A glance at my biography…
I could not say the day I realized that my life would never be random or boring. I was born in 1962 in the north of Portugal, in a middle class background, and soon became aware of the fact that to grow up in a protestant family in the oldest catholic country in the world and, at the same time, in one of the darkest dictatorships of the 20th century, had two consequences: on one hand, it made us part of a very small minority, considered bizarre and suspicious by a lot of people, including some of our neighbors, constantly watched by the secret police but, on the other hand, it was a large window opened to a reality other Portuguese couldn´t access. Christians from all over the world came to the city where I lived, to study in the University, and would attend our church, spent Christmas with us, bringing a richness of languages, cultures and interpretations of life and faith that became the major influence in my life, an influence that lasts until today.
Communication never seemed to be a problem. I remember the day my parents brought home for lunch a Scottish priest that was visiting our church. My father could only understand French and the only Portuguese words the minister knew were “Benfica” and “Eusébio”. He stayed with us for a week. I learned that communication is only a way to express feelings and emotions and that all it took was good will, kindness and a wide sense of humor.
I have a brother ten years younger than me; I studied History and Archeology at the university, but soon I realized that I preferred people to rocks; I love to write, sing, read, cook, travel, laugh, diversity, environmental issues, changes, cold, my three children, movies and flowers, especially tulips; I love being part of a small local church, but I consider that we have to be very careful because nothing kills true faith so easily as religion; in the last few years I´ve learned that time is the greatest healer, that God is infinitely more than we can understand and that, in case of doubt, love is the answer.
My three children portrait the diversity and ability to face difference I mentioned above. I adopted Fernando (aged 26) when he was 5 and he taught me everything about being a mom; he´s already married and produces wine (welcome to Portugal!). Ana (aged 24) was adopted when she was just 4 days old; her roots are in Africa and she suffers from severe cerebral palsy; she taught me everything about being happy; finally, João (aged 12) arrived as a wonderful biological surprise and taught me everything about hope. Since I believe God has no grandchildren, I was deeply moved the day my children became Christians and part of my spiritual family, too.
I work in a large catholic charity that deals with social issues everyday, since first line responses as food, clothes or money, until training that will allow lower classes to reach true autonomy and building a unique life project. The economical crisis that we´re living increased the number of people that come to us for help, but it also brought with it creativity, good values and common sense. Crises have the wonderful capacity of bringing to the light of the day the best people have within themselves. I am responsible for a day center for teenagers and just started developing a new project for older people to spend their leisure time in a creative and healthy way. I also work in the public committee that prevents and controls children abuse and I am involved in several activities related to the social inclusion of minorities.
When I think about the future, my first feeling is one of security, because I know that, come what may, God will always be there for me and my family. But it is followed, almost immediately, by another one of expectation: I can hardly wait to see what is going to happen next!