Paola Maldonado Barrera

born in 1995, is nearing the end of her studies in medicine. Belongs to the Girls’ Youth Movement (MJF) in Mexico.

What experiences have formed you as a woman?

My formation as a woman is due to the influence of people who are very close to me, as well as challenges that God has confronted me with – always providing me with the appropriate tools in his goodness and reliability.
In terms of people, my mother was definitely the most important person. From her I learned that willpower, passion and hard work always pay off. Apart from the Blessed Mother, she is for me the clearest example of the fact that we as women are capable of occupying extraordinary positions in society. If you live your originality, you can meet any challenge, even those associated with social stereotypes.
The second most important factor has been a personal friendship with my boyfriend, which has encouraged me to swim against the current in terms of what is common these days in personal relationships. With Mary and our Founder, we educate ourselves to purity, chastity and selfless love and we work to strive for holiness in this time of our friendship.
God placed in my heart the longing to serve others by working for the health and physical well-being of my brothers and sisters. It is a longing that is becoming more and more intense and that is slowly moving from theory to practice as I am about to finish my degree in medicine. During my university studies, this longing brought many challenges that shaped my character as a woman. Among other things, I can mention the “battle” between science and religion, the latter usually having no place and being the cause of criticism. The field of medicine has forgotten the human factor, charity and empathy. In some cases, there is an environment where, as a woman, one is perceived as less capable, out of place or even as a nuisance.
During this time, completely providential, the Blessed Mother of Schoenstatt appeared in my life to educate me. Through the Blessed Mother and Father Kentenich, God gave me the right help to grow in faith, to combine it with my professional education and to meet all the challenges. From Mary I received my motherly home. She led me to Jesus so that I could learn to treat the sick in a more humane way. From Father Kentenich, I learned solidarity for others through the Capital of Grace. He helped me to accept the challenge of being an instrument, to place everything in Mary’s hands and to take her everywhere, even to the most difficult places, despite all the criticism.
Finally, through the Schoenstatt Youth, I learn to recognize myself as “little Mary, “as a woman in the image of Mary, and to see every aspect of my personality as a gift from God. I know that I have been especially chosen to put my talents, however small and imperfect they may be, at the service of the Kingdom of God.

Where have you experienced God in your life?

I thank God that I can mention many moments in which I was able to experience him in a very personal way, but I will focus on a gift that is very special to me: the possibility of taking on certain ministries as a communion helper. Other young women from the Schoenstatt Youth have also taken on this mission.
Jesus took the Covenant we made with the Blessed Mother seriously. He took my colleagues and me by the hand and led us in a much deeper way to the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Reconciliation so that we would be prepared for his mission. Even if my own limitations led me to think that I was not worthy of such an honor, Our Lady, through secondary causes, made me long for the grace and took up the mission entrusted to us anew.
To become very small and transparent in order to be very close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is an enormous privilege. He, who consoles, who accompanies us and who relieves our distress, he makes sure that through his instruments he reaches many sick and elderly people in remote communities during Holy Week, as well as thousands of pilgrims who visit the shrine every weekend. Thanks to this fact, I was able to witness that so intimate moment in which “Love” gives itself completely – and in which the faith of those who receive Him could not be greater. To carry Him, the King of Kings, and to see how He is able to heal every physical and mental pain is to be a witness to a miracle every time someone receives His Body. One can do nothing but kneel before Him, worship Him and long to serve Him at all times.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

That we break away from the egocentric currents that lead us to become entangled in our own “I,” in “my freedom,” “my happiness,” “my personal success,” etc. These currents lead us to deny our own feminine being, to deny motherhood, empathy, intuition, the ability to be all soul, because these traits are not created for egoism, but for surrender.
These currents also lead us to flee from the sacrifice that lies in giving ourselves and serving others. They prevent us from having the experience of the cross and thus from receiving the joy and hope of the divine reward. What is the answer to this for me? It is to recognize and accept the originality that God has given you, but not as a gift for yourself, but for your brothers and sisters. Moreover, this without reservation, unconditionally and irrespective of any fear – by always putting God in the center. As we step out of ourselves and become a gift to God on this earth, we can become that new woman who, together with the new man, forms the new community.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to give this brief testimony among so many extraordinary women who place their lives in the hands of God and the Blessed Mother through Schoenstatt. I see it as an opportunity to give glory to God and to honor the Schoenstatt Youth, which is full of admirable women who inspire me to be “Child of the Immaculata, Instrument of the Father.”