In our community of Guayaquil, we had been programming for some time a girls' get together with the theme being “the woman.” We decided for September, when students have a week's vacation after final exams at the end of the first semester.
We began with a 2 day get together at our house, for girls from 13 to 15 years old. 58 girls participated, and the motto was “Highway to Heaven,” revolving around young role models, such as Carlo Acutis and Valeria Intriago.
Then we had a get together with the older girls. There were 52 girls ages 16 and up. We delved into the Encyclical by John Paul II on the woman, Mulieris Dignitatem. We divided the talk into three parts, one for each day. Simultaneously, we also dealt with the subjects of dating, religious vocation, and marriage.
To address the theme of religious vocation, we visited the Poor Clares of Montalvo, in the Province of Los Rios on the second day. It is a community of 23 sisters, most of who are young. They impressed the girls a lot with their joy, their generosity, and because they [the girls] had never seen cloistered nuns before. The Poor Clares shared their vocation testimony with us. They also spoke about their daily life, and about their joy of loving and serving the Lord. It was also exciting to meet the three sisters, already in their 80’s, who came from Spain 20 years ago to found the convent, in response to the Bishop’s request. Twenty years later they have a beautiful monastery, a retreat house, and 20 more sisters.
Our friend Ericka, a married woman and mother of two children spoke about marriage. She revealed to us the prayer she had prayed to God after her many attempts to find true love. She asked for “a man with two characteristics: that he love God a lot and that he love the Virgin Mary a lot.” But if such a man did not appear, she would simply remain a single woman. Now Ericka thanks God for her husband and for her family. It was a very useful and very concrete testimony for the girls.
The first night we saw a movie about St. Rita of Cascia, an impressive example of what John Paul II called the “feminine genius.” The second night we saw one about Irena Sendler, another amazing example of heroism in a woman. We also saw four videos about great women (Isabella the Catholic, Maria Quattrocchi, St. Gianna Beretta and St. Hildegard) from HM Television.
The talks also clarified many things. Following John Paul II’s train of thought, we analyzed the feminist positions starting with the 19th century, going through Simone de Beauvoir (20th century) up until the present day. We then tackled John Paul II’s explanation with contributions from Catholic women such as Alice von Hildebrand, author of the book “The Privilege of Being a Woman,” and, of course, always looking at the finished model of womanhood: the Virgin Mary.
But not everything was intellectual work. We had games and moments where we learned very practical things, such as tidying a closet, folding sheets, making a bed, managing a house, cooking, and even making donuts. According to what the girls said at the end, we managed to surprise them with intense, different, and very interesting days.