“Follow Christ, listen to Christ,
humble yourself in Christ,
suffer silently in Christ,
burn in Christ, forgive in Christ,
love in Christ, sacrifice in Christ.”
Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified Petkovi
For a week, Jaimanites and Santa Fe were a land of permanent mission. In these villages on the north coast of Habanero, where there are no priests, Cuban and foreign lay people promoted, together with religious of the Congregation Daughters of Mercy of the Third Regular Order of San Francisco, the International Mission Cuba 2020.
In this way, the second moment of the Jubilee was fulfilled by the centenary of the foundation of this religious community, which has been present on the island since 2014. Sister Salvadora Mercado, CFM, General Counsellor of the Congregation, responsible for the formation of the laity area worldwide, told the New Word that “Cuba is a land thirsting for the Word of God, open to being evangelized”, that is why her choice to live this time of celebration.
Inserted into the reality of these two Habaneras localities, missionaries from Cuba, Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Italy, Croatia and Argentina knocked on the doors of houses to proclaim Jesus Christ and invite him to live his gospel in the divine logic of his free and merciful love for every human person.
The Jubilee for the Centenary of the Sisters of Mercy comprises, in addition to this mission in Cuba, two other moments: a symposium that took place in Paraguay, attended by a delegation of Cubans, and a camp in Peru, to be held in 2021.
A community that bets on the mission
The Congregation Daughters of Mercy of the Third Regular Order of St. Francis (CFM) was founded in Blato, Korsula (Croatia), on October 4, 1920, by Maria Petkovia (1892-1966), in the religion Mary of Jesus Crucified, now blessed on the altars. According to the desire of the founding mother, who is described as “an eternal lover of Jesus”, the institute created by her would have the mission of serving those most in need. This work would soon translate into works that expressed the Father’s Love and Mercy.
Responding to the challenges of each time and place, little by little the followers of Mary Petkovia developed their charism through the education of children and young people, the care of elderly and sick people, and the parish apostolate and missions. In their service to the Church, they expanded into new countries and continents until they were present today in Europe, America, and Africa. In his walk, the support and collaboration of the faithful has been decisive. It is for this reason that the Jubilee for its centenary has united lay and religious in a great mission.
Since her arrival in Havana, Sister Onoria Paredes Martínez, a restless woman by nature, has insisted that the fundamental mission in Cuba is to make Jesus and his gospel known. “Here we find that people tell us about the Virgin Mary of Charity with some closeness, yet the figure of Jesus is unknown to them, far away. And He is the center of Christianity. It’s impossible to define yourself as Catholic and not know him,” he explains.
Coinciding with this view, Sister Asunción Segovia Cohene, also Paraguayan and with forty-three years of consecrated life, states: “In Cuba there is a need to fall in love with Christ. Everyone believes in God, but not in Christ. And that is what motivates this mission: we want Cubans to know Christ, to fall in love with Him. It is He who gives life, the s-peranza… I see very hopeless people. They need to be motivated by hope in Christ. We human people fail, but He will not fail us.”
In this regard, the sisters and lay people who work together with them add other objectives that have much to do with the con-gregational charisma. “We seek to promote,” Sister Onoria says, “the three pillars on which our charism is based: mercy, fraternity and mission. Sisters and lay people in community form, pray and missionary with humility, simplicity and Franciscan joy motivated by faith, hope and charity. We have a firm purpose of reviving the life of faith in these two Haban neighborhoods that do not have the usual assistance of a priest. Our project also seeks to accompany the Cardinal, who is the Archbishop of the Archdiocese. He is a great missionary, and at the beginning of his ecclesial government in Havana, we were moved by his proposal to practice the Lectio Divina. From this initiative, we think about the creation of small Christian communities (houses of prayer, not mission) based on the Word of God.”
Located in the village of Jaimanitas since its arrival in Cuba, this religious community soon made contact with young missionaries from the Archdiocese, mainly from mayabeque towns, to learn about the reality of the country, the Church and work in communion. The sisters wanted to listen to them and learn from them. Jaimanites and Saint Faith were lands asleep in the faith and needed to be revived. After that initial meeting, they were invited to collaborate with them and together they developed a three-day mission.
