prayer to sum up a little the experience of these days. In the first reading of the liturgy today, I find 1 Jn.1: 1-4: “What we have seen and heard, we proclaim now to you”, and this encourages me more to share with you this experience that has been at the same time rich, good and difficult, sometimes very difficult.
From the beginning I wanted to situate myself before this apostolic experience that I suspected might be difficult for me for two reasons. On the one hand I thought they were very few days, that in a week there would hardly be time to enter before we would have to leave; and on the other hand I noticed that I could feel difficulty in that apostolic sense because I am a person more identified with Bethany than with being an apostle, with that one-on-one between an active and ever complaining Martha and a contemplative Mary, always at the feet of her Lord and enthralled by all that He says or does.
But almost always, when I think of this I come to the same conclusion: that each one is as is, that I count on the gifts that I have and recognize in concrete reality, including time and place, whatever God has prepared for me with or without a specific purpose. Always being open to the Encounter, letting myself be led by a hand that is surer and by Someone who knows better than I, trusting that something of the little I may do or say can be united to the Name of Jesus in someone’s memory… For me this is enough to give a little strength to that sense of apostle that I do not have.

These eight days have been a constant encounter with elderly women who are alone, with the difference between urban and rural more pronounced than in other places, with sick people, lack of water, work-related fatalities, marriages with their problems and their struggles to keep afloat, with the isolation of the most forlorn village on the mountain, with young people who sing and dance like everywhere else, excessively young mothers, priests who want to work from the depth and identity of the native people who often do not count, with children who work and whose faces are unforgettable, … Surely I will omit something.

One thing has caught my attention, and it has served as a contrast between what I saw and what they said even with their silences. Wherever I went I saw poverty, scarcity of everything, lack of the most basic necessities, lack of basic resources, etc., but from no one, absolutely no one, did I hear a “I do not have”, a “what a rotten life”, nor a “Why us?”. I did think it but they did not say it. There was no protest about their own personal situations of material poverty, but yes, many blessings to heaven and gratefulness to that God who does not forget us. Looking at them I can better understand what it is like to feel dependent on the Grace of God.
I have not enjoyed living with this reality; no one can feel at ease with an experience of pain and suffering for many. There have been times when I even had to take a break and a space to slow down my inner being, because the reality overcame me and I could not assimilate so quickly what lay before me. Sometimes, when what is outside us does not match what is inside us, we run the risk of losing our equilibrium, and to avoid it we must stop and see what is happening. And let God do it.
I am happy. Happy and thankful, very grateful, because now it is they who have made me see and feel the Name of Jesus united to each one of their persons. And everything that is attached to the Name of Jesus I can not forget.

Well, to finish I will indeed tell you two things that I have enjoyed and very much. One is the contact with nature and the other is that of being able to be with other Daughters of Jesus. The gardens that surrounded us were wonderful and so were the sisters with whom I have lived. In both cases an explosion of senses, affections, conversations, feelings, gestures, prayers, silences … And this, being able to enjoy everything non-material, has been partly thanks to Tita who has been very good at leading us and showing us the best and the worst that Buen Retiro and Capinota embody. A real Christmas gift. Thank you.
And the photos speak for themselves.

By Pilar García-Junco fi