Hello! My name is Sister Ana Margarida. I'm 32 years old and I took my first vows on this last 8th of January.
Before I was a sister, I volunteered at Teresa de Saldanha (VTS),which is a volunteer work center attached to the portuguese congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Sene. As a volunteer,I served during a year in East Timor, where i tried, such as Teresa de Saldanha's teachings inspired me, to practise good deeds whenever and wherever possible. During this year of mission, in which becoming a sister wasn't an objective in my mind, I was profoundly accompanied by our Founder, Teresa de Saldanha's thought: "Always forget yourself, in order to do good for your fellow man.". Thus I devoted myself completely to the people of East Timor and to the mission I undertook, in such a way that, upon my return, I felt as if God was calling me to deliver my life to Him with no reservations, through religious consecration.
During the educational process, God has granted me the gift of being able to take part in some missionary experiences inside my own country. First, during the Alentejo mission, preparing the Archbishop's pastoral visit, where I was presented with people who had a profound thirst for God, and in order to help them in their path, were very hospitable towards us, wishing for us to stay and guide them. Here I undoubtably found a great field of mission that made me realize that the mission itself starts closer than one might imagine. I was later called to be present, also as a missionary, at the Santiago Pilgrimage and in the congregation's Work Field, Dominismissio. In each of these missions, I understood that God manifests Himself in the tiniest of details and provides us with the strength and gifts we require at any given moment, in order to become his representative to the people who walk alongside us.
In this certainty that God is always with us and knowing that He contributes in everything that is good for us, I recall Dominismissio'17. Estremoz was the place chosen to celebrate the event, and in that city a community of sisters has been present for about 80 years. I would never imagine that my first community as a professed sister was in Estremoz when I presented the idea of organizing a work field in Alentejo, or even thought of undertaking the task of being an active part in Dominismissio's organization.
When i first arrived to this community in January, I soon realized that one of my biggest assignments would be how to organize the work field. My short experience just the year before didn't prepare me for what lied ahead. I knew the ground rules of what was needed, and that young people actually coming to Alentejo would be an enormous challenge, but that this city was in dire need of feeling missionary presence. Slowly but surely, the first connections were made with the proper institutions and parishes, in order to understand who could take us in. At the same time, community-wise logistics were being set in place. Everything was out of our comfort-zone and presented a big challenge. In May, we met with institutions and the work field started to come together...however, August seemed very far away.
As the sign-up process began, we started realising that this Dominismissio was to be set by God's will and not our own. We might try to imagine it occuring in one way, but everything will happen as God sees fit that it should...and soon the limit for signups had been reached. Now everything needed to be taken into consideration...some doors closed and others opened...everything happened differently than what we had imagined, but always according to God's plan. The feeling provided by Him was never as strong as in the final moments of preparation for this great adventure.
Arriving in August we realised there were 27 missionaries amongst locals and outsiders. 27 young men and women decided to leave the comfort of their houses and roamed towards Alentejo, to live a week of missionary life. In their luggage they brought joy and a working spirit, as well as lots of love to enrichen the days of all those they met during signups. They were present in seven different instituicions, working in 13 posts. There was no doubt of the immensity of such challenge and whatever fear was felt during the first day slowly faded away when they realised that their presence and commitment changed people's days for the better.
Walking by different institutions, I could notice how the people's eyes glistened at their presence. It was amazing to feel, listen and observe the difference this week made to everyone who accomplished what would otherwise be impossible. On the other hand, I was thankful to God for the gift of listening the missionaries' experiences first-hand, in which they recalled how they felt God acting through them unto others. And how the shyness was fading into contageous joy for everyone.
It was a truly intense week, in which stepping out of one's comfort-zone was a daily need for everyone, starting by us sisters! And watching them go leaves a gap in our hearts...after all, it was so good being together here...however, the mission continues... it continues in every place we go to, there, precisely there, there is someone who needs us at that very moment! Let us not be fearful of exploring the unknown and meet the people who are the face of Christ for us today!
I thank God for everything we experienced along those days. I thank every missionary and guests who ate supper with us and told us their stories! I also wish to thank everyone that, while not present, supported us through prayer! Bless God for everything that happened! And we'll see you again next year!
Sis. Ana Margarida Lucas
(Dominicanas de Santa Catarina de Sena - Portugal)