The Ladies who are called Maria
By Marjorie Engcoy
The author is from Ozamiz City. She has been in Fiji as a Columban Lay Missionary since 2012. She is currently the editor of Kaulotu, a Columban magazine circulated in Fiji.
Marj (center) in Fiji with Nau Merelita, mother of Lanieta and Sainiana Tamatawale (Columban lay missionaries), and their cousin, Penina
In my new parish assignment, I am blessed to have met wonderful ladies who are named after our Blessed Mother. And I would like to share my experience with them.
She became like a mother to me when I came to live in her household for a month before I moved into the flat that was rented for me. The very day that I came to live with them she told me that I was already part of the family. Nana Maria is a widow and is left with her three children: a son who is her eldest child and two daughters. She’s very active in the parish as well as in the archdiocese. Whenever she’s out and about, she treats everyone warmly with her gentle smile and happy greetings. During her service as a commission head, I saw her unwavering commitment to the role to the extent that it had become part of her already. She encouraged everyone under her wings to do their best in their ministries, to take courage and not to be afraid because God is with them always. But it wasn’t all easy for Nana Maria; I saw her facing trials as well—whether they were regarding church work or family. She faced them with her head held high. I asked her one day while chatting with her over lunch, “Nana, how are you keeping up with all of these trials?” Her answer? Love. She said that at first these trials didn’t make sense to her, but as she got to know and understand her ministry deeper, she began to love it, thus becoming a part of her. The same is true with her family; it is her love for her family that gives her the strength to keep on standing by them and with them.
Aunty Maria is a community leader of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus Community in Raiwaqa Parish, Suva. I was told that her community is a challenging community when it comes to participation. Indeed, I saw it when I went to visit the community. There are only about three to four families who are actively participating in the church or community activities. Two things that I admire about Aunty Maria are her love and commitment to the community. She goes around visiting families almost every week, whenever she is blessed with good health, constantly asking how they are and requesting them to assist the community activities in the church. Aunty Maria is a warm and welcoming person. Despite rejection and mockery from others in the community, she still keeps on. The faith community is not only her big responsibility. She is also taking care of her daughter who has special needs. But that does not stop her from being the way she is.
The Blessed Mother
The Annunciation, 2002, Jason Antiquera
Both women are named after the Blessed Mother and both have inherited the loving and committed attitude of Our Lady. In their life journeys, they have never left the foot of the Cross; yet, they adore the Cross that is the source of their strength to withstand whatever tribulations in their lives. And like the Blessed Mother, they knew the cost when they decided to follow Him—tears, rejection, and ridicule but also, more importantly, the blessings and joy that go with it. As I journey with these women, I began to see a deeper kind of joy that is beyond words. As I journey with them, I am further inspired and strengthened to keep hanging on.