Pilar Celis

57, married to Benjamin Echeverria for 30 years, three sons aged 26, 23 and 16. Studies in educational science for primary school, worked for nine years in a special school until the birth of her first son. Joined the Schoenstatt Movement when she was 15 and at present is a member of the governing body of the Schoenstatt Mothers’ Federation in Chile.

Which experiences marked you as a woman?

I couldn’t answer this question without mentioning my mother and grandmother. The atmosphere and climate I experienced at home from early childhood influenced me profoundly.  With regard to the role of a woman in the family, I see my grandmother who, even when she left the house in the afternoon, was always there when her husband came home. This possibly cannot be taken for granted today, because our roles have changed, but there is no doubt that the woman determines the soul of the house; it is completely natural for her to create a climate in which people feel at home.

Fortunately I got to know the Schoenstatt Movement when I was 15. There is no doubt that I have to attribute the woman I have become to the formation I received in the youth movement: the covenant of love, the shrine, the life groups, camps in summer, spiritual reading, reading the thoughts of our Father and Founder, and the support of a spiritual counsellor. At each stage of my life I was able to get to know extraordinary women: Sisters of Mary and group sisters. They encouraged me to do my best, to experience that faith and life can always be combined, and that it is possible – always enlightened by Mary’s image – to be close to God.

Where in your life did you get to know God?

There are certain bright spots in which it is easier to encounter God, for example, during a pilgrimage. Yet I see him every day in nature, when I look at the mountain chain, the sky, flowers, sea and the sunset, etc. However, what shakes the heart is love, holding hands, the words “I love you”, the phone call on sad days, a look filled with tenderness and empathy, the innocent gaze of a child, infectious laughter, and everything that helps us feel part of something greater than ourselves.

I have also encountered God in suffering and the cross. Letting go of my own will initially cost me a great deal, but it leads to growth and maturity, entering into another dimension, trusting blindly. It is a gift to be able to experience the victory of the cross, and each time bonds me more deeply to the Lord.

What do you consider the challenge for women today?

I consider it the greatest challenge to be considered and appreciated, simply because we are different to men. It is not important to want to be equal, but to complement. It is not important for us to be better or worse, but different. This means freely accepting the whole order of things, first of all at home with our husband, children and grandchildren, than in what we do and at work. A further challenge is to find harmony between our work outside the home and caring for our children and family.

To know ourselves and remain faithful to what God has placed in each one of us is also a challenge. We don’t want to strive to be like others, but to realize the idea God had of us when he created us. It is important to be close to God for a significant portion of our time through prayer, reading God’s word, receiving the Sacraments, the shrine.

What do you want to change through living in this world?

I want to be able to place my tiny grain of sand into this world by giving little signs that make it a lovable place: through looking [at people], listening attentively, by entering into what people tell me, learning the names of the people I often have to deal with. These are simply little things that make a difference.

I would like to contribute towards helping all the people I meet to make the best of themselves, so that they feel valued, loved, appreciated, just as they are and because they are as they are. I want to pass on that God loves us all mercifully, forgives us and is waiting for us to approach him with childlike love.