Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 8, 2010
Former chief recalls when proposed saint visited Alexis reserve
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
METUCHEN, N.J. - Maria Esperanza, a visionary from Venezuela, was a woman of tremendous humility.
There was a motto that she had received through divine inspiration, which is now engraved on her coffin: "Humility is the crystal bridge that leads us to heaven."
The cause of beatification and canonization of Esperanza, a lay woman, was opened Jan. 31.
The event took place in Metuchen, N.J., in the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, presided by the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Paul Bootkoski.
Invited by the Esperanza family was Rod Alexis, former chief of Alexis First Nations.
Of the event, Alexis said the old hymns reminded him of his childhood, the pre-Vatican II era when Sunday Mass was conducted in Latin.
Alexis first met Esperanza on a visit to Venezuela in 1993, and she came to the reserve in May 1998. The visit impacted her greatly.
"She was really touched by Alexis and the native people. She came to my house, and we had a teepee set up for her where she could pray for people, and talk to people one on one without disruption.
"We had a lot of food, we had singing and prayer, and we had everything," said Alexis.
At his home he dug a hole and together they planted a pine tree, its growth symbolizing their everlasting friendship. She also went to the local school and prayed with the children there.
FIRST NATIONS CONNECTION
Esperanza's father used to work with First Nations people and she possessed her father's same love and connection with them.
"When you see her, when you talk to her, there is a love that radiates from her. For our native people, she was somebody who accepted you unconditionally, as an equal," said Alexis.
Born in Venezuela in 1926, Esperanza was a well-known visionary. The Church has approved the apparitions of the Virgin Mary that she received at Betania. She died in 2004 at age 77.
Esperanza's life was sprinkled with supernatural signs, and her deeds provided others with a glimpse of the presence of God.
At age 5, she had her first mystical experience. She saw St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus emerging from the waters of the Orinoco River. The saint threw her a red rose that Esperanza caught in her hand. Her mother was amazed because no roses were nearby.
She was given the ability to read hearts, and had the intuition of knowing when guests would arrive, and when friends were ill.
Her prayers and advice resulted in miraculous healings.
"The miracles that I saw were the amount of touching and conversions that happened. She turned families back to Jesus by asking our Blessed Mother to intercede. She was so powerful at that, and she showed us what prayer really is," said Alexis.
The beatification process, Alexis referred to as a "very rigorous investigation. Every criterion has to be fulfilled. It is a long process.
"To me, when I looked at it, I didn't know that it took this much for somebody to be beatified."
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