It was an endless night, of uncertainty and prayer.
Swirling under a hastily erected tent, shortly after the earthquake of January 7, the Dominican Sisters of Fatima did not know what fate had in store for them after losing in an instant what was their only home for decades, the Hacienda Santa Rita in Guánica. .
Like so many other displaced Puerto Rican families in the Southwest, the missionary servants had to face an uncertain future for months. Even so, they resumed their mission of solidarity, turning that tent into a collection and distribution center for supplies, and an oasis of spiritual support.
However, the need for a safe roof forced their separation and, one after another, they were temporarily relocated to other convents, without knowing for sure when and where they might finally plant roots and build their new home.
Last Friday, however, almost a year after that terrible morning in January, the answer to his prayers was consummated.
With the arrival of three bedridden sisters who were transferred by ambulance from other homes, the group that now occupies the new headquarters of the congregation, in the Constancia de Ponce urbanization, was completed.
After a hard and unpredictable year, most of the Dominican Sisters of Fatima will spend Christmas together, in a new Motherhouse: the Casa Santos Jacinta and Francisco Martos.
“The earthquake was a very traumatic experience that we are still overcoming, but I think we can finally breathe,” said Sr. Margarita Mangual Colón, Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Fatima.
Now, 22 sisters occupy what for years was the Amor de Dios Kindergarten school, which closed its doors last February. The structure was purchased by the church through payment plans, to be completed in 2022.
As Sister María Gisela Rodríguez Rodríguez, one of those in charge of the space, explained, the school structure of the building facilitated its conversion to a convent. This, by having open spaces, dining area, kitchen, interior parking with platform for activities, and multiple bathrooms. To this was added a space for a chapel and on the roof, a terrace was established.
“We are very happy with the work to welcome the sisters, who due to the earthquakes in January were prevented from meeting all of them,” said Sister María Gisela, who arrived from Texas last July to help in the process.
“In the face of adversity, what God expects is that we learn a lesson. That is pruning. Sometimes you have to cut back so that it bears more fruit and that is the life of the Christian ”, he continued.
After months of work to refurbish the structure and add the distinctive touch of the sisters themselves, the building now breathes new life.
“We are deeply grateful and with an eternal debt of gratitude, because it has been the mercy of God, through our brothers and sisters, who have given us their hand,” said Sister María Gisela.
The process, however, was not easy.
“Some had been living there (Hacienda Santa Rita) for more than 40 years, so it was difficult for them to leave. That was his life, his habitat. They are already assimilating that the Lord wants them to be in this new place, but initially it was not an easy process ”, said Sister Margarita.
“Although our sisters were well cared for in the Bishopric, at Hogar Santa Marta and in our other convents, being in their own home you can see that they are calmer, because they finally reached their destination,” he added.
To rebuild Santa Rita
Although the Casa Santos Jacinta and Francisco Martos will be the permanent home of the bedridden and elderly nuns, the Prioress General does not give up hope of rescuing the Hacienda Santa Rita for another purpose.
The Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima are a congregation founded in Yauco in 1949 by Mother Dominga Guzmán Florit. They settled in the old Hacienda Santa Rita in Guánica in 1953.
Although the structural engineers have ruled out that the complex can be used as a home, Sister Margarita indicated that in the long term they consider rebuilding it to preserve it as the historical place that it is.
“The house where the government of the congregation is located has a part that has to be demolished, and the other will continue as the house of all the sisters for the meetings. The Mother House is what the engineers recommend that it be like a museum, ”said Sister Margarita.
Despite this, and only days after the first anniversary of the earthquake, Sister Margarita and others remain at Hacienda Santa Rita, guarding her legacy.
“Still a group lives here. We are in a small house, in modules and in wagons, “he said in good spirits.
“This is the patrimony of the congregation. You have to protect it and be aware. This has a value for us sisters. Here is the sanctuary and since January 8 the Eucharistic celebration has not stopped here. We have always had mass and we continue with the works and activities that we normally carry out ”, he added.
“We are very happy, very happy. The important thing is the simple. The Lord has given us so much and we will continue to help families, which is our mission, ”she stressed.