My father used to tell me that he had asked my mother to give him: “first a boy, then a girl.” And that came to be!
I was born in Niterói, when it was the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro. It was a peaceful city where we could play in the street, make friends, and walk beside the sea. Because I was born by the sea they called me Marina.
My father was Italian, though he happened to be born in Belgium. He came to Brazil at the age of 25, and stayed here, later sending for his mother, grandmother, brothers and sisters. From him I inherited a well-organised mind, a taste for numbers and mathematics, a cheerful disposition and a certain fondness for a joke!
My mother… well, her family was a mix-up. She had German and Portuguese grandparents, her mother was Brazilian but brought up in Germany, her father English (of Irish origin), she herself was Brazilian but educated in Austria (at the Sacred Heart School in Riedenburg), and she finally married an Italian. From her I inherited faith, prayer at all times and places, love for the poor, a passion for proclaiming the Gospel, eager for all God’s children to let him seek and find them.
What about my brother? He was a good playmate, a constant friend. And even today, he is one of the best presents life has brought me.
When I was ten we moved to another city, Rio de Janeiro, and I went to school at the School of the Sacred Heart at Morro da Graça. I found not just a school, but a family atmosphere. I really enjoyed the eight years I spent there, and went on from there to the university, studying education.
Where did my vocation to religious life come from? I have to say that when I was seven I wanted to be a “mummy” and have eight children. I even chose their names, which ended up being given to my dolls. I also liked the idea of being a teacher/educator. The dolls came into this too; they were pupils who didn’t give me much trouble. Later I was invited to be a catechist in our school and in the parish. I took immense joy in this work.
I think the Lord approved of the things I was attracted to: motherhood/education/catechetics. On top of them he gave me the present of a vocation to follow Him in the Society of His Heart.
I had to face up to my father, who did not accept that decision and did not speak to me for seven years. But I had my mother’s support, I was certain that was what God was asking of me, and besides, I was passionately in love with Jesus, I entered the n oviceship at Belo Horizonte when I was 21.
During these 51 years in the Society I have worked in different ministries and places: education, pastoral work, catechetics, retreats, formation, finance, leadership. When I returned to Brazil after 5 years in Rome, I served anew as treasurer; and a few years later was asked to be provincial.
Different works, different services… but always
- Jesus as centre and inspiration of my life.
To Him and to the Society go my gratitude and desire to serve more and better every day!