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by Sr. Raf Van Mechelen, ICM

As a group of Missionary Sisters of the Inmaculate Heart of Mary, we celebrate our  50 years of presence in Guatemala. Exactly 50 years ago,  January 1964, the first sisters arrived in Tiquisate:  Sisters Francisca and Adolfina, to help in the school of “Bartolomé de las Casas”, and afterwards Sister Clarita, later called Sister Sabina, and young enough  to take charge of the intermediate education at that time, together with Miss Carol, a  volunteer from the U.S.A.  Sabine did her studies in the same school and later on went  to Santa Lucía where a  new community was initiated to help in the parish.

Many of you will remember them.  Sisters Francisca and Adolfina have already passed away.  In August of the same year Sister Candelaria arrived to collaborate in the school until 1967.  In December of the same year, sister Denise arrived, and after seeing the needs of the people, specifically of the women, she initiated the social work which covered a wide area of needs.  Thus the Social Center was born and grew where women could learn various vocational skills, and surely the most important need was sewing.  I am sure that among the women present many are wearing a new dress made at home.  

At the invitation of Father Antonio, Sister  Denise  followed a course on cooperatives in Canada.  Upon her return,  slowly and surely the cooperative ¨Popular Union¨ was born and gave fruits,  with 7 branches and now with 60,000 members.

Much later the housing project  ¨Friends¨ became a reality giving the opportunities to young families to start off positively from the beginning.  It all became possible with the valuable work and collaboration of many  good people of Tiquisate.

In 1965 Sister Christina arrived to re-enforce the work in the school.  Last year Sister Christina passed away in Belgium at the age of 101. We also remember Sister Gloria who also worked in the school and later  in the parish.  She had the talent to teach songs in the Church.  Around 1968 and 1969 Sisters Irene and Irma arrived and later transferred to Escuintla to start a new community.

The hospital was to be re-initiated in 1969, so two more sisters came:   Sister Cris who studied nursing in the city of Guatemala and  became the coordinator of the nursing  personnel.  (Three years ago in Belgium Sister Cris passed away.)  Sister María, here present, worked in pediatrics, then in the emergency ward, and rendered services as an anesthetist. Six years later she was asked to go and work  in the dispensary of Nueva Santa Rosa.

I worked more in the maternity ward and with the premature babies.  They were years of arduous work with many worries and joys and much satisfaction.  I imagine that among you there are some that were born in the hospital where we worked,  and surely I changed your diapers or held you in my arms.  I am  happy to see here present my teacher and doctor in charge of the hospital, Doctor Bustamente.

When the parish was left without their parish priest, due to the difficult period of kidnappings, assassinations, etc., Sister Cris and I tried to keep up the two parishes.  Sr. Cris was more in Nueva Concepción and I myself in Tiquisate.  Monsignor Ríos, here present,  gave us the authorization to baptize and we continued with the catechetical program, visits to the villages and the large land-holdings (where the people worked),  and the Celebration of the Word.  

You will also remember the other Sister Chris who worked in the social center while Sister Denise was on home-leave. And others that you will remember is Sister Paula who imparted classes in the school and literacy in the small plots of land where the workers lived  and Sister Hilda who worked in the parish.

The time came with much hurt in our hearts and with  tears for us to leave Tiquisate  the end of January 1990 and as a congregation we left Tiquisate, our first mission in Guatemala.  And as I always say:  Tiquisate, my first love.  

In this  missionary journey  in Tiquisate, we have had sisters from different countries:  Philippines, Belgium, and the U.S.A.  We are an international  congregation, called and committed to leave one’s own country and cross borders to help and collaborate in the building of God’s Kingdom.  

Sister Denise  still continues to collaborate with you in the social center, the cooperative, and the housing project.

Now, we are here to thank our God for all the years that we have been able to live and work in Tiquisate.  And thanks to each and everyone of you for having received us, supported us, and loved us.  Your generous collaboration was indispensable for us.  And most important, the satisfaction of your continuing to work for the common good.  May God bless you abundantly.

I also want to bring to remembrance Sister Blanqui  Peña, from here, Tiquisate, who accompanied us for a few years, and is now in God´s glory in heaven.

Now, I ask myself:   Does God not call young women to work in his vineyard now?  Is He not calling you to become religious missionaries?  Our ICM group now is so reduced.  Young women, I believe that God continues to call today and invite you to listen to what God wants of you, thus a generous reply is needed. 

And as our Mother Foundress once said and we continue to live it:  “Let your hearts be like His, so generous and great that the whole world may find room in it”.  


by Sr. Raf Van Mechelen, ICM

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