VTS “Voluntariado Teresa de Saldanha” has been part of my life since 2016. Normally, when a person joins the group is because someone invites him/her. In my case, I made myself invited and asked the volunteers if I could start participating in their meetings. I admit, it was a little bit of a crazy decision! I was already committed with other groups and had responsibilities but when I participated in a weekend in Fátima, Saint Catherine of Siena’s Dominican Sisters jubilee, I could not ignore the joy. Teresa de Saldanha used to say “There is no greater joy than being entirely of God”.And I really felt it.That joy of living their lives as a gift, of being for the others, that congregates everyone: sisters, priests, volunteers, friends as a family. That joy that comes from Jesus.
Being a volunteer since then is to discover daily how to live it everywhere I am. It has been a beautiful journey, full of beautiful people and experiences. In Aveiro, at the market of a deprived area, we have a store where we sell secondhanded clothes for a very symbolic price. It is a space of encounter, where we can be with the local people and listen to their stories.Besides that, in our meetings, retreats and activities we have intense moments praying and sharing them with other young people gives me strength and hope to continue this path, realising step by step that living my faith following the Dominican Spirituality brings sense to my life, letting myself be inspired by the greatest preacher of all times: Jesus. Another amazing experience as a volunteer is “Dominismissio”, a Dominican missionary work camp for young people in which we develop activities with babies, children, elderly people, handicapped people, victims of violence, etc., whilst living in community. I have accepted this challenge for two summers. There, we live the joy of being surprised by God, we live the joy of overcoming personal challenges, we live the joy of love. There I learned that being a volunteer is not to be what I want but to be want God needs me to be for others. I learned that to be our best it’s enough, I learned that when we are with Him we are really our best.
My mission now is to share this joy with those who are alone and lost their life’s sense, make them feel welcome and loved. As a university student, sometimes I feel a lit bit weird for being catholic, for assuming to my colleagues that I believe in God. It’s hard when I try to explain something that I don’t see but I feel deep inside me. That’s why it is so important to preach not by words but by my actions, my attitude, my values and my choices. That’s why is so important to study, to knowmore the Bible, the life of the Saints and the theology. “The more you know, the more you love”. That’s why is so fundamental to preach with myself, making Teresa de Saldanha’s motto my own: “Fazer o bem sempre” (To do good always), letting the Holy Spirit act in me. To be presence of the Lord on Earth, to touch every heart with a joyful hope and give them an opportunity to be completely happy and free. How lucky was I for being in Rome in January at the International Congress for the Mission of the Order and understand this with all the testimonies that I heard! I’ll never forget an example that was given: a person can see a piece of paper on the floor and not even notice it, see it but ignore it or see it, catch it and save it until you find a dustbin to put it. I want to be this third person that is attentive to the world, faithful to Him even in the smallest things and to try to “leave this world better than she found”. For me, being this third person is being Dominican.
I ask for God’s grace to continue growing in faith, to be always serving and to go where and for whom He wants me to go, in the certainty that with and on His love I will always be happy!
Ana Emanuel dos Santos Nunes