Patricia’s story – tragedy with a happy ending

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Patricia never knew her father. When she was six, her mother went away as well. She just took her to a friend’s house and left her there. Patricia never saw her again.

This is Patricia’s story. The story of a 27-year-old, whom we met at the mission in Bolivia. It is a story about a woman who faced with feelings of fear and loneliness in her early age – when normally children should be safe and sound with their parents.

Patricia

She allowed us to share her sad, however inspiring story. Not to condemn her decisions and the world we live in but to search for God’s presence and action. To believe in His Operando.

Beaten and abused

She spent 10 years at her mother’s fried. Instead of having a careless childhood, attend school and play, she was often beaten and neglected. Guardian’s brother was sexually abusing her. She finished only the obligatory six grades of school and later stayed at home.

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At the age of 16 she met a man, later got married and spent eight years living together with him. Again, these years were not filled with love and caring, but were a time of violence, abuse and suffering. During this marriage she gave birth to Jose, Carla and Juan Pablo.

Enough!

“He was a drug addict and a dealer. We’ve been together for eight years. He often hit me for no reason and wasn’t able to take any responsibility for raising the children.”

Patricia’s children. Carla (left), the youngest Maria Luz, Jose and Juan Pablo.

With tears in her eyes she told us about how one day, while she was breastfeeding Juan Pablo, the husband broke the bottle on her head and wounded her baby as well.

“That was enough, and I left with all the children. At that time, I was working in a bar. I was able to arrange a room for us instead of receiving a salary. Customer’s tips were thus my only revenue.”

Alone

»After a few years she met a man in a bar and had a short-lasting affair with him. She got pregnant but as soon as the partner found out the news, he left her all alone. She felt disappointed and insecure. She was aware that she will no longer be able to work, which would threaten her accommodation option. «

“That was enough, and I left with all the children. At that time, I was working in a bar. I was able to arrange a room for us instead of receiving a salary. Customer’s tips were thus my only revenue.”

Living in lack

Money was never abundant. Actually, her children were often hungry, she couldn’t even afford for their school supplies.

One of the missionaries was telling us how Carla, back then a 6-year-old, gave all her money for ice-cream or toys that she would occasionally receive from her grandmother (Patricia’s mother-in-law) to her mother so they could buy food.

Patricia and Maria Luz – her name was chosen by the missionaries when she returned from the maternity clinic

An acquaintance, who was in a similar situation (left alone with children and without money), knew the missionary sisters at the Fraternidad El Camino community. She advised Patricia to make a visit there, and ask for food and school supplies.

“I followed her advice. When they opened the doors, I was surprised as I didn’t know they were Catholics, same as me. Never have I heard of them. The head of the missionary at that time, s. Mirabeles, first invited me into a chapel.”

Meeting God

As she was describing this event, Patricia’s eyes started to sparkle. One could see this was a decisive moment in her life.

“I entered the chapel and kneeled down. In that moment I had a strong feeling that God is waiting for me right there. There was a lot of pain and worries inside me and being in front of the tabernacle, they all disappeared. I was crying so loud and the sisters were giving me a surprised look. But those were tears of joy, happiness and freedom!”  

Ever since she was often visited the community and the sisters were always there for her.

Staying with the mother-in-law

Three months pregnant, Patricia was in trouble. She lost her job and had nowhere to stay, with three kinds and one on the way.

Carla was caring and attentive. When times were tough, she would give her money to her mother.

She hasn’t been in touch with her mother, nor the relatives. Ex-husband was imprisoned, the father of the fourth child ran away.

She decided, that children would be staying with her mother-in-law from her first marriage.
Beside the missionary sisters, this was the only bond she had with children being the main reason.

She decided to stay with her children at her mother-in-law’s from her first marriage. Beside the missionary sisters, this was the only person Patricia was in contact with but kept that contact mainly because of her children rather than herself.

Unwelcomed and ignored

The mother-in-law didn’t like Patricia. When they were living under same roof, she would barely speak to her.

“She taught that I was a bad person, who is fooling around, is irresponsible, and sleeping with other men and cheating on her son. This was all wrong. The only good thing about her was that she really loved her grandchildren.”

Until the end of her pregnancy, Patricia had to live with someone who despised her. She needed to be close with someone. To feel accepted by someone, who would comfort her, calm her down, and support her during her pregnancy. She was a physical and emotional wreck.

The mother-in-law never mentioned her pregnancy with a single word. A child to be born was a taboo subject – someone not belonging to this family and a reminder of Patricia’s unworthiness of being loved.

What about the child?

“Before the birth, I was fearing and doubting a lot. I was afraid to tell my mother-in-law that it is time for me to go to a maternity hospital. I was too weak to discuss it, I just couldn’t make it. I told her I was going shopping but in reality, I went to the maternity hospital. I felt so bad.”

