By Simone Orendain
CEBU, Philippines — Concepcion Martinez Narvios said when God calls you to do something, answer “yes.”
When, more than 30 years ago, two Philippine-based Oblate Sisters asked Narvios to help find new vocations do the “hard work” of helping girls who were sex workers, she said yes. It wasn’t easy finding recruits then and it still isn’t easy now, said Narvios, 72.
The Oblate sister who mentored Narvios said the only thing that they could do for the girls was “just give them love. Love and care, because they never felt that from their parents. They never knew their parents. They were in the streets.”
“And it is true. Because the Lord is love,” she told a few dozen people visiting Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress.
Narvios didn’t know until recently that she would be giving a quick talk on her work for the church.
“I was supposed to read something I prepared, but I didn’t. I said I wouldn’t cry, but I did,” she told me after her talk, as we walked to a wooden pew in the mostly empty church for a quick chat.
It was understandable that Narvios cried. Before the crowd that was made up of about one-third Spanish and Latin American delegates, she described in her native Spanish how difficult it was for her to eat and to sleep in a place where young girls, not yet in their teens, were being rehabilitated after prostitution. She said many of the girls had run away because they felt they had to earn a living, and selling their bodies made it “so easy for them.”
Narvios said that, over time, love would sustain the girls who stayed. They would leave their sordid lives behind, get an education and gain employment in professions such as social work.
Doing the tough work of trying to find new recruits for vocations, Narvios said she has had to follow three rules: never question the Lord, who “has a plan for us”; always see Christ in everyone whom you call brother and sister; and always use your talents out in the streets to help the needy.
When we were about to part ways, Narvios said she would probably contact me when she travels to Manila to meet with Oblates there about finding new nuns.
Then she said to me, “You never know, when God calls you have to say yes.”
I wasn’t quite sure why she said that, so I just nodded and said, “Yes.”