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Sr. Mercedes

Sr. Mercedes Párraga:  Sr. Clare arrived in Playa Prieta in October 2014 and we went to Cajas a few months later. When we got there, we went to the Virgin Mary’s garden. It was a small group of girls and sisters.

Sr. Mercedes Párrago was a candidate when Sr. Clare was in Ecuador. She remembers the love Sr. Clare had for Our Blessed Mother, and recalls how it was shown in a pilgrimage they made to a shrine called Cajas. Cajas is situated in the Andes, in the province of Azuay, very close to the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. Our Lady appeared there as the “Guardian of Faith.”

Sr. Clare arrived in Playa Prieta in October 2014 and we went to Cajas a few months later. When we got there, we went to the Virgin Mary’s garden. It was a small group of girls and sisters. You could really sense Our Lady’s presence. There was a very beautiful atmosphere, and no one wanted to leave. We were just there praying and singing to Our Lady. No one wanted to get up, but the moment arrived for Sr. Estela to say, “We have to go. It’s time to leave.” We all got on our feet, even though it was really hard to, and all of a sudden we hear Sr. Clare say, “Hold on.” We turned, looked at her and asked, “What’s the matter, sister?” She answered, “We can’t leave this place until we sing a song to Our Lady.” We all laughed. It was time to go, and she says, “No, we can’t leave.” So she started to sing the song, but looking at Our Blessed Mother with such strength… you could just see her love for the Virgin Mary while she sang. It was not even a Marian song; it was a song from a festival for special children called Gracias a Ti [Thanks to You]. She sang it, and when we finished the song there was another very special moment of feeling our Blessed Mother’s presence.

When we returned to Guayaquil, we were gathered together talking about our experiences. All the girls said they felt like Our Blessed Mother brought them to the Lord. Sr. Clare shared her experience, too, and said that before going to Playa Prieta, when she heard the sisters and girls talk about Cajas, she used to say, “Really, I don’t know. Cajas, Cajas, Cajas. Yeah, it’s a nice place, but I don’t know…” It wasn’t such a special place for her until then, and she did not understand why we talked about Cajas so much. But after that trip, she said, “Today I understood why you talk about Cajas so much. I have had moments in which I’ve felt Our Lady very close, but the way I felt her there then [on that trip] … She was really there with us.” She said that when Sr. Estela said that it was time to go, she said, “No, we can’t go until we sing Her this song,” and, “the words of the song really express what I feel for Our Lady. I’m truly thankful to Her, She really has done it all.”

Later on, whenever we sang that song, it was impossible not to go back to Cajas in spirit. It was like remembering it all over again. I remember one day after the earthquake we did a procession with Our Lady. They placed the statue in front of me and I remained looking at Her facing me, and all of a sudden—I don’t know why—that memory at Cajas came to me. For me personally it had been a very important moment because what happed to Sr. Clare happened to me. So that day I was looking at Our Lady and that memory came to mind. And all of sudden the sisters started singing “Gracias a Ti.” It was a gift from the Lord and from Sr. Clare. I felt Sr. Clare near me through the song. Every time I hear it, the same thing happens. It says, “Thanks to you,” and, “I want to thank you today for giving me hope.” Sr. Clare used to say, “That’s what I say to Her. I say the lyrics to Her.”

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