Some very energetic women
Fr. Roberto CARRASCO is a young Oblate serving in the mission of Santa Clotilde in Peru, along the River Napo, a tributary of the Amazon River. In his blog, he speaks of some of the dedicated women religious who tirelessly serve the people.
After my diaconate ordination, I immediately moved to the Loreto region, specifically to the new mission taken on by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Santa Clotilde – the Napo River. It was in September of 2008.
It was surprising – and this happens to many when they have their first contact with the tremendous Amazon – floating on and on towards the town of Angoteros in the district of Torres Causana. I went with Fr. Edgar NOLAZCO – my brother and companion in the mission – and when we got to that place, the first thing that surprised me was to find an indigenous community that preserves their language, their customs and their entire worldview. A couple of years before, Fr. Juan Marcos Mercier, OFM, had died. I met Manuela, Virginia and Janet for the first time.
The mission house is in the midst of the community, a house like all others, palm bark on the floor and the roof of palm leaves.
Manuela and Virginia, the older members of the community, welcomed us, and with them the youngest member, Janet, who also arrived that year. I remember every expression, every aspect of the three Peruvian Sisters, Mercedarian Missionaries, who had come to the High Napo at the request of Juan Marcos, so as to continue the mission in this part of the Vicariate.
Manuela, the incomparable Manuela. The first thing Fr. Jack told me when I got to Santa Clotilde was: “Now you will meet Manuela; she is a woman with a lot of energy.” I cannot help but remember that, when I met Manuela, I was greatly impressed by her dedication to the people. Her closeness; her wanting to dialogue and understand the culture. The first thing she said to me was: “Quickly, quickly. We have to leave soon. I still have a lot to do. What a disgrace that you are just sitting there.”
A lovely little expression that sticks with us all these years. Manuela is, true to her style, the one who carried on, in her way, Christ’s mission among the Napurunas after Juan Marcos. There are many examples and anecdotes that come to mind. Her intensity and strength for doing things correctly and being in the communities. Her desire to arrive on time at every village to begin her visit. All the old papers and materials, ready for talks and workshops. Her little notebook in which she wrote down everything about her daily life. How many baptisms were done; the most pressing problems in each community; the names of the new community authorities. At every moment, she was like a little ant, busy doing something. She was a veterinarian because she would inject a chicken that Virginia or Janet considered sick; she was a plumber, a builder; she could grab her ax to chop firewood. She knew exactly how to use each tool and where everything belonged. What was surprising was not so much that, but that as a woman and a big woman, she had such enviable energy. “Man, you must be useless…” she told me and I burst out laughing.
Beyond all these things, I want to highlight about the Mercedarian Missionaries that, true to their charism, sitting in the floor, they prayed every day in the morning and took communion. There was no priest in the mission. They presided over the faith community. Thanks to Florentino, Ronald, Roger, Lino and the youngest, the beloved and unforgettable Amable. The kuyllur runa – Christian leaders – laity formed by Juan Marcos and maintaining the Napurana Mission when the “missionaries” are not there, as it is at this moment as I write these lines. Thanks to each of them for their testimony, they faithfulness, their love of Pachayaya (Father of the Earth) and the community of faith.