Friday, 06 May 2016 13:20

The Blessed Sacrament Rescued Twice in Playa Prieta

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At 6:58 PM on Saturday, April 16th, 2016, the ground seemed like it was going to burst. Tremors are somewhat frequent in Ecuador, but this was not just a tremor, it was a devastating earthquake that made all the provinces on the Ecuadorian coast tremble. The earthquake affected the school that the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother have in Playa Prieta, in the province of Manabí. In the moment of the earthquake there were 4 professed sisters inside the house and 7 postulants.

They were on the third floor of the building, which is where the community had their house. Out of the four sisters , three survived along with two candidates, while one sister, Sr. Clare Crockett (33 years old, Ireland) and 5 candidates; Jazmina, Mayra, María Augusta, Valeria and Catalina, were found dead under the rubble.

When the sisters felt the first movements of the earth, they immediately knew what was happening and tried to move quickly. The superior of the community, Sr. Estela Morales (40 years old, Spain), had a quick reaction. I truly think that her love and faith in the Blessed Sacrament overcame in this moment the natural instinct to survive. With everything around her shaking, she tried to make her way to the chapel to save the Blessed Sacrament, instead of looking for safety under a door frame. Just as she entered the chapel, she saw the four walls fall in on her. She violently fell through the floor along with all the rubble and debris and was left buried under what used to be the house. She uselessly tried to free herself from her trap, but it was impossible. She had to wait until the neighbors realized what had happened and quickly started digging through the mess to free her. Our Lord suffered in the same way that our sisters did and He too was crushed under the rubble and debris of the building.

The improvised rescue team was working with insufficient tools, but slowly advanced through the rubble guided by the voices of the sisters that were still alive. They finally were able to free Sr. Therese Ryan (36 years old, Ireland), who had a fractured ankle and various contusions. Not long after, they were able to reach Sr. Estela, who immediately told them that the tabernacle had fallen somewhere close to her. While they brought Sr. Estela to a nearby house so that the doctors could come and examine her, the same volunteers who rescued our sisters, also found the tabernacle and consumed the Blessed Sacrament. We are all convinced that it is a miracle that Sr. Estela is still alive and that her act of love has been a huge consolation for the heart of Jesus. Our Lord must have also been consoled by the act of faith that the simple, yet heroic men made, risking their lives to save the sisters and saving our Lord as well.

Not long after, they were able to free Sr. Merly Alcybar (34 years old, Ecuador) and two other young postulants, Mercedes and Guadalupe.

But this was not the first time that the sisters had rescued the Eucharist in this week. The Servant Sisters have as our first mission “the defense of the Eucharist”. We have received the mission to defend the Eucharist as the treasure of love from our spouse, Jesus Christ. And that is why we make a fourth vow, in addition to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, to defend in and with our lives if necessary, the Eucharist. And this week the sisters had not one, but two occasions to heroically defend the Eucharist. Let me explain.

A few days before the earthquake, Tuesday, April 12th, we received worrying news from our sisters in the community of Chone, also located in the province of Manabí (Ecuador). They told us that the sisters in the community of Playa Prieta were flooded: “ Dear sisters, I am writing you on behalf of the sisters in Playa Prieta to ask you all to pray. Everything is flooded. It rained all night and a fence has blocked the Puente de Pinpiguasí, causing the river Chico to overflow. The towns of Calderón, Alajuela and Pinpiguasí are flooded. The road from Calderón to Pichincha is closed because of mudslides. It is a desolating scene, everything is covered in water.”

That same email continued: “The sisters have brought the Blessed Sacrament from the parish to their house. The water is above their waist.” Two simple sentences. But if you look at the picture in this article, you will understand. The picture shows Sr. Estela, dressed in our blue work habit, walking with difficulty through the water with the water above her waist. The water is muddy and dirty, it has been mixed with the sewer water and proliferating with all sorts of snakes and insects. The water is so dirty you cannot even see where you are putting your feet. And in these conditions Sr. Estela, Sr. Clare, Sr. Merly and Sr. Therese left the house to go and rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the parish which was already under water. I can only give thanks to the Lord for my sisters and for their example of faith and love for the Eucharist.

The first picture that is seen in this article is a picture that I also wanted to share with you all. It is a picture of Sr. Estela before the earthquake. She is in a very simple, brick house giving Communion to a sick, elderly woman. May her gaze of faith, with which she was able to discover the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, help all of us grow in faith and love for Christ in the Eucharist.

Hna. Estela dando la comunion a enferma antes del terremoto

Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother

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