I think my most basic why is recalled in an incident that happened when I was 15 years old and I became aware that it wasn’t “normal” to have constant chronic back pain. It turns out it’s not normal nor healthy nor good. However, I got to that point because of me trying to swallow all the pain that I felt from the verbal abuse from my dad and how I wasn’t allowed to speak up, share my point of view, my desires, my wants or my emotions. I learned to keep quiet so my dad wouldn’t scream and yell at me, which to this day, makes me tremble inside, even if no longer on the outside. I have worked all my life to heal from those put downs and want to help others do the same.
I consider myself as shy, fearful and timid, even though many have told me that I come across as a confident, strong, brave woman. I don’t feel that way inside. I have spent most of my adult life trying to heal from all the trauma that I felt when I was growing up with an alcoholic father and timid mother and I still feel intimidated when someone in authority, especially men, will put me down in any way. I find myself being very sensitive to the strong words of others and am easily hurt. Despite the fact that I pray to get “thicker” skin, it hasn’t happened yet.
When I entered the convent at 19, I found a community of strong, compassionate women who supported me and helped to find my voice. I grew and thrived while in the convent and learned so many different things. I discovered that I need a community around me supporting me in order to be able to move forward and do things. I am not a lone ranger. I am not a brave warrior who will do things on her own. I need others, but I also want to support others. But when I left, I became even more afraid than when I entered. I was terrified to go anywhere by myself, feeling totally inadequate and unsure of what to do. I had panic attacks when I had to do something new, which was often.
Very slowly over my life, I have been overcoming my false beliefs and incorrect teachings about who I am as a person and as a woman. When I decided to enter the convent, I remember very clearly thinking that Jesus “had to accept me because he had made me the way I was.” I had been told many times by my dad that there was something wrong with me because boys didn’t want to take me out on dates. But God had to accept me.
Fast forward to when I began working in diaconate formation and I realized the program that was specifically geared toward men, needed something for the women. I put together a program that would address their human and spiritual formation, especially for Hispanic women. However, I wasn’t able to use it in the program then. I offered it to women in a parish and they found it to be life changing for many of them. I loved it! It was my way of helping to bring healing to them from all their cultural wounds, especially inflicted by the men in their lives, but also by the incorrect teaching of what the church taught. Many of them heard that because they were married in the church, they had to stay in their abusive marriages, they had to carry their cross, and that they would be blessed. It infuriated me! I knew that was wrong and wanted to help them realize that they had choices and that what they had been taught was incorrect. I wanted to bring healing of past wounds, helping them to realize their worth and dignity as women and daughters of the good, merciful and loving God that loves us with a passion simply because we exist! I want to help others, especially Hispanic women deepen their own relationship with themselves and with God. And I want to help them come to know and love themselves as beautiful, worthy and blessed daughters of God. It has been my own journey too.
I have been in diaconate formation for 14 years now and I have been able to bring that program I created for women in parishes to the program itself. I have seen how for so many of them, it has been helpful, liberating and healing. That brings me joy!
However, my present supervisor has more and more been acting in a way that takes me back to how my own dad treated me and put me down. Despite the fact that I have been working on allowing God to heal me of my past fears and wounds, I still feel them all coming up whenever he is disrespectful to me. Today was another one of those days… I have been trying to find another job for the past three years with no luck. I have prayed to God to let me know clearly where I’m supposed to go but it wasn’t until this pandemic that I finally realized that the door for me to leave is shut, glued, cemented, bolted closed and I am supposed to stay where I am. I don’t like it here but it seems that that is how God has worked in my life. I have had to be in places and situations where I felt helpless, weak, insecure, ill-prepared and not the right person, praying that I could get out, all to no avail. No door opens up at all.
I feel little and weak, fearful and timid and so tired of constantly feeling this way. But I am reminded that one little child offered his fish and loaves and Jesus was able to feed 5,000 with them. I feel like that child. I also feel like St. Therese of Lisieux and how she strove to become even smaller so that God would do things for her as she felt she couldn’t do them. I bring my own small inner child to God so that I may be carried. I offer my littleness in the hopes that God can use me to bring healing and blessing to other women especially. So while I don’t have a passion burning within me at this moment, I hope to have it sparked again within me, hopefully in this cohort.