Sister M. Nilza Pereira da Silva

Born in 1961, journalist, lives in Atibaia/ SP Brazilia, belongs to the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.

What experiences have formed you as a woman?   

From the many experiences I would like to choose the following:

My upbringing in a family of six children – three boys and three girls – in which I learned to accept differences and that boys and girls can complement each other. We all learned to do all the work and did it according to a set plan. The mutual respect, the appreciation of the woman without disrespecting the man – that shaped my life.

But the greatest discovery of the fullness of womanhood was given to me by God when I met the Schoenstatt Youth. Moments of self-reflection, the whole atmosphere, the well-tended surroundings awakened my receptivity to the greatness and mission of woman. Until then I belonged to the youth groups of our parish and in these groups there was a lot of tension between boys and girls. When God let me discover the Blessed Mother as a woman, the spirituality of our father and founder, Father Joseph Kentenich, his vision of the woman and the Marian style of Schoenstatt, this captured my whole soul and gave me guidelines for my whole life. I remember, for example, that I took only jeans to the first meeting of the Girls’ Youth, and then I discovered the beauty of feminine clothing. Back home I put on a skirt and asked my mother, who was a seamstress, “I need skirts and dresses, please.” I was so happy to be a woman that it radiated into my surroundings. In a short time all my colleagues wore skirts more often without me saying anything. Of course, clothing is not everything, but for me it was an outward sign that I had discovered the beauty and the sense of being a woman. That was the most important experience, “the discovery”, if I may say so, the discovery of my womanhood.

As a student of journalism and also when I did my Master’s in philosophy, I was able to see facts and ideas from a different perspective than my male colleagues. For me this confirmed the importance of complementarity. The reflections of my colleagues were more abstract, unrelated to life, whereas mine were as profound as theirs, but always led to the meaning of life, to the person. The evaluation of our work confirmed the necessity of feminine reflection in the academic field, if we want the result of our research to be a contribution to the formation of the personality and not just a rambling of ideas.

In my many years of work with the Pilgrim Mother[1] in several hundred dioceses and thousands of parishes, I had very beautiful experiences that showed me that from the good interaction between the mission of the priest and the mission of the sister, rich fruits arise for the work of the Blessed Mother as Christ’s helper. These and many other experiences that God gave me formed my life as a woman.

Where have you experienced God in your life?

First of all in my family, in which God was always present and with whom we had a natural relationship; later through the Schoenstatt spirituality, supplemented by pastoral work in my parish, where I also discovered God’s wish for my life. When I got to know Schoenstatt and the shrine, its spirituality and pedagogy, it was as if all my heart’s desires and everything I had experienced up to that point fitted together like the pieces of a puzzle and I recognized the deep meaning of everything. God intervened in my life very clearly and with great love. Also the decision for my vocation was a deep experience of the dialogue with God, a great longing for him and his closeness, a struggle between my freedom and his call and finally his victory. Since my youth, the silent moments before the tabernacle have been a profound experience of the union of my creatureliness with the God of life.

Getting to know Father Joseph Kentenich and his God-given charisma as a father and prophet, hearing people who knew him speak about him, reading his talks, were also an experience of fatherly love and the constant working of God. Father Kentenich is for me the face of God, the bond that unites me with God and makes the love proclaimed by Christ tangible.

I have often experienced God and his efficacy as a Father, as a Father who comes to me and surprises me with his love, but I can only perceive him if I give him the first place in my daily life. The experience of dedicating a time of silence and prayer, of praying even when I don’t feel like it, allows me to experience the presence of God, both in nature and in people, he even shows himself through the digital algorithms – working with journalism online – meeting so many generous people who share their knowledge and experiences with others. God holds the programming and all historical developments and changes in his hand.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for women today is to be themselves, to live according to the principles that God has established in our nature. It is not easy in our time, which is characterized by ideological information, to have clarity about the role and value of women and the dignity of the human being. We live in a struggle of ideas and emotions, bombarded with lectures and emotional appeals: some uplifting, others manipulative and deceitful. With every click we encounter an onslaught of ideas and offerings, some beautiful and attractive, others violent. Only a clear mind and firm roots in fundamental principles allow us to recognize the truth and the real intention, and often it takes strength and courage to stand alone against the opinion of the general public and even people close to us. Only strong women can do this. One needs a great inner balance, the help of the Holy Spirit and the certainty of being at home in the heart of God, a possibility given to me by the Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother. Without this strong rootedness it is impossible to make objective choices and to love without fear.

What do you want to change in this world through your life?

I want to make my contribution to a new society in which everyone has the right to love and be loved. I want to contribute to people having a strong and healthy bond with God, with others and with nature; that everyone can realize the fundamental ideal that makes him an image of God; that he can be what he was created to be.

I want to achieve this through my consecrated life as a Sister of Mary, by making Mary present in daily life, because she radiates God and is a model of perfect bonds. Whoever binds himself to her opens his heart and is transformed by God.

My work as a journalist gives me the opportunity to contribute to this through contact with thousands of people, by seeking to fill the “digital spaces” with messages that contribute to the formation of opinions, deepen the love of Mary and, through her, the attachment to God, to people and care for the world. Through my contributions to the Capital of Grace, I unite my sacrifices with those of thousands who have also sealed the Covenant of Love, and together we work for the sanctification of the world.

[1] The image of grace of the Blessed Mother of Schoenstatt, which visits families.