Sister Mery Cari Paz
Life at the University
Sister Mery Cari Paz, a Bolivian, recently celebrated 10 years as a Sister of the Presentation, and is presently in her third year as a psychology student at the University of Juan Misael Saracho in the city of Tarija, Bolivia. Sisters Mery and Therese Corkery are both ministering to the university students at Casa Betania, a home purchased by the Presentation Sisters where university students can meet for friendship, study, reflection, sharing and/or just to relax. While Sister Mery is busy with her studies and classes, Sister Therese is busy making Casa Betania a welcoming place.
Sister Mery’s classes begin early in the morning at 7 a.m. and finish around noon. Other activities, projects and group studies take place in the afternoons and evenings at Casa Betania. The space allows for students to gather and become a part of the Casa Betania community.
Sister Mery explains, “Casa Betania means a welcoming place. Just as Jesus went to Bethany to be with friends, relax and be renewed, it is our hope that the university students who come here can do the same.”
The students gather to celebrate those who have had birthdays during the month. This is a special time for sharing, prayer and socialization. Everyone brings something to share. Sister Therese has been known to surprise and delight the students with her blue ribbon lemon pie made fresh from the lemons on the tree just outside Casa Betania.
Sister Mery comments that after one such sharing, one of the students suggested that they gather at least once a month to pray together. Priority is always given to prayer, and there is a small chapel off the living room where all are welcome.
Sister Mery speaks of feeling welcomed in her life on campus: “I am touched by the people who reach out to me. It would seem that there is a certain confidence in the fact that I am a religious. People open up to me and want to share their lives, as well as their struggles and questions. It isn’t just the students who come to me, but the teachers come as well. I sense their longing for God and the deep desire to have someone who understands and will listen to them.”
“One teacher offered to give me her cell phone number, which is never given out to the students,” adds Sister Mery. “She felt she could trust me and she wanted me to know that if I should need anything to feel free to call.”
“Accompanying young people, future professionals, is a privilege. We have so much that we can learn from one another. We need to support one another in prayer and in our actions,” states Sister Mery. “It is our hope that some of the young women who gather with us will someday consider joining us in our life as women religious. That is in God’s hands, not ours. We do our best and the rest is up to God.”
“Hopefully we can be like the beautiful lavender lapachos in Bolivia that are in full bloom, a welcoming sign of spring,” says Sister Mery. “The lapachos stand out among the other trees that are still dormant after a long dry and cold winter; may we, as women religious, stand out with joy and love for God bursting forth in our hearts.”
Left Photo: Sisters Therese Corkery and Mery Cari Paz (right) enjoy the beautiful bloom of the lapacho trees.
Right Photo: Sister Mery Cari Paz (third from right) gathers with students and their families for a birthday celebration in Bolivia.