Sr. Maria Victoria: At service to the Word in Africa

It is true that a vocation is a gift from God, but it presupposes a response on our part. Sister Maria Victoria Acebes from Spain, tells us her vocation story.

When I finished my university studies and was teaching grade school in Madrid, I was starting to doubt my call to religious life. I felt divided between what God was calling me to do on one side, and then the need to leave family, work, friends and familiar surroundings. It was a difficult and hard time, but when one has a profound encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, all changes and this become possible within this moment of grace.

One day I went to visit the Comboni Missionary Sisters and experienced peace and joy, and said to myself “This is my place, the place I have been looking for.” I continued my visits to the sisters and they helped me with my discernment about what God was calling me to do.

I eventually joined the Comboni Sisters and was sent to the Central African Republic (CAR), where I have spent the past 33 years living and working. It is not easy to summarise these years in a few words. The experiences have been many difficult at times, but always enriching. My first assignment to the mission of Kaga-Bandoro was stupendous! We arrived in 1977 as a group of young sisters with much enthusiasm for life and to learn from the people we had gone to serve.

For eight years we dedicated ourselves to pastoral work, animation, formation of women and young girls. It was a rich experience with direct contact with the people, living simply and sharing with the local people and witnessing their faith and confidence in a God who will be with them through their problems. The experience increased my own faith too.

Nevertheless, other mission assignments were more difficult for me and the people. In the mission of Batangafo, everything seemed normal and we went about our pastoral ministry. Then in 2013, things changed as rebel groups from neighbouring Chad and others from the north of the CAR, started to intimidate and threaten the local population and we religious sisters, with violence if they did not hand over money, food, supplies and even vehicles. They were difficult times for everyone.

For the past four years I have been in Bagandou, which is located in the equatorial jungle of the CAR It is quieter here and we are able to go about our pastoral work without major problems.  We work with the Bantues and pigmies, in areas of education, health, justice and peace, and other pastoral activities.

How can I summarise these past 33 years of service as a Comboni Missionary Sister, who is dedicated to the most poor and vulnerable? Well in a few words only, I believe that everything I have lived over these years was possible because I had and continue to have a conviction that I am not alone and that God is always with me.