“We see in the Holy Father’s words lively and continuous attention to the presence of us, laity,” said Nieves Carrillo, who took part in this year’s Good Friday Via Crucis at the Colosseum and is preparing to live the Celebration of Peoples at the Lateran. With her husband Cesare, she is committed to the service of mercy with expatriates of Paraguay at Rome and in their parish.
ZENIT spoke with them about their pastoral work and mission.
ZENIT: Nieves, you carried the cross for the Via Crucis of the Colosseum on Good Friday: how were you chosen?
Nieves: Yes, I carried the cross in the seventh station of the Via Crucis on Good Friday, March 25, 2016. The Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations asked the Ambassador of Paraguay to the Holy See, for the participation of a Paraguayan woman to carry the cross. The Ambassador addressed the invitation to me as I have been the co-ordinator of pastoral care and a catechist, together with my husband, for more than 25 years, in the “Virgin of Caacupe” Catholic community of Paraguayan residents of Rome and its surroundings.
ZENIT: How did you prepare for and live this moment?
Nieves: I was very happy to represent all the people of my nation, remembering the very beautiful visit that Pope Francis made to my country, in which he praised the Paraguayan women that saved the homeland, which was in a situation of great difficulty after the War of the Triple Alliance. This thought encouraged me greatly.
I prepared myself spiritually by praying in the family. In particular, I had three prayer intentions: 1. For the Holy Father and for all the Pastors of the universal Church and, in a special way, for the Pastors of Paraguay. 2. For the families of the whole world, especially for those that live in difficult situations. 3. For the sick in body and spirit, in particular for those who do not have adequate help.
It was a great grace for me and a great gift of the Lord, which I lived with profound faith and great emotion.
ZENIT: How do you live your commitment in Rome?
Nieves: In addition to the service in the Paraguayan community, of which I spoke earlier, we take part actively in the life of our parish of the Holy Guardian Angels at Monte Sacro, entrusted to the Caracciolini Fathers. In particular, we are Extraordinary Ministers of Communion. This service enables us to assist many sick brothers who cannot participate in Holy Mass and in the celebrations of the community. This is also a very great gift that the Lord has given us, to be able to share the mercy and love of Jesus.
ZENIT: There was the earthquake in Ecuador. How did you react?
Nieves: The event grieved us profoundly thinking of the many people who died and those who suddenly lost everything. The first act of mercy was fervent prayer to the Lord, that He grant eternal peace to the deceased and inspire in men of good will concrete actions of help and solidarity. Then we contributed to the offerings that the diocesan Caritas promoted. In any case, we continue to pray to the merciful Father.
ZENIT: In his letter to Cardinal Ouellet, Pope Francis emphasized the role of the laity committed in the Church. How did you receive this message?
Nieves: With great joy and appreciation because we see in the Holy Father’s words lively and continuous attention to the presence of us laity and to our active participation in the ecclesial communities. We, lay people, are called to take concretely the Lord’s message to families, in the realities of work, in social activities where a priest often cannot be, or is not well accepted. Therefore, we hold that the evangelizing action of the laity is fundamental and valuable and is supported and fostered by the Pastors.
ZENIT: You will also be present at the 25th “Celebration of Peoples” on May 15 at the Lateran …
Nieves: The “Celebration of Peoples” is the manifestation that the Scalabrini Missionaries organize with the Diocese of Rome every year, to gather all the Catholic communities of migrants present in the city in a great celebration, which begins at 9:00 am and ends at 7:00 pm. This year it celebrates 25 years of life with the motto “Unbounded Mercy,” a particularly topical expression in this historic moment, in which millions of brothers and sisters are fleeing from war, from persecution, and from hunger and knock at our doors.
The celebration is held in Saint John’s Square in the Lateran. Every community expresses its faith with joy, participating in the celebration of Holy Mass with songs and prayers in their own language. The Holy Mass is presided over by Monsignor Guerrino Di Tora, Auxiliary Bishop of Rome, President of the Episcopal Commission for Migrations and of the Migrants Foundation. The communities make their traditions known and the craftsmanship of their nations setting up an apposite stand, preparing typical dishes and performing dances and songs of their folklore.