Maria Luz and Silva are good friends

After four days, Patricia gave birth to a baby-girl, her fourth child. Instead of being happy, she was filled with worries. Where shall she go with the baby? She was afraid to go back to her mother-in-law as she feared her girl would be unwelcomed. The only way were the missionary sisters.

Light and new hope

Having left the maternity hospital, Patricia went again to the monastery with her newborn in her arms. She asked to be accommodated and was dedicated a small room – the same one Silva and I are using now.

‘What’s her name?’ asked the missionary sisters, when Patricia went to sleep all exhausted.

‘I haven’t yet picked a name,’ she replied. ‘Would you do it?’

Sisters named her Maria Luz (light). Truly, this event brought back light, comfort and new hope for Patricia.

One problem was solved. Patricia was in good hands to recover and offered constant care and food for the baby. She was relieved as the other three children had somewhere to sleep as well. This was far from ideal but better that a while ago.

Mother-in-law and children turned against her mother

Jose, Carla and Juan Pablo stayed with her mother-in-law for a month. Patricia’s sister-in-law was informing her about the state of things there.

She told Patricia that her mother-in-law didn’t want to speak with her, nor did the children. Grandmother was constantly turning children against their mother by telling them that their mother left them and went away with another man. However, she was aware that this was not the truth.

On the stairway of the missionary house of El Camino Sisters (Jose, Juan Pablo and Carla)

The missionary sisters and sister-in-law encouraged Patricia to face with her mother-in-law, to overcome her fear and see her.  

“I was afraid, had no self-confidence, felt frustrated and helpless. But I knew I had to do it once, no matter what. It took me long time to do it, but I wanted to be together with all my children, no matter what. Thank God, the sisters were so kind to offer us all the accommodation.”

Insurmountable obstacles

After a month, Patricia was escorted by one of the sisters to her mother-in-law’s house where her other three children were staying. There were troubles ahead. Not only were the children acting reserved, the mother-in-law didn’t want to give them to Patricia.

The mother-in-law presented her with a document, which was supposed to be the proof of her custody of children as a consequence of Patricia being an irresponsible mother.

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For a while she could only visit her children in her mother-in-law’s house. Slowly she could warm up their hearts again and regain their trust in her.

She had to go through a lot of things in her life, however this was the toughest part. She wanted to get back her children, but couldn’t. There were several insurmountable obstacles present: mother-in-law, the document, her own feelings of unworthiness, fears and guilt, that she left her children in such position although she wasn’t able to find a better option at that time.

Lawyer’s help

When she was able to work again, the missionary sisters helped her get a job. She became a housemaid for the Brazilian consul in Santa Cruz. The consul is a great friend of the El Camino community. Patricia still has this job.

At the same time, there was a layer helping her who was also helping the sisters as a volunteer. Patricia, being uneducated and inexperienced, really needed his help.

Time to enjoy childhood

She took the lawyer to her mother-in-law’s and found out, that the custody document was in fact counterfeit. The mother-in-law was using it to frighten and deter Patricia from taking back her children. 

Patricia returned to the sisters with Jose, Carla and Juan Pablo and couldn’t be happier that she could again enjoy the presence of all her kids together.

“God has made a lot of good for me. My life turned back to normal with the help of these sisters. I’ve found a job, my children are attending school, Maria Luz can be with me, even when I work in consul’s house. Moreover, we’re living in our own apartment, though modest, but that’s not important. I learn how to be more confident and trust God even more.”

Grateful to God

Patricia is working each day, from dawn until late afternoon. When Jose (11), Carla (10) and Juan Pablo (6) return from school at noon, they have lunch at the sisters and wait there for Patricia and Maria Luz to come home.

Sister Christina in monastery’s library

We’re spending a lot of time with these children. They really need to play and get the attention of adults, especially male ones. Not having a father has strongly influenced their lives.

We are grateful for every moment that we can be together with them. We are grateful to God that their life is peaceful again, so they can get back to being just innocent children again.

Hope and testimony

Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your story, however hard that was for you! Your testimony is a ray of light and hope for many, who suffer the same.

Truly, there are a lot of women who are left alone, abused, have no home and live with their children on the street. Immature and often drug-addicted men run out of the relationships and leave their wives alone.

Street life among homeless and poor children. Volunteers are cutting off their toe nails.

This year, the sisters of the El Camino community would like to throw a Christmas party for homeless and poor individuals in the neighborhood. We’re raising money at Operando for this purpose. We thank all of you who have already been so generous to send some money. A special thank to the Albatros Pro company, which surprised us with another generous donation.

If you would like to know more about this charity cause, click the “Donate” button. A new window describing the cause will pop-up. Thank you very much!

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We are not paid for the work we do; the money is not our motivation and doesn't drive us in our endeavours working with (and for) the poor from the edges of our society. But of course, without financial resources, we could not implement our goals and activities.

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