I’m María Vergara, from Chone, Ecuador. I’m a member of the Home of the Mother of all Mankind, Mother of the Youth. I’m married, 34 years old with four children.
The Home of the Mother rescues me day by day, so that I don’t distance myself from God, and so that my soul won’t be lost and condemned for all eternity. [Sister Clare and the girls who died in the earthquake] have done so much for me to make this possible, and God has made use of them so that I could get to know Him and love Him, even though my battle will continue until the end, since I always fail Him. It hurts me whenever this happens, but I trust that God will help me to reach holiness.
Because of all of this, I can say that these six people have also played an important role in my life. I hold them in my heart. For me, they’re not dead but alive, and the time I shared with them I will always remember. These memories help me fight for the ones I love and for those I don’t love, especially for those who do not love me. I learned this from my dear friend Valeria, who despite everything that she had to suffer, forgave and loved as Our Lord asks us to do. Is it difficult? Yes! Is it impossible? Never!
God has been so merciful to us, especially with me, because He has placed six very special, unique, and important people in my life. I can’t help but feel nostalgic when I speak or write about them. Obviously, I am referring to Maria Augusta (My “Cielito” [little Heaven] as I always called her), Jazmina, Mayra, Catalina, Valeria and Sr. Clare. God knows how grateful I am that they were part of my life, and that I got to know the love of such good, young women. It was obvious that they were leading a life of total surrender to God, you could tell just by looking at them.
I’m a very affectionate person, and I have the habit of hugging tightly those whom I love. Since I hug so tightly, sometimes, without meaning to, I squeeze the person really hard… Ha, ha, ha! My poor, dear loved ones! But now, thinking back on when we would get together, I realize that they responded to those hugs in the same way, without complaining in any way. They only hugged me back with a beautiful smile.
Maria Augusta: a respectful and affectionate girl with a special sweetness in her gaze, like that of a small child. When you looked at her, you could tell in her eyes that she was innocent. I knew her for many years, and I admired how she defended her vocation so firmly. She knew that if she was faithful to God in her calling, she would be happy, in spite of the difficulties she might encounter. Every time we saw each other she would say to me, “Maria, please pray for me so that I can be faithful to God.” And I told her that I would. Whenever they came to visit, I would always go and say "hello" to her. When she entered as a candidate of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother I was sad that I couldn't be there. But I accepted it and offered it to Our Blessed Mother, because my greatest joy is when a girl says "yes" to God, especially if I know that girl. That is why when I saw her afterwards, as soon as Mass was over, I ran to give her a hug in the middle of the church.
Jazmina was a very high spirited person. I met her in RCIA and I saw how her soul changed in the measure that she drew closer to God. In spite of her own difficulties, you could sense an immense joy when she said her "yes" to God. She was always smiling to bring joy to others others. Even when she saw how her mother was suffering, she knew what she had to do, and thus showed her trust in God. I don't think I am mistaken when I say that she learned to live this way from her mother.
I also witnessed Mayra’s transformation, even though we spent little time together. We are imperfect, and only through God's help and trusting in Him can we become better, unique and happy people; this is what happened to Mayra. It's very hard for a girl to leave everything and begin to live in a state of grace (according to the world, what matters most are parties, vanity, etc.) It must have been hard for them at the beginning, yet seeing how these worldly things didn't make them happy, they stopped fighting and trustingly gave themselves to God. I could see this in Mayra: she had a true joy and served others, for God does not take anything away from us, but rather gives us everything so that we can give to those around us. Each one of the girls gave of themselves totally because they had so much to give.
Catalina!! Ha, ha, ha!! When I think about her, I imagine how she must be trying to make God laugh each time someone offends Him to try and bring Him joy. That's how she was. Her free spirit radiated happiness, and she had a gift for making others happy. Bringing joy to the sorrowful is a work of mercy and I learned this from her because she put it into practice. She often made me smile. You couldn't be with Catalina and not enjoy her craziness. You could also tell that she loved God. I really miss her sense of humor.
Regarding Valeria, I truly agree with what they say about her being like St. Dominic Savio. I've heard things about him, and when I hear what people say about Valeria I see how God also touched this sweet soul. Thanks be to God for people like her, because there are so many impure things in this world that offend Him. She fell in love with God and wanted to console Him. Valeria had a very loving gaze. My daughter also loved her dearly and often spoke highly of her to me. This made me happy, because she is going through a difficult stage right now and needs to see examples of girls who live a healthy lifestyle and who are happy; not like the majority of the girls who ruin their lives and others' lives doing what the world does, and who end up terribly unhappy. Most importantly, she said "yes" to God like Our Mother in heaven and was an instrument of love for those of us who knew her.
These girls have shown us that living in the state of grace doesn't make us boring or anything of the sort. You could see how happy they were because they were overflowing with joy. They didn't need to speak; simply looking at them was enough to discover it. "May whoever looks at me, see You, my Lord."
Sr. Clare!! I could say so much about her. From the moment I met her, I felt a great strength in her presence, I could sense her young and charismatic spirit, as well as that certainty of who she was and where she desired to go. I always wanted to go to Playa Prieta to see her, because the love that she had for all of us didn't lead us just to her, but guided us to God. I remember once when I was going through a hard time because of some family problems, Sr. Clare gave me some encouraging words. I asked her to keep me in her prayers so that my difficulty would be resolved. I am grateful for her prayers, because after several difficulties, my home remains united. I continue to ask for her prayers so that I may fulfill my vocation as a married woman and help my children seek holiness.
Of all the years that I have been in the Home of the Mother, I have only been able to attend one Holy Week Encounter. Sr Clare asked me if I was going to go one year, and I told her about my difficulty. She told me that she would pray to God so that my family could go, and that's exactly what happened. Even my husband could be there for a little while. When I saw her, I thanked her for her help, and I continue to pray to her and the girls so that, when God calls us, we too may be prepared and not trapped by little, worldly things; I pray that we aspire to great things, holiness. Our battle goes on until the end, because we are weak. The saints have shown us that nothing is impossible and that we are not alone, for God waits for us and loves us.
For many people, this sort of death wasn't something that the girls and sisters deserved, seeing as they were so young. When I found out about the news I started to cry, but later I thought, "We are not of this world. We are just passing through. Our true home is heaven." They are still with me, and I feel that they are close by and that God will always shower His blessings upon us through them. After what has happened, many people have started to take their Eternal lives seriously, repenting of their sins and going back to Mass and Confession.
I fear more for those of us who are still here, since we have to fight at all times to not lose our eternity with God.
We have to trust in God, like Sr. Clare and the girls, and like them, know, love and transmit Him to others.