“The Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus feel that we are on the way out”

Mother Marelis Parada faces her second term as Superior General of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus with hope.

Mother Marelis Parada is at the generalate of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Jesus Institute in Los Teques, Miranda State. It is one of the most impoverished regions of Venezuela. In that house, Blessed Maria de San Jose Alvarado began in 1901 the work that today is maintained and extended by more than 100 religious. Marelis was recently re-elected as Superior General of the Congregation, which celebrated its XII General Chapter with the motto “With Christ and for Him, until we become the dwelling place of God in the Spirit”.

Mother General faces with hope the challenges that the Congregation must face. At present there are 15 works, most of them in Venezuela and some in Peru and Colombia. In all these places there are many social and personal difficulties that they perceive, and every day they work to reduce them. In all their efforts they always find a foundation. “We see with joy God’s extraordinary step in our humble congregation, which continues to bet on the poor, which gives hope, which sows smiles, which accompanies the vulnerable,” explains Marelis Parada. These are the aspirations of the religious: “The Augustinian Recollect Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, for some years now, have been going out. Always sharing God’s love with others.

According to the Superior General, at this moment they consider themselves “Augustinian Sisters of restless hearts and builders of fraternal communities”, “Recollects who bet on interiority” and “of the Heart of Jesus because all our love and inspiration rest in Him”.

Volver al origen para encarar el futuro

El Capítulo general celebrado del 22 al 30 de agosto ha coincidido, entre otras cosas, en el deseo de “continuar de manera prolongada la obra carismática” de los fundadores y hermanas. Marelis Parada indica que “hemos vuelto a la fuente, tocado las raíces fundacionales de nuestra congregación, acogiendo el corazón del pobre y de necesitado”. En este sentido, hay algo que no se perderá, pues es ahí donde se sustenta toda su labor: “Continuaremos moviéndonos por la fuerza y creatividad del Espíritu Santo, quien sigue suscitando en el corazón de muchas jóvenes el deseo de seguirle desde nuestra congregación”. En este momento, los laicos cobran un papel clave. La religiosa asegura que “nos sentimos comprometidas en continuar la labor evangelizadora con los laicos que hacen vida nuestro carisma”.

La Superiora general hace suyas las palabras de la Beata María de San José: “Los desechados de todos, los que nadie quiere recibir, ésos son los nuestros”. Como lo fueron en sus inicios, los pobres seguirán siendo la prioridad de su día a día. “Ellos han sido -dice- el campo fecundo de nuestra misión, el lienzo en el que se ha dibujado nuestra historia, la parte de la humanidad que nos toca, el pasado, el presente y seguirán siendo el futuro”. En este punto, Marelis Parada afirma que esto “solo es posible a partir de una caridad impregnada de Eucaristía”. Y es que este sacramento es parte fundamental de la congregación.

Facing a forest of social challenges

After these months, COVID-19 is one of the main challenges they face. “It has led us to rethink our daily service, so that we can move forward with our works,” she explains. Going deeper, Mother General analyzes: “The natural impulse of this pandemic is to close ourselves off and isolate ourselves from others, to lose contact, to save our own lives, to stop being and doing; but we know that for our poor this means death”. In the face of this throwaway culture of which Pope Francis speaks, the Augustinian Recollect Nuns of the Heart of Jesus have decided to “move forward, building a more humane and dignified world for these difficult realities”.

COVID-19 is not the only difficulty. Education in Venezuela is another one. “It benefits only a few and most of our girls are of low or scarce resources,” says Mother Marelis, who concludes: “The challenge in this area is precisely to educate and we will continue to do so. In the country where they were born, they continue to struggle every day against adversity, suffering the socio-economic crisis: feeding people without resources and taking care of abandoned children, while Venezuelans flee abroad.

Listening, generating spaces of encounter, adoration of the Eucharist, good treatment, synodality or evangelization are some of the words that resonate in the mind of Mother Marelis. The Augustinian Recollect Nuns of the Heart of Jesus intend to continue walking in the present, looking towards the future with hope and without forgetting the origin. “We recognize ourselves blessed, our roots are still alive”.