Soon the nuns realized the need for formation that these young people had. In this regard, Sister Onoria recalls: “I said, ‘Look, you are fantastic, you have dynamism and goodwill, but you lack a clear spirituality. We offer you training in our spirituality, and you help us energize these communities.'” Accepted. It was the birth of a team of missionaries, in constant formation, that is called LAIMIS (Lay Missionaries of Mercy).”
Now, together, they walk in the life of faith. They are aware of the growth they are accompanied by sisters and form new leaders; they have done so in San Nicolás de Bari, Melena del Sur, Jaimanitas and other communities… The Laimis are usually lay people committed to Christ in their Church, in mary’s example, who serve in their ecclesial communities and actively collaborate in the various pastoral cares. On this path they feel the closeness of the Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García.
Who loves does not rest
After three years in Cuba, Sister Asunción is still impressed by the solidarity, kindness, love and spontaneity of people. She is responsible for the catechesis of adults and children and leads missionary childhood. He is concerned about the perseverance of the little ones, who usually attend of their own free will and not motivated by their families.
He says he’s been looking for other dynamics with adults. “I go home, because they tell me they don’t have time. I give catechesis at home, personalized.”
In the Missionary Childhood project, more and more children have managed to add, who, together with it, visit other young people to invite them to the activities, go and pray for the sick. “Here it is the children who evangelize the fathers. Through them, we attract family members. The encounters are well defined; a time of catechesis, of missionary, time to share, watch movies… and a training time. For this week of international mission, we have invited children from both slums to come and enjoy the initiatives designed for them.”
The sisters are much loved both in Jaimanites, where they have their home, and in Santa Fe. The Cuba 2020 International Mission attests to this. They are constantly called and together with Cuban and foreign missionaries who walk streets and knock on doors, are well received. The action of these days irrigates the seed they have sown. Hence the possibility of seeing the gratitude of so many people to those who have given food, clothing, spiritual counsel; relatives of prisoners who have been accompanied by sisters and lay people, as well as parents, whose children today benefit from English, music, football or chess classes.
“But we must continue to persevere, ” sentences Sister Maria Asunción. “We sow, sow, and sow, and it is God who grows. Children, adolescents and young people must be promoted, because they are in the future of the Catholic Church. You have to accompany them with great patience. What they lack is the conviction of faith, that what they do is for Christ.”
Dailenis Marrero Rodríguez and Kadill Gil Cainzos are two lay missionaries of mercy (LAIMIS), as they immediately ask to be identified. She attends in Santa Fe the workshops for children, specifically football. “Experience –precise – has been a gift from God and it is the Holy Spirit who has guided it.”
He welcomes the meaning of these workshops for the little ones and their families. “We work with children of all kinds and in these spaces we develop values. It’s about having a good time learning, that’s our maxim. In meetings we have a time to share any gesture of love and mercy you have had towards another person at school or in the ward.
it’s onmueve to hear their stories. The football coach is also the school’s physical education teacher, and takes care of going through the classroom every day to see how they are doing. Although he is a non-Catholic Christian, he participates with children in all the activities of the parish community. Many of those who come to the workshops have joined catechesis.”
Like Dailenis, Kadill identifies the Cuba 2020 International Mission as a great opportunity to bring God’s merciful love to homes. “Preparing this missionary meeting,” Kadill says, “I was fortunate enough to live for a fortnight in the parish of Santa Fe. We work intensely on the cleanliness of the temple, fixing here and there. To my appreciation, it was a ruined church that I hoped to be revived. God is not confused, this was the place he chose for the mission. We young people and so many brothers from other countries converge right into this space to live the spirituality of Christ and proclaim it in the midst of a dull people. On the first day of this great mission, a neighbor who does not visit the church, thanked me because we woke her up with a song that pleased her all day. That joy was Christ.”
For her part, Sister Salvadora Mercado, counsellor, is glad to have chosen Cuba for this mission: “It is the land that needed the most of a breath, a strength, a motivation, a hope. It is the Lord and the missionary spirit of Blessed Mary Petkovi, who have enabled this dream to come true. God has rewarded us by giving us our presence on this island. From your inspiration we are here, where life is very difficult. Here the sisters must be solvent by the government of the religious province. They don’t make money, they don’t work… But, indisputably, and I assure you, of all the countries where we are today, Cuba was the one who needed the most from missionary encouragement.” Ω