Tecla Merlo, a mother forever

It all started for me, one Sunday at the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I was only 11 years old at that time. I announced to my parents my choice to become a Sister. My father immediately forbade me to talk about it in the family because, even though we were a good Christian family, according to our cultural traditions, being the only girl amidst seven children of which I was the second, I carried the responsibility of financing the marriages of my brothers.

At about the age of 17, I joined a vocation and spiritual renewal group with the consent of my mother, who always encouraged and supported me in the search of my vocation. In the vocation group, twice a month on Sunday, we took care of people abandoned by their loved ones because they were considered witches. Our services involved cleaning, maintaining their environment, and sharing the Word of God with them for that particular day.

The aspect that most challenged and questioned me was the sharing of God’s word with them. After the sharing the people were so radiant and happy. This experience roused a question within me: “What can I do to bring this same joy to other people who live in distant villages and whom we could not reach?

During a retreat I discovered that there was a Congregation that evangelizes through the media. This was for me the answer to my question to God. These Sisters, the Daughters of St. Paul, also broadcasted a radio program on the Sunday Gospel and published Pauline books. I was so happy, and my parish priest supported my discovery.

Now I had to convince my parents, especially my dad. One Sunday, after evening prayer, my mother asked my father this question: “If God took your daughter to heaven today, what would you gain? Now God is asking your daughter to serve him, don’t you want to give her to him?” My mother’s question greatly disturbed my father. A week later his response was: «My daughter, you are free to follow your call. You have my blessing.”

I immediately wrote to the Daughters of Saint Paul who responded positively and joyfully to my request. In the envelope they sent me, together with a letter, was a small picture of Sr. Thecla Merlo in prayer. This was my first encounter with her, an encounter with a Sister rich in virtue.

When, I entered the Congregation, I deepened my relationship with Sr. Thecla. I understood that she was a person of deep and tender faith, a faith expressed by trust in God and translated into the prayer “on my part I can do nothing, but with God I can do all things”. Maestra Thecla was an intelligent and simple woman, a true apostle of the Divine Master, with a big heart, a contagious smile and ready to do good and serve everyone. She was a true mother for everyone but especially for her daughters scattered throughout the world. She always sought to do God’s will and to advance the Pauline apostolate. She knew how to value every culture, diversity in every form, and see the good side of every person. She never showed herself to be attached to her role but, placing full trust in the Founder, she was a docile instrument that gave shape to the life of the entire Congregation.

At this school of Maestra Thecla, I felt fully at home, living out my vocation in her footsteps.

In leaving my Congolese land and my family, I also left my mother, my confidant, the one who always understood and supported my choices. Today, I am now in Alba, the land that saw Maestra Thecla take her first steps. It is here that I am happy to have found a mother in Maestra Thecla. She will always be a mother in my life. “From heaven, Maestra Thecla support me with apostolic zeal and in my journey towards holiness of life, a life like yours”.

Sr Générose Sibay Ngandju, fsp

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