Our Benedictine sisters from Mexico have two local
residential communities in
Nicaragua. One is their Mission in San Nicolas in the north of the country,
where hurricane Mitch devastated the region in 1998. The other is their House
of Formation (or novitiate) in the capital city of Managua.
The sisters have decided to establish this community
for the novitiate in a neighborhood called Barrio Edgar Munguia.
It is a poor barrio, about four irregular blocks from the Jesuit University
(UCA), that was formed as families squatted on vacant land
surrounding a wealthier area of the city. The families try to support
themselves by going to
sell various items on the city streets or by doing domestic work.
Sister Fidelina and Sister Matilde, with the two novice sisters, Carolina and
Yerenia, live in a very small house, into which each one of us is joyfully and
lovingly welcomed as we come within its walls. The house, roughly 20' x 30', is
set on a parcel of land that is 20' x 45', approximately
the same size as the plot each family in the barrio has on which to live.
Thirteen brothers and four sisters from Mexico City, who have accompanied us
in the name of the entire congregation of sisters, bring our numbers to
21: a houseful!
Yet there is enough room for all of us as we gather for common prayer,
discussions, relaxation and meals. The way in which the sisters have embraced
the value of hospitality, as lived by the poor people of their neighborhood,
ensures that space and something to share is never a problem.
The house has two bedrooms, one about 6' x 24' and the other a little
larger. The kitchen is roughly 6' x 8' and their chapel is 8' square. The
front meeting room is more ample, where all of us brothers and sisters find
space to sit together on plastic chairs along
The sidewalls of the house are also the sidewalls of the neighbors' houses, and
the roof, constructed of sheets of corrugated, galvanized metal, appears to be
contiguous with neighboring roofs.
The house and small courtyard is fronted by a narrow dirt road, dusty in the
dry season and muddy in the times of rain. Piles of trash
accumulate in the road and attract the many homeless dogs that roam the barrio.
From time to time, people in the barrio take turns cleaning up and disposing
of the trash, and try to wet down the dirt road to stop the dust.
Everything is right next to everything else in a locale where houses have no
street numbers and the streets have no names. Street addresses are indicated
by section of the city, by distance in blocks from a name-bearing intersection
or a traffic light, and by how many doors distant from a conspicuous building.
But people find their way to the door of the sisters.