“You, Lord, entrusted them to me. I desire to give them back to you in full.”
Lima, 07/27/14 (Sodalit News – Peru). Nowadays, the vocation of a son to the consecrated life is a difficult reality for many mothers. Elsa experienced this three times with her son and two daughters. Despite the pain, she made a big effort to not get in the way of God’s call, who had out of love given her Carlos, Daniela and Veronica, and now asked them to serve Him.
The Neuenschwander Sahurie family is from Arequipa, in southern Peru. It was there that Carlos, Daniela and Veronica grew up. Carlos is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. His sister Daniela is a consecrated laywoman, member of the Marian Fraternity of Reconciliation, and Veronica currently works as a consultant. Throughout their adolescences, Elsa could see especially in Carlos and Daniela God’s call to the consecrated life, something for which she knew God had prepared her.
Elsa recalls with great joy her closeness, and that of her family, to the Church ever since she was very little. “We had a ritual together with my parents and brothers that implied going to Mass very early on Sunday mornings and stopping by the bread shop on the way back home in order to eat hot bread for breakfast. I recall participating in the processions and important feast days in long, dark clothing. I later on participated in the “Classes on Christianity” and was formed in the Jesuit spirituality which helped me to understand the importance of living my faith well. I believe that all of this prepared me for the vocation of my son and daughters. While they grew up I always had the sensation that they were really not mine, but rather a beautiful loan that God had given to me so that I would be able to produce many fruit according to His Plan. “You, Lord, gave them to me, and I want to give them back to you in full.”
During their childhood and adolescence, Carlos, Daniela and Veronica were encouraged by their mother to always live solidarity and to use well the gifts God had given to them. She showed them that the school that they attended without worrying about working or going through large financial difficulties was a blessing and therefore they should give the best of themselves. The continual presence of her friends, especially those that had young children, was an occasion for Daniela and Veronica to be able to serve, attending to these little children and teaching them basic things.
Carlos met the Sodalitium while he was preparing for Confirmation in his high school. The one in charge of his preparation was the current General Superior, Alessandro Moroni, who Elsa always admired for being able to put up with the mischievousness and personalities of Carlos and his friends, who Elsa knew quite well. “In the beginning it worried me but also amazed me the apostolic strength of Sandro, because Carlos and his friends were quite mischievous. Unlike his sisters who always caused much laughter at home, Carlos and his friends spoke little, were careless, and even broke a door in the house on one occasion.”
After establishing a friendship with some Sodalits, Carlos participated in mission trips, apostolic trips to isolated villages in order to offer spiritual formation and accompaniment. Elsa’s experience of traveling when she was in school and being able to be in contact with poor villages, which she loves greatly, made her not doubt at all in giving permission to her son to do the same. She jokingly recalls having found out about the adventures and anecdotes of the mission trips and she continues to admire the patience and the capacity of the Sodalits who took Carlos and his friends along with them. Little by little Carlos began to discover God’s call to consecrate his life in the Sodalitium, a calling that in his sisters would be to the Marian Fraternity of Reconciliation.
With a bit of melancholy and laughs, Elsa recalls that Carlos’ departure did not bring about many practical problems. It was, however, Daniela’s departure that gave her some headaches because the issue of the clothes they needed to take to Lima – which she shared with her sister – was a “passionate drama.” She also recalls Veronica’s sadness when seeing her ‘second half’ leave, as the two sisters were very united.
The physical distance of Carlos and Daniela in Lima did not get in the way of Elsa trying to remain close in some way to her children. With a certain amount of shame she recalls constantly sending brownies, desserts and other useful things to her children. After about two months of doing this, Carlos asked her to only send that which was necessary, and she realized that it must have been difficult receiving so many motherly things in a young, all male community.
When Veronica finally told her mother about God’s call that she had received to become part of the Fraterna community, she became the third one to leave home and give her entire life to God. Her mother confesses that she had one idea in mind throughout all of this: “God is the one who decides, not me.” Not having grandchildren or little children was not a problem as her many friendships gave her the opportunity to play with and take care of small children. She assures that she did not look for explanations from God, but rather prayed and trusted with even greater strength.
However, God’s ways still had some surprises, some of which were not very pleasant. “Despite the physical distance, my children were my greatest source of strength during a very difficult time in my life” Elsa recalls. “Many things had to change but they were close to me through their calls and encouraging words to that I could get a hold of the reins of my life again. The Lord has His ways of helping us.” Veronica also discerned her vocation to the married life during the tough time in her mother’s life, and Elsa regrets no being able to help her due to her own situation, but they were still able to accompany each other closely.
After 18 years of living physically separated from Carlos, who lived in the community in Rome and then was chosen as the Assistant General of Temporalities, they were brought together again as Carlos moved to the community of the Pastoral Center where he works. For Elsa it was almost like meeting a new son. She was able to hug him again and have him physically close. “Carlos has always been able to perceive my emotions even when I do not say anything about the matter. When I go through a hard moment or have an emergency or some emotional necessity, Carlos seems to know about it and asks me about it,” she told us emotionally. “Obviously his obligations and mine do not allow us to see each other all of the time, so we still have to put in our agendas our family encounters that take place on the Internet between my children and me,” she commented laughing.
During Elsa Sahurie’s earthly pilgramage there have also been amazing milestones that she has been able to share with her three children. On special occasions such as her 60th birthday, despite the fact that her three children were living in separate places – Rome, Ecuador and the United States -, she asked them to climb up the Marian sanctuary in San Bartolo with her and pray to Mary, and they were able to do it. “We have done this another time as well on another occasion and for me it is the perfect opportunity to tell Mary ‘Mother, I bring them here and place them at your feet’. I live gratefully day by day, taking advantage of each experience and occasion that God gives me. Both the sunny days and cloudy days are a blessing for me.”
Elsa Sahurie is now part of a much larger family, the Sodalit Family, since 2006 when she was part of the beginning of San Pablo Trips (Viajes San Pablo), where she currently works. For her “the Sodalit family is a large human network of solidarity. You can help and receive help in many different ways. You can contribute with your work, by listening to someone, by looking for donations, as there is always something that you can give or do for others. We live this way here, according to our possibilities, and are aware of others and experience as well the company and attention of others.”