Date of Birth: 10-01-1994, Portoviejo (Ecuador)
Date of Entrance in the Servant Sisters: 01-01-15
Date of Death: 04-16-2016, Playa Prieta (Ecuador)
Mayra Alejandra Alcívar Vega was born on October 1, 1994, in Chone (Manabí, Ecuador). Her parents are Quirino and Aracely. Her sister Wendy is 16 years old.
She lived in a neighborhood of Chone called “El Vergel,” where she met one of her neighbors who became her best friend and inseparable companion: Jazmina Castro. They played together when they were little, they grew up together, and together they met the Lord when they came into contact with the Home of the Mother. Later they would both discover their vocation as Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, although the first one to respond would be Mayra. And they died together in the earthquake on April 16, 2016, under the rubble of our school, “Holy Family Educational Center.”
Mayra was an attractive girl. When she was younger, she even participated in her school’s beauty pageants. She was naturally gifted in many ways. Her little sister, Wendy, says, “She always wanted to participate in all the dances.” Mayra loved to dance and she did it very well. She had a graceful air about her when she did the traditional dances of Manabí, which are danced with long, flowing skirts. The Sisters of the community of Chone recall that, “Once she had her conversion, she used this gift to do apostolate with the other girls. She prepared dances in summer camps and other activities using Christian songs to present good, wholesome dances, and the girls were happy to follow her.” He sister continues, “Another thing she loved to do was to play soccer. And she was pretty good. She played hard. She was always a fighter, and she took this spirit to the field. She was a forward and scored lots of goals. She didn’t like to lose.” She was also an excellent student, which she demonstrated first at Río Chone School, at the UNE high school, and later in college.
Her friend, Gema Vergara, describes her as, “A girl with spunk, and even more so when she entered as a candidate. Much more so.” It’s true; when God enters into one’s life, He brings forth the greatest aspects of that person’s character, perfecting and refining one’s nature to create a better version of him or herself.
She arrived at one of the meetings of the Home of the Mother Youth with her inseparable friend, Jazmina, around Christmas of 2009. In the testimony that she wrote for the HM Magazine in 2013, she explains, “I entered the Home because I felt like I was being called to it. The Lord has given me this beautiful vocation, and Our Lady has chosen me to be part of her gift. Although I have to admit that what attracted me the most at the beginning were the games we played after the meetings. God can use anything.”
Sr. Ruth Ibáñez writes about Mayra in the beginning of her relationship with the Home, saying, “I remember how she would always be smiling, quietly. I remember that she was very kind. We Sisters always used to comment on how she was such a good-natured person.” Sr. Gema Díaz adds, “I met Mayra when she was 14 years old. I always had the impression of her that she was very sincere and upright when it came to making decisions in her life.”
Mayra was very courageous about giving testimony to the Lord and defending her faith, as was her friend, Jazmina. She did not care about what people might say; as soon as she knew she had to do something because she felt that God wanted it, she wasted no time in carrying it out. In fact, Sr. Ruth tells us, “She always had a hard time coming to our house and the activities… but she fought courageously to be able to come, and she ended up being able to.” Sr. Gema explains, “She was very strong-willed, so much so that she looked for every possibility to be able to carry out what she understood she had to do. She didn’t care about how much effort it would cause her.”
Mayra had a great love for the Sisters, and since she had such a strong personality, she defended them with all she had whenever it was necessary. Aura Cristina confirms that, “She would get especially angry whenever someone said something against her faith or against her Sisters.” Sr. Kelly Maria Pezo remembers several stories that reflect her determined character: “The atmosphere among the youth in Chone is not very good. In fact, even just walking down the street, the girls might receive an invitation from a guy to do dishonest things, without even knowing each other. This happened to Mayra one day, a little less than a year before entering as an aspirant. She already knew she had a vocation. A boy looked at her and said, ‘Want to go for a walk with me?’ It’s a way of inviting a girl to do bad things. But Mayra, with the fire that burned inside of her and with that characteristic audacity of those who cannot stand those commentaries, answered him, ‘You can take your dog for a walk. I already have an owner.’ We know that the Owner she was referring to was Jesus, her Good Shepherd.” Mayra was very fond of a holy card that had an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Sr. Kelly Maria adds, “I was amazed when we found out that they had died, because it was Good Shepherd Sunday.”
On another occasion, Jazmina and Mayra were heading to the Sisters’ house to pray the rosary. Some boys stopped them and threatened them with knives trying to rob their cell phones. Mayra was not afraid, but rather stood up to them. Jazmina was terrified and could only think about how she was not ready to die yet. In the end, they took Jazmina’s new cell phone, but they could not get Mayra’s. “They called the police who came right away. Mayra said that she was willing to get in the car with the police to look for the thieves, because she would recognize them. Jazmina could not believe her eyes and said, ‘They’re going to kill us one of these days, because this girl’s not afraid of anything.’”
