Home » Bolivia » A day in the life of a saint

Juan Carlos Bascope (left), a team member of Fundación Justicia Social, addresses a support group of older adults in Puytucani, a community of Tacopaya, Bolivia. Also pictured are Maryknoll lay missioners Joe Loney (center) and Filo Siles (with striped hat). With humility and conviction, Juan Carlos lives the values of inclusion and justice in the world. (All photos by Meinrad Scherer-Emunds)

We began this month of November thinking about the saints. It is easy to see why the Gospel selected for All Saints Day was Matthew 5, the Beatitudes. The saints help us to envision people whose lives embody the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who are merciful and prophetic. The saints’ lives each tell a story of faith, hope and love. They invite us to reflect upon all the ordinary people we meet who live extraordinary lives of service and demonstrate love for God and God’s creation(s).

I wonder: If we could spend a day in the life of our favorite saint, would we gain greater insight into the saints who surround us today?

Janeth Vargas (left), the director of Hogar Nuestra Casa in Cochabamba, speaks with Elvira Ramirez (right) and Maryknoll lay missioner Victoria Arce, who works at this shelter for girls and adolescents who were victims of sexual abuse by a family member.

Recently I was fortunate to visit our Maryknoll lay missioners serving in Bolivia, and as I accompanied them at their ministries, I met many saints.

In addition to her ministries at two homes for older and disabled adults, Louise Locke joins a group of volunteers who distribute food to the poor every Thursday at St. Francis Church in Cochabamba; afterwards they proceed to take food to those who are living on the streets.

Maria and Beatrice stood out to me. They said that they come because they used to be homeless and without necessities themselves, and so they serve their brothers and sisters because they know how the destitute feel and they recognize their daily struggles. It was clear that Maria and Beatrice are giving their time and acting out of compassion, but they are also sharing everything they have.

John O’Donoghue works at a residential program and shelter for men who have been abandoned by their families and need long-term rehabilitation due to HIV/AIDs, accidents, injuries, alcohol addiction, respiratory problems, or other health conditions.

Juan, who is one of the residents, is confined to a wheelchair after severe injuries from a fall. Juan has taken it upon himself to assist the small staff of the center with many tasks that serve the needs of his companions. I was immediately touched by the love and selflessness with which Juan offered his service as both colleague and companion in this place he calls home.

Joe Loney and Filo Siles have developed community-based services for individuals of all ages who are living with disabilities and for elders in very rural communities. One of the keys to the success of this outreach is the dedicated team, which has worked together over the years. Their Bolivian colleague Juan Carlos can speak Spanish and Quechua, is a trained physical therapist, and utilizes his talents and gifts for the well-being of every person in the program as well as to promote the dignity and the rights of vulnerable people in rural communities. With humility and conviction, Juan Carlos lives the values of inclusion and justice in the world.

Maryknoll lay missioner Minh Nguyen and Octavio, one of the indigenous students she tutors, work on a math problem together.

Victoria Arce works at the Hogar Nuestra Casa, a center providing comprehensive services to girls and adolescent women who were subjected to domestic sexual violence. The healing and reintegration process takes many hands and hearts. The director of the center, Janeth, is single-minded in her commitment for their work to be a beacon of hope and to build survivors who are protagonists of change at the personal, family and social levels.

Minh Nguyen lives in the rural community of Tacopaya, where she supports the needs of the local parish and provides afterschool assistance to students. It does not take long to be immersed in the reality of the indigenous people who live there, many of them eking out a difficult living by subsistence farming in remote mountain locations. Each person reflected a spirituality and a way of life that quietly challenges the occasional visitor.

Juan Gomez supports and walks with the missioners in Bolivia and throughout the Americas as our area director. He recently shared the celebration of his wedding with family and friends. Together we experienced a day of palpable love, joy, hope and peace in our midst.

Do you want to know what a day in the life of a saint was/is like? Come and see: Spend a day in the life of a Maryknoll lay missioner.

Elvira Ramirez
Elvira Ramirez is Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ executive director.