“To announce Jesus is urgent.” Such is the cry, the call always being renewed by Sr. Finita Martinez Canovas, a Spanish Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa.
In her testimony, she shares her journey of encounters and her inner journey where the difference between cultures and religions forces her to stay awake.
My thanksgiving becomes more concrete and explicit through this reality of the Encounter. Yes, that is what I lived: invigorating energizing encounters, full of light that launched me onto new paths.
The Meeting with Jesus:
It was at the age of 18, it upset my life filling it with meaning, consolation and orienting it to new horizons: first my Christian vocation, then the call to religious-missionary life. What a beautiful experience!
The encounter with other peoples, cultures, religions through the people around me:
• First it was the great Congo-Zaire.
What brave people, open, frank. With this people and its cultural and religious diversity, I learned that in the depths of every human being there is the thirst for dignity, recognition and respect and that I myself was like them because I carried within me these same desires. From then on, the encounter with others who are different became for me more natural. This discovery helped me a lot in my missionary life.
• Then it was the formation in France:
The French are different from my people, even if we live side by side. In meeting them, I learned that It is not enough to have ideas, intuitions or to assert convictions. It is necessary to prove them, to argue, even to criticize what you bring. I loved this lucid people who helped me to take into account different feelings, which opened me to other realities!
After these years in France I was sent to Mexico to found a community with the aim of making known the missionary vocation ad-extra for Africa. Mexico–what a rewarding experience. It was the encounter with a good, understanding, generous and welcoming people. I discovered the popular religiosity and the deep faith that nourishes it. What a beautiful experience!
• My next nomination was in Mali:
It was my first encounter with Islam through the dialogue of life. I ran a women’s training center. What a beautiful encounter with believers of another religion! But also I discovered the traditional culture, so strong in this part of West Africa. I was faced with the pride of the Bambara people, pride in their tradition: Bamanawm ko! It was good, to meet people who feel comfortable in their skin! And in the middle a small group of Christians to encourage! Formation for religious women: Mater Christi. With Alain and others we began formation weekends for many years. What a wonderful experience of deepening faith, religious life and creativity together!
• I was then appointed to you Burkinabe:
The Postulate, Library, responsibility at the level of the region. I was so happy to live with you. You are a peaceful people, deeply religious, gentle and united. This is your strength. In meeting you, I discovered what happens when people open to the faith. I became aware of the fruit of evangelization. Yes, you have welcomed the faith that the missionaries brought you; it has borne much fruit and still makes you live. I admire the strength of traditional culture and how you struggle to adapt it to today’s reality. I am very grateful for so many beautiful encounters and shared experiences, especially for the friendship woven with you during these 12 years.
Finally, I realize more and more that: All is grace! It is beautiful to live with Jesus and together with others. The future is always ahead, to be built! So, In the strength and limits of my reality, I dare to venture into the unknown: I will meet today’s Spain, mission land, after 49 years of absence. The Lord leads me there. He has a mission for me.
I feel that to announce Jesus is urgent everywhere;
and social problems are inter-connected from North to South. Imagine, learning about a reception center against human trafficking here in Ouaga–it was a sister in France who sent us the address. We, who were living here were completely ignorant. That is what it is to collaborate and remain interconnected; to open our eyes to discover concretely the poor of today, the slaves to liberate, the migrants to welcome and enlighten, the land to love.
Today’s liturgy told us that the bridegroom left in search of the bride; Mary hurried off to Elizabeth.
Jesus woke John making him jump with joy. As Christians and consecrated people, the Pope invites us to leave our nests, to discover the calls of our time, where Jesus is waiting for us. In this new stage of my life I ask the Lord this grace for myself and also for you. I entrust myself to your prayer. May the Lord listen to us and hear our prayer.
Sister Finita Martinez Canovas