Aura Cristina goes on to say, “She was very cheerful. She spent a lot of time at the Sisters’ house, helping out with whatever she could.” Sr. Gema Díaz affirms, “She was always willing to do whatever was asked of her, especially when it came to the Sisters. Her joy was contagious to everyone around her.” Gema Vergara, who went to the same school as Mayra, Jazmina and Maria Augusta, remembers, “They joyful and fun to be around. As the years passed, you could tell that they were more and more devoted, although they were afraid to accept what God was asking of each one of them.”
In November of 2012, the Home of the Mother Youth organized a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Rosa Mystica in Olón (Ecuador). This pilgrimage was a moment of special grace for Mayra, in which she received light to understand what the Lord’s will was for her life. Her friend, Maria Cristina Pinargote, recalls, “Mayra loved to remember the moment in which she discovered her vocation as a Servant Sister. It was in the Shrine of the Rosa Mystica in Olón – Santa Elena. She always had a huge grin on her face when she talked about it. She used to love that place.”
In 2013, she began to study Engineering and Marketing in ULEAM University in Chone. Her friend, Jazmina, also enrolled in Systems Engineering. Mayra witnessed how Jazmina started to distance herself dangerously from the Lord because of a bad group of friends. It would have seemed normal for Mayra to follow the same path, since they were such close friends, but Mayra held firm and faithful in the Lord. Although she did have to suffer quite a bit, because she soon found herself all alone. She was able to fulfill what she had written months earlier, “The Home has helped me to overcome my weaknesses, to have the strength to fight against them, to recognize my own misery, and to make the effort to be faithful day by day; in short, to live a life guided by God and Our Lady.” Despite the strong friendship that united her to Jazmina, Mayra proved that she had her own personality. She was capable of making her own decisions and taking the steps that the Lord was asking of her, without depending on anyone.
Thanks to her experience at college, she was able to help the younger girls who formed part of the Home of the Mother. Maria Cristina Pinargote tells us, “She always encouraged us to be good. She told us that when it was time for us to go to college, we had to keep strong because we would encounter a bad environment there. She encouraged us to be strong and not fall into those bad situations. She told us these things with sadness, but she said it because she loved us.” She also tried to help her little sister. Wendy recalls, “She always used to scold me because I didn’t go to the meetings on Sundays. She told me not to stop going because otherwise I would get lost. She always insisted that I had to fight, and never stop fighting, because if not, the devil would defeat me.” Her love for the Lord and for souls came to light thanks to something that happened in this year’s summer camp. “One afternoon, we were having our group meetings. I remember that Mayra said she couldn’t understand how many people could forget about the Lord and say they’re happy… she started to cry and said, ‘He suffers so much… He gave His life for each one of us, and we forget about Him without even realizing it.’ Thinking about how we forget the One who created us really affected her.”
She had a way with the youth and was a good educator. A young girl tells us, “Mayra was my camp counselor this year, and she taught me many things. She always told us that we could give more. Even though we said we had given everything, she knew we could give more, much more.” Another one of her campers, Melina Flores de Valgas, adds, “Mayra was my camp counselor and I am very grateful to the Lord because she helped me so much to live that camp well. I have to confess that I didn’t live it very well the year before. Her love and her dedication for each soul were really impressive.” Carolina Aveiga writes, “Meeting Mayra was crucial for me. She was the one who welcomed me and the one who encouraged me when I started to come back to God. I always remember how she strengthened me when I couldn’t go on. If I ever stopped going over to the Sisters’ house, she and Jazmina would call me to ask why I didn’t go and they would talk me into coming back. When she wanted to tell me something, she just had to look at me and I knew what she wanted to say. She said to me once, ‘Don’t abandon your prayer life, because it’s what’s going to give you the strength to carry on. You are called to great things. You have to keep strong and do lots of apostolate. Come on, I want to see you doing well.’”
The day of her Confirmation was a very special day for her. She received her Confirmation along with three other girls of the Home of the Mother. The Sisters prepared the girls who would receive the Sacrament, as well as their sponsors, who were also girls of the Home of the Mother. Each girl and her sponsor had a retreat. Mayra perceived that that retreat had been fundamental for her to live the Confirmation ceremony well-prepared and fully conscious of what was happening. Her friends remember, “During the Confirmation, we saw her break down crying. When the priest pronounced her name to anoint her with the chrism, she experienced in that moment that she had received the strength to live everything that was being asked of her: to defend her faith, to give herself entirely to God… and all this full of joy!”
She had struggled immensely during the weeks that led up to her entrance as a Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother. Besides the normal temptations that are to be expected, she was also presented with the possibility of starting a relationship with a boy. The Sisters were organizing a mission expedition to the Puyo, to evangelize the indigenous communities of the Shuar people. Mayra loved going to the Puyo. When she returned from her first trip there, she never grew tired of repeating that the fact that God had chosen her as an instrument to carry His love to the Shuar communities had been a huge grace for her.
