The oblate sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer celebrated the 150 years of the founding of the congregation in Ciempozuelos, the province of Madrid. Antonia de Oviedo y Schönthal founded this congregation adopting the name of “Mother Antonia de la Misericordia”.
Consecrated to the Redemptive mission in 1870, they offered a home to women in contexts of prostitution in the Madrid of the time. Since then, the ardor for the mission of these religious dedicated to others has taken them to 15 countries, in this century and a half of existence realizing what Pope Francis asks of the whole Church, to reach the geographical, existential, and virtual boundaries.
All this following their charism that has led them to inhabit emerging places and realities of prostitution and trafficking of sexual exploitation, where their presence is necessary. In this sense, the testimony of two Oblate Sisters, their vocation, and response to the Lord illustrate very well what it means to live the mission and charism on a daily basis.
This is what Sister Maria Luisa Fernández says: “To gather my experience of mission in Venezuela is to find myself. I arrived in Venezuela on August 29, 1960. Feeling fortunate to be part of the group of five sisters who founded the congregation in this country does not free me from the heartbreak of farewells in Spain. Back then, when one left, it was for my part to leave behind the work and return. A 20-hour flight put us in Venezuela and we began to dream. Together we took on the responsibility of sending with the conviction of sowing the charism in this land. We worked little by little, with the confidence that it is God who makes the seed sprout and grow. At 22 years old, I was the youngest in the group. I feel supported by my sisters. I knew what moved us was the conviction that “it is God’s cause” from the experience of our founding father, from whom we received the missionary inheritance.
Walking in simplicity, many times without knowing how my life as an Oblate is configured, I understand the meaning of oblation and dedication as gestures of love and service in the different assignments and tasks. I feel that I am evangelizing and being evangelized, being a companion, educator, guide of women, with humble people. It is grace to form my vocation to consecrated life in the times of the Council and after Vatican II. Changes convert and shape the life of the present and the future. The foundation in Venezuela is conceived with new horizons in mind. The country debuted with democracy, with many years of prosperity, where anything was possible. Until 20 years ago the crisis began, which became deep with the great failures of the moment.
Looking back we see the seed germinated, grown. A big tree that has also undergone pruning. Today we are a minority, but in both prosperity and scarcity, we learn to live happily. Women and people keep us hopeful. It is encouraging to be part of consecrated life in Venezuela, in contact with the poor. Promoting hope with gestures of solidarity. What has sustained me on this long journey is the certainty that God is always present. That Jesus the Redeemer guides me, accompanies me, invites me to follow him as a disciple. He sustains me with the tenderness of the Good Shepherd”.
It is in Brazil where Sister Maria Pilar Laria lived her vocation of Oblate of the Most Holy Redeemer: “I am Spanish: I was born in a small town in the north of Spain, in a religious family, very catholic. My parents taught me from a young age to put into practice everything they knew, they raised me in the faith, living the Christian life, and that’s how I grew up. God was preparing the way until she felt the desire to follow the religious vocation. My formation with the Oblate Sisters was a school of true human and psychological experiences, deepening of our spirituality and knowledge of the life of our founders, José María Benito Serra and Antonia Maria de la Misericordia. I professed on August 15, 1959, thus making my first vows. Great was my surprise when I learned that my first destination would be Brazil, a missionary in American lands. I was ready for anything, inside of me there was the fervor and joy of a young woman of 20 years old, making my consecration to the only God in my life to dedicate myself with enthusiasm to the announcement of the Kingdom, living with joy my vocation dedicated to the Oblates, Charism, and mission.
It’s been 61 years since I arrived in Brazil and I’m proud to have that experience of life, work, and culture that taught me a lot from my daily life. In all these years I had different experiences: community life, mission, different cultures in various places and states of Brazil. That’s how my life has been: between lights and shadows, God has purified me, always with the impulse to grow in the spiritual life, having as motto ‘sanctification’ and, as the center, ‘life of prayer’, it would be impossible to face the challenges that life offered me without the strength which God has given me. This is my way of being an Oblate, rooted in Jesus the Redeemer and in the dream of our founders. I continue with joy to be every day a prophetic sign, living the essence of spirituality in every gesture of welcome, mercy, tenderness, respect, and social commitment, convinced of the action and strength of the Holy Spirit, in the Mission with women in the situation of prostitution.”
These two sisters, like each of the components of this Congregation, have done life what Mother Antonia, their foundress, used to say: “I am Oblate and I have made an oblation of myself”.