Mission Diary – The Difference between Hearing and Listening

“Listening to their stories and accompanying them personally through their journeys and sharing their life has made me a better person and religious sister.” Sr Silvia Vargas, A Comboni missionary from Ecuador shares with us her experience.

I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and from an early age I felt the attraction to help people and give a hand to those who needed assistance, but I did not have any idea how. My studies at school, my work, and a boyfriend occupied my time and thoughts for some time.

When I was 18 years old and preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, I had an experience of Jesus in which I felt loved, forgiven, and supported. These initial feelings were enough to push me to collaborate for some years in my parish as a catechist.

Thanks to a friend in the parish who encouraged me to participate in a youth conference that was being organized by a Comboni sister in Quito, I attended the three-day conference and that is where the call to mission became clear. From there I was put in contact with the Comboni sisters in Guayaquil and got involved in the youth missionary movement and encountered a part of Ecuador that I was not aware of before. I discovered the periphery of my own city where men and women felt abandoned by everyone and where unemployment, lack of education, injustices, and racism were present.

At this point in my life, I felt the need to take more seriously the call to mission. At first, it was not easy as my parents were not in favour of the idea. Despite this, I did not become discouraged and continued to participate in missionary meetings with other youths who were also having the same doubts and dreams. After one year and a half as an aspirant and six months of initial formation, I continued on as a postulant, and then completed two years in the novitiate. On August 15th, 2010, I made my first religious vows in Ecuador.

My first mission assignment was to the United States of America where I arrived in December 2010. During the six years, I was in the country, my ministry was among the Hispanic population and refugees from all over the world. For me to be far away from my family was not difficult as I made the decision to leave my home and consecrate myself to God and the missions. But for the families I was working with, their reality was different.

Most of them were escaping war, violence, and poverty back in their home countries. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that they may never again see the family members they left behind. Listening to their stories and accompanying them personally through their journeys and sharing life with these families has made me a better person and religious sister.

In 2016 I was sent to the mission of Pueblo Libre in Lima, Peru. Here I had the opportunity to collaborate in the formation of community leaders, work with families as a social worker, and support mission animation. For the short time I was there, I was able to create bonds with the families and the catechists.

On February the 2nd, 2019, I made my final vows as a religious sister in my home parish in Guayaquil. The ceremony was marked by the simplicity of my people and the appreciation and affection of those who know me. The love and support of my parents and the rest of my family filled my heart with joy.

All of this helped me lessen my fear of the unknown and of what I have no control over. Often people believe that missionaries do not fear anything, but we are made of flesh and bone, and we have our limitations and believe and have faith that God guides us by the hand, and this gives us the courage and strength necessary to go forward.

After completing my religious vows in front of my family and friends, I felt animated and full of hope for my new mission assignment in Zambia, Africa. I have since arrived in Zambia and little by little I am becoming more attached to the people and culture. The innocence and smiles of the children, the spirit and daily strength of the Zambian women, and the dedication of the Zambian men to give their children a better future are all rays of hope that animate and help me with the mission I have received.

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