But this time the trip fell on her birthday, and it was hard for her to spend those days away from her family and away from Chone. She finally made the decision to go to the Puyo, and she had to confess that it had been the best birthday ever, full of true joy. Sr. Kelly Maria tells us that, “When she got back, God’s will triumphed in her, and she soon entered as an aspirant. She made this step with admirable generosity.” Everyone who knew her was amazed at how happy Mayra was on the day of her entrance. She literally leaped for joy! Even Jazmina, who knew her very well, was impressed and remarked, “I’ve never seen Mayra so happy.” Gema Vergara agrees, “On the day Mayra entered as an aspirant, no one could take away the joy that radiated from her. She was totally transformed. She persevered in everything that the Lord was asking of her, and faithful in everything. You could tell that she had fallen deeply in love with the Lord and Our Lady.”
Mayra entered as an aspirant on October 19, 2014, in the chapel of the Servant Sisters’ house in Chone. From that day forward, she had a strong conviction that she had to surrender everything to God, without holding anything back. Shortly after, on January 1, 2015, she entered as a candidate. Her joy was also very noticeable that day. After entering as a candidate, she went to live in the Students’ Residence of the Home of the Mother in Portoviejo, where she had enrolled in the St. Peter Superior Institute of Religious Education and Values, studying social work.
During Holy Week, 2015, her friend Gema Vergara asked her if she was happy, although it was obvious that she was, and very much so. Mayra confessed, “I am so happy, because now I can say with certainty that I have done God’s will. I left my fears behind and decided for the better part. You have no idea what I would give to make time pass by faster and make my perpetual vows and die as a Servant Sister, giving everything for Him.” And then she added, “Come on, Gema! God loves you and is waiting for your answer. I regret having lost so much time, refusing to give my life to the Lord. But I am happy, because we can offer so much in the little every day things, to Him who suffers so much for you and for me.”
Mayra lived her desire to surrender herself to God with a great spirit of charity and sacrifice, which did not go unnoticed by those who knew her well. Aura Cristina describes this saying, “I lived with her for a time in the Students’ Residence, and she always treated the other girls with such charity. She helped us out with our chores, and she never ate anything without offering it to the others first. She had a sacrificial spirit. I remember one Lent when she decided to sleep on the floor to accompany Jesus in his suffering.”
And Gema Vergara adds, “She always smiled, even when something was difficult for her. I noticed that she always did little things, little sacrifices, with true love for God. She did everything for God and for Our Lady. She really inspired me to try to be holy, to love without expecting anything in return, and to really surrender myself to God’s plans.”
Her dedication and her sacrificial spirit were also seen in the Puyo. Sr. Gema Díaz remembers one occasion in which she was on the team, along with Mayra, that reached Yampís, the village furthest away from civilization. They had to walk through the jungle at a good pace for more than eight hours to get there. “It is an arduous path, in which you cannot stop too long to rest or to enjoy the scenery. The jungle is very dangerous, and even more so at nightfall. That is why we had to walk almost non-stop.” In the last stage of the journey, they had to cross an authentic mud swamp, which made it very difficult for the missionaries to advance. “There was one point, almost at the end of the journey, in which I physically could not go on. My legs could barely support me, and it became more difficult for me to move my feet with each step. In this last part of the journey, we had to walk through a miry lake. Our boots sank into the mud, and we had to make a huge effort to lift up our feet and keep walking. Each step was a battle. We held on to the branches along the way to pull ourselves out of the predicament. Mayra was often able to advance as if it were the easiest thing in the world, while I was stuck because the mud absorbed my boots and I couldn’t get them out. Since she was aware of my situation, she was attentive to always lend me her arm to grab onto, to support me and help me get out of the hole. And she said amusingly, “I’ll be your branch, Sister.” I think that if I made it to the end, there and back, it was thanks to this branch that tirelessly offered me her help until we reached our destination.”
It might seem like Mayra had this disposition to help the others because she was in such good physical condition. But Sr. Gema reveals to us a detail that confirms Mayra’s spirit of sacrifice and ability to forget about her own needs to give of herself to others. “Along the way, I would ask her every once in a while how she was doing. She always responded, ‘I’m doing fine.’ Even towards the end of the journey she kept saying, ‘I’m doing fine,’ although this time she added, ‘But my boot is squeezing my big toe a little bit.’ When we arrived and could finally take off our boots, she showed me her toe and her toenail was all purple. ‘It hurts a little bit.’ A few days later, when she was already back home, she said to me, ‘Sister, my toenail fell off.’” That toe really must have been hurting her, but when we were in the Shuar community, she hid her pain, to the point that it seemed like it really was not a problem.” The Sisters remember her playing soccer with the kids, and offering to help with whatever was necessary.
Mayra was in love with the Lord and with her vocation as a Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother. Melina Flores de Valgas confirms, “Mayra was in love with her vocation. I always wondered why the Sisters and the candidates were always so happy, and I discovered the answer in the days I spent with Mayra in summer camp: they are happy because they have the Lord in their life. Every time I saw Mayra, I always thought, ‘How courageous she was.’ I’ll never forget the day she said to me, ‘If you surrender yourself and open your heart, and have the Lord in your life, you will always be happy.’” Mayra could say this because she had experienced it.