Liara Lima

Brazil: "I had been waiting for him forever"

Liara, social worker in Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, recounts her encounter with Fr. Giussani in 2010, watching a DVD that some friends had lent her. And that soon became "a path."
Davide Perillo

"È isso! È isso que busco!". This was what Liara was looking for. And she suddenly became aware of it whilst images of an Italian priest, with a hoarse voice and a gaze capable of penetrating the heart, were flashing up on the TV. "I was speechless. I cried, from beginning to end. It was as if I had been waiting for him forever. Looking at him, I thought to myself: I want to understand why this man is like this. I want to be able to speak with the same certainty with which he speaks." "He" was Fr. Giussani. The video, Vite Straordinarie [Extraordinary Lives], was a DVD about the founder of CL, which a friend had lent her. Liara wanted to better understand where that group of Christians she had met a few months ago came from. And she came across a face that changed her perspective forever, so much so that she decided, shortly thereafter, that her whole life would be spent for Christ.

Liara Lima is 32 years old. She wears a floral dress, wide glasses and a shining gaze on her child-like face that often lights up with a smile. She is a social worker in a hospital in Manaus, Amazonas. And she is a Memor Domini. This is the same Jesus that she used to hear about at home when she was a child, because "my parents are Christians and I used to go to my parish, sacraments and all", but "He was not a present, close friend.. He was not within reality."

He began to enter her reality in late 2010. She was still living in Parintins, where she was born and went to high school. "A friend invited me to a meeting one Sunday evening, at the home of Fr. Giuliano Frigeni, the bishop. They were doing School of Community. I did not know what it was then. But I heard them talk about Charity, The Religious Sense... I began attending." Why? "Curiosity. And surprise. It was something new to me. We used to study Church History a little bit in my parish, and I thought it was an in-depth study of that sort, a time of study. Instead, I found myself talking about how to live, how to be within reality, and how it is possible to have certain things present in the everyday. I was struck. I began to wonder: are there really people who live like this? And why?"

That is where that borrowed DVD comes in. "The first time I saw Giussani, I was thunderstruck: 'This is what I am looking for!' I thought to myself: how is it possible to live this familiarity with Jesus? He speaks of Him as Someone who is present, in the same way I talk about my parents, my friends..." When it came to going to college, one thing became clear: "I did not want to lose what I had met. I had to get to know them more: those people, and Fr. Giussani. The discovery he was talking about was so great: beauty became flesh, truth, justice became flesh...." Liara sought out the students of the CLU, and became friends with them. She began to deepen an experience that, little by little, began to take hold of everything. The following year, she began the path of verification of her vocation. "I had heard of the Memores, but I did not know them. I started looking on the internet. Then I asked people who were helping me as I went along. Fr. Giuliano, first of all, and other friends. That is how it started."

It was a path that became intertwined with everything, right away. "It was always something new," she continues. As I went along, I discovered that I was interested in everything: School of Community; Passos, the Brazilian Traces; the books... But the more I went on, the more I became interested. When I read a page by Giussani or Julián Carrón, it is something that spoke of me, of my humanity. This is what makes me love the path."

That path today consists of work her work in a hospital in the eastern part of this city of more than two million inhabitants, overlooking where the Rio Negro crosses the Amazon. "The hospital is big, but so is the need; we serve a very large area. And I see patients of all ages, from 15-year-olds to the elderly." Generally they are simple people, often poor. In a typical day, she faces many different situations: "Quiet things, such as talking to the patients' families to get an idea of the situation; or more complicated things, such as understanding what help can be given to an elderly person who has been left alone, or maybe to refugees coming from Venezuela... Basically, we do not only take care of illnesses."

Liara says she had always thought about a job that would allow her to help people. "But encountering the movement was a grace for this as well because I experienced this desire that I had in a different way. I wanted to study Psychology, but I decided to study Social Work because I realized that I needed to be closer to people. I have always been struck by a phrase of Saint Padre Pio's: ‘Christ is present twice in the sick and the poor.’ This is increasingly true for me.”

It is another perspective, she says, "a different way of looking at things and people. There is something mysteriously other in the reality in front of you, and this opens you." She recounts an incident that happened just a few days ago. "There was this mother with her son who has neurological problems. He was agitated, and could not sit still. I thought about how they could live like that; I empathized with her. But watching how she moved, what she did, you might think, ‘That is not all there is. There is something else beyond suffering. There is a presence that changes everything.’ It was clear that she was embracing that presence as she embraced her son. Reality is inhabited. Even within the struggle, the pain of things that are sometimes inhospitable, there is a host. I looked at her and understood that this is what is needed to live."

Last December, Liara's journey took a decisive step: her Profession, along with the other Memores novices. "It was a beautiful day. A friