Success Story in Guatemala
Formation in loving prisoners
First, a little bit of history! In the eighth century the Moors conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula, and for the next 700 years the Spaniards fought back against the occupying forces. Many Christians were also captured by the Moors and sold as slaves.
Young Pedro Nolasco, from Barcelona, decided that something must be done to help them. While still young, he had purchased the freedom of 300 prisoners with money inherited from his father.
In the year 1218, he declared having been visited by Our Lady and that she had asked him to establish an order to continue this work of freeing Christian slaves. So it was that the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, more commonly known as the Mercedarians (from the Latin Maria de mercede redemptionis captivorum and the Spanish “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”), was founded and in England also as the Order of Our Lady of Ransom.
The members of the order purchased the freedom of innumerable Christian prisoners held by the Moors often offering their own freedom and even their own lives in exchange for the unfortunate prisoners. They are unusual in that their religious rule has a fourth vow, in addition to the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, namely to purchase the freedom of Christian slaves even at the cost of their own freedom and their own lives.
The order is particularly strong in Latin America today. Still today, they continue actively caring for prisoners, providing practical and spiritual support to the impoverished families of prisoners. Its members also provide counselling and support for those who have fallen outside the law – in some cases innocently. In addition, they help former prisoners after their release and provide counselling to people encountering difficulties within the justice system. The community continues to accompany the former prisoners even after their release. Since many of them no longer have any families and find themselves having to make a completely new start, with nothing. The Mercedarians help with finding employment and gradually working toward reintegration into society.
The order is happily blessed with many new vocations. Currently, there are 15 young men preparing for the priesthood in their seminary in Guatemala. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to help with $7,100 for their formation.
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