Maria Jose Zambrano, Ecuador: Catalina and I began a very beautiful friendship. It was so beautiful that I can assure that she was the only person that I felt secure with and trusted.
Catalina was one of a kind. She gave of herself absolutely with great love in everything that she did. I never heard her say, “I can’t.”
I met her in my first camp. I didn’t like anybody the first day of camp except my school companions and I wanted to spend the whole camp with them. To my surprise, I was separated from the only girls I knew and placed in a group with complete strangers. One of them was the group leader: Catalina.
I remember that no one [in my group] spoke the first night of camp. Catalina was the only one who did, telling jokes and laughing a lot. She won over all the girls in the group. She said, “Come on, girls! This is just beginning!” I remember her asking us questions about our story. We listened to everyone’s story until it was my turn to talk. I didn’t want to talk to any of them and much less tell them how I ended up at camp. Catalina said, “Don’t worry, it’s normal to feel embarrassed. I am here for you anyways… But you are going to remember this moment at the end of camp when you don’t want to go home. I will still be there for you.”
As days went by, Catalina and I began a very beautiful friendship. It was so beautiful that I can assure that she was the only person that I felt secure with and trusted. That is when I decided to tell her how I had ended up at camp. She was always telling jokes or doing something to make me laugh. During camp she was attentive to each of us girls. I admired her, especially in how she gave herself to God in everything she did.
On the third night of camp, I was surprised to find out that Catalina had assigned a bed to each of us, but she had been sleeping on the floor. One night, the two of us were the last ones to go to bed. I laid down, but then Catalina started to kill time to see if I would fall asleep before finding out. I got out of bed and was very upset because she hadn’t said anything to us. The first thing I said to her was to get up from there and get on the bed because there was room for the two of us. She began to laugh a lot and whispered, “Come with me.” We left the room and she said, laughing, “Don’t worry about me. Sleeping on the floor doesn’t bother me. It’s comfortable.” I was very upset and said that I didn’t think that it was right that she didn’t even have anything to cover herself with. She just kept laughing, until she said, “It’s okay, let’s go to bed and we can talk tomorrow.”
After that, the only thing that I could think was that Catalina was very good. One of the last days of camp she gave me her e-mail because she said that I shouldn’t get lost from the flock. After camp I wrote to her waiting eagerly for her response. She would answer when she could, and I understood that. I couldn’t help but smile every time I received an email from her.
So, we continued sending each other e-mails for months. Soon my birthday came around. My biggest joy was when my phone rang at about 6:25 a.m. I had no idea who it could be. She said to me, “Hi, good morning! Happy birthday! I hope you spend this day very close to the Lord! I hope today will be a day full of blessing! Be good and don’t forget that the Lord and Our Lady love you a lot.” I was totally shocked. “What? I’m sorry, I don’t who I am speaking with!” Catalina began to laugh. That is when I recognized her. We began to talk and to talk… My day was full of joy thanks to that call.
Another story I love is about the last camp when she was the camp leader. I had taken off my scapular on the last night. She realized this and said, “Here, take mine. Put it on. It’s my first scapular. Now I want you to have it and to take care of it.” I immediately said, “No, you can’t go anywhere without your scapular!” She responded, “Don’t worry, I have another one here.” She put it on. I asked her why she didn’t give me the new one and keep her first one. She said, “No, no, Maria Jose, I want you to have it.” She gave me a big smile, and said to me as always, “Be good!”