Testimony Sr. Giovanna Verónika Naveda Pinto, msp

"The Lord kept me as the apple of his eye" (prov. 17:8)

I entered the Saint Teresa of Jesus Home as a three-day-old orphan. Thanks to Father Giovanni, who founded the Home, I was given a new family and, above all, I was able to meet the Lord when I was still very small. This fulfilled the invitation of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me” (Mt 19:14).

Father Giovanni, seeing how the poor and abandoned children suffered who were so marginalized, did everything he could to help them and give them a life worthy of their dignity as children of God; the Lord desired that I participate in this merciful plan to guard me from all danger and keep me for Himself.

I remember that when I received the sacrament of Baptism while still very young, I felt myself carried in their arms and I saw a light coming from the church and its rays penetrated my whole being. I think that the Lord was already preparing my way.

Father Giovanni always speaks to us of the suffering of the poor. I wanted to grow up quickly so I could work and earn a lot of money to buy a big car to be able to bring many poor, suffering children to the home so that they, too, would have the opportunity that I had. Until I was six years old, there were not yet any Missionary Servants of the Poor Sisters. There were only lay employees and some volunteers who came to help us, but they only stayed one or two years and left a wound in my heart when they left. But as time passed, I realized that the Lord wanted it like that even though at the time it was very difficult for me to accept.

Sister Maria arrived from Poland as a candidate and was the first person who stayed for more than a year or two. She taught us many things, especially we older girls who were growing up together, truly sisters at heart, each of us with a different problem. But, despite everything, she taught us to live united in everything. “Only time will make us understand what it is to love.”

During my childhood I often thought of getting married, having many children, and teaching them the holy fear of God in order to form a holy family. But in my heart there was always a desire to give my life to Jesus as a religious.

My life passed happily among games and smiles, always accompanied by generous people, some of whom became religious like me. I watched the Movement grow, especially the little community of Sisters that day by day was being formed and strengthened by many generous young women ready to surrender themselves, especially to the poor. This was how I received Jesus for the first time in my First Communion. He filled my heart. From that special day, Jesus, Who cares for the little, innocent souls who love Him, strengthened me. I asked Him with all my heart for the grace to be able to consecrate myself to Him and to remain always innocent. That is why each day I ask the Virgin Mary to help me preserve this grace.

I remember when I was eight years old, the Sisters took me with them during the long vacations on a mission to the village of Huancarani. We slept in a house that they lent us that was without a bathroom or electricity or any of the comforts that we had at the Home. I could see and feel the poverty that the people faced every day. This marked me for missionary life. I thought, “At the Home I am happy. I lack nothing. I would like to give myself to them as a missionary.” My vocation was strengthened by reading the lives of the saints, pushing me to seek holiness at all costs.

Four or five months before the end of high school I noticed that my school mates were making big plans for further study and to succeed in life. I, instead, only thought of consecrating myself completely to the Lord and serving the poor. I wanted to give the best of my life to gratefully repay what the Lord had done for me. “Love is repaid with love.”

"My principal wish is to help children and young people to seek holiness first in the little things of everyday life"

"Prayer has always been the center of my life and it is the only means that helps me with life’s difficulties"

The day finally arrived to give my “Yes” to the Lord. I was 16 when I entered the community of the Missionary Servants of the Poor Sisters as a postulant. I knew that I was beginning a new stage in my life, preparing myself to become a missionary.

I don’t deny the defects and limitations that I have and the difficulties that I encountered. The Lord called me by His grace to His vineyard to continue His saving work. So I always thank Him for protecting me and helping me to remain in His grace. I once had a dream in which I wanted to see Hell, but I couldn’t enter because one of the devils told me, “We can’t stand the innocence of your eyes.” Those words were enough for me to remain always faithful to the Lord. Prayer has always been the center of my life and it is the only means that helps me with life’s difficulties. Every day I nourish my soul with prayer.

After I became a religious, I studied to become a teacher and graduated with degrees in Primary Education and Religious Education. I don’t regret becoming a teacher though sometimes it is a difficult mission (but not impossible) since it requires much patience and love. I like the words of the priest and great educator Saint Marcellin Champagnat, “To teach, one must love,” a beautiful phrase I discovered at the university. As a teacher, my principal wish is to help children and young people to seek holiness first in the little things of everyday life.

I will always be grateful to the Lord because He has never left me. I also thank the Missionary Servants of the Poor Movement with all my heart because in it I was born and grew in divine life.

Now I have taken my perpetual vows and by the grace of God I continue persevering on this road. Above all, I am blessed to see so many children, like me, who have the chance to live in this family and be able to know God from an early age.

I place myself into the hands of the Virgin Mary and my Guardian Angel to remain faithful at all times to Jesus Who called me to serve Him among the poor.

“To teach, one must love”