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“The Servants are called to love as Mary”

 

Lima, August 15, 2012. – On the occasion of our XIV anniversary, we would like to share an interview to Carmen Cárdenas, our General Coordinator. This interview has been published on the web page of Noticias Sodálites (http://www.noticiasdelsodalicio.com/ ).

 

The Servants are called to love as Mary

14/08/12, (Noticias sodálites - Peru). On the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the foundation of the Servants of the Plan of God, one of the consecrate branches of the Sodalit Family, we have the opportunity to speak with Sister Carmen Cárdenas Cervantes, the General Coordinator of the Servants, who shared with us her experience and the apostolate the Servants do in the four continents where they are present. Sr. Carmen Cárdenas Cervantes entered the community of the Servants of the Plan of God in 1998. She belongs to this institution since its beginning. Her first studies were in the University of Saint Mary in Arequipa. In 2002, accompanied with other sisters, she opened the first community of the Servants of the Plan of God outside of Peru, in Colombia. She was part of the pastoral team of the Catholic University of the East (Universidad Catolica de Oriente) and taught humanities courses there. Moreover, she hosted some radio programs and gave spiritual counseling and formation to young farmers affected by the violence. In 2003, she made her Perpetual profession of Full Apostolic Availability in the Servants of the Plan of God. Soon after her return to Peru she was designated to be the General Coordinator of the Servants in 2006. She is to share with us a bit about her early years in the Servants, her calling and the present challenges as General Coordinator.

How did you come to know the Sodalit Family? How did you get involved? 

I was about 20 years old, about to finish university, and I was questioning a lot about the future. When a friend in university invited me to an activity, organized by the Archdiocese of Arequipa, to take a census of the public dinning halls, I went and met various youths who were helping in this project. Shortly after, I became involved with the Christian Life Movement (CLM) and started to know more about the Sodalit spirituality.                                                                   

 

In which moment you discovered the call to consecrate your life to God?

I think that there was not “a moment,” rather, my vocation was something that came about very naturally. I was finishing university and I was already more committed with the CLM, I began to discover the need to have a more solid spiritual life, a closer and permanent prayer with God. I began to help out with the apostolate in the pastoral center and worked on the social projects of the CLM (dining halls for poor people, child care, medical centers); there I came into contact with many needy people, youths, adults, the elderly and I had the opportunity to visit some of the patients with terminal illness, to accompany them, to listen to those who suffer or those who are alone. I think that the contact with all these realities brought me to understand that my life should be dedicated to serve these people who are suffering, that it was not enough for me to give them a little or a lot of my time, for there are many people who are in need and are seeking for meanings of their lives. It resonates in my interior the call to do something more for the poor. I felt responsible for them and that what I was doing was insufficient. Then, I understood that my entire life should be for God, because in this way God may reach them. I understood that the Lord wanted to count on me unconditionally.

How would you define the vocation of the Seravnts of the Plan of God?

We servants, discover the call to consecrate our lives to serve God and our brothers, especially those who suffer most. We live in community, which is fundamental of our call. We give ourselves totally for apostolate. Our total consecration to God is expressed explicitly in the habit that we use, this is a sign of the full availability that we live, of our love and service to God and explicit adhesion to the Church; moreover, it is an invitation to meditate on the eternal realities and the presence of God in one’s life, so that we may have present the ultimate purpose to which all human beings are called towards. Nuestro emblema, el Corazón Inmaculado de María, nos recuerda a las Siervas que estamos llamadas a amar como María, cuyo corazón está totalmente conformado con el de su Hijo, el Señor Jesús, para que llenas de su amor lo comuniquemos en nuestro servicio a los demás, buscando alcanzar la perfección de la caridad a la que estamos llamadas. Our emblem, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, reminds us the Servants that we are called to love as Mary, whose heart is totally conformed to that of her Son, the Lord Jesus. We are to be filled by his love so that we may communicate it in our service to others, seeking to reach the perfection of charity to which we are called to.

 What do the Servants of the Plan of God do? What are the first priorities in your apostolic and charitable work?

We, the servants, are dedicated to the apostolate of announcing the Gospel to all, with a special attention to the fragile, sick, poor and needy. We seek to reach out to those who suffer most, in whom we discover, in a particular way, the suffering face of Christ. In this sense, our apostolic and charitable work in the Church is developed in different areas, such as in health care, education, social assistance and human promotion of the needy, faith formation, and working with youths and families. In Lima, where we were founded, we are in charge of the school “Joy in the Lord” (“La Alegría en el Señor”) for children and youths with physical disabilities and the Physical Rehabilitation Center “Corpus et Vita.” We teach catechesis and work in pastoral care in high schools and universities; we run old-age homes; and we do pastoral work in clinics and hospitals, among which is the Naval Hospital in Callao where one of our communities is situated. On the other hand, together with groups of youth and adult volunteers, we perform different projects and charity campaigns, mission trips and social work in different towns and settlements.

In which places in the world are your communities located? How many communities exist in the present? And, of what nationalities are your vocations?

Currently, we are in four continents: America, Europe, Asia and Africa, with 14 communities. We have sisters from various nationalities including: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Costa Rica, China and the Philippines.

What does it imply for the Servants to help those who suffer most?

When one lives in contact with so many people who suffer deeply, one comes to understand that one’s capacity, be it more or less, or the many or few resources we have available, are worthless if they are not to be put to the service of the Lord. And if God has chosen us to serve his Plan, we are to be faithful and work hard each day to cooperate with his Grace, letting him be and work through us; and hence becoming ourselves into witnesses of true miracles.

By your own experience, and now as the General Coordinator, what do you think is the motivation of many youths to question their vocation to consecrated life?

Young people are constantly seeking and undoubtedly, the main question they have is how to reach happiness; however, the answer to these yearnings cannot be found in theories or speeches. Young people today seek witnesses more than ever; they seek men and women who give testimonies with their lives that happiness is possible and is real. Often they hope to find their own happiness from the experience of others. Therefore, when they come in contact with consecrated people, who transmit God with their joy, who are convinced that their call to give their lives to others is worth it and work hard to live a coherent and testimonial life they feel an attraction towards it. Seeing this example brings youth to consider the path of consecrated life as a possibility to answer to their yearnings for something bigger and also makes them questions themselves if they are called to live the same life.

How has been the experience of you, the Servants, of founding communities in Africa and Asia?

To go to a new continent continues to be a challenge, and I believe that God has wanted us, the Servants, to arrive to these places because they are mission territories, where there are a lot of material and spiritual needs. Through all these years of serving the Church in Angola and the Philippines, we have experienced that a deep hunger for God exists and it can be seen that this hunger is partly answered when they encounter testimonies of people trying to fulfill that hunger and need.

Among other aspects, since the beginning, we have been deeply impressed with the experience of seeing how the African catechists from villages and towns of Angola, walk under the sun for 4 hours –because most roads where destroyed during the war– so that they may give testimony of their faith to their brothers. For that, when they come to us we feel responsible of giving them a solid formation in the faith, to help them to get closer to the Lord and the sacraments and to accompany them in their own reconciliation. On the other hand, the work we have been doing in the health care area in extremely poor hospitals, resulted from many years of war, puts us in contact with the strong reality of a country that has to be rebuilt. In the Philippines, we have had the experience of encountering poverty at all levels, including the moral aspect. Currently, only a small group speaks Spanish and besides English, there are nearly 170 dialects being spoken among the over 7,000 islands across the Philippines archipelago, which is a great challenge for evangelization. However, the desire to announce God and to help them to elevate their dignity have taken us to perform missions in several islands, in which, joined with a large group of volunteers from the CLM in Cebu, we prepare different activities such as medical brigades, catechesis, human promotion workshops and recreational activities.

We thank God for being in this country, one of the few Asian countries which is mostly Catholic, a country with a living faith that is manifested in its culture and strong popular piety. Thus we find ourselves encouraged to continue with the task of evangelization, cooperating with God´s Plan, so that from the Philippines our faith may be extended throughout the continent.

The Servants of the Plan of God were founded in 1998, in Lima. They are present in Peru, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Angola, the Philippines and Italy. The servants live the Sodalit spirituality and their foundation anniversary will be celebrated tomorrow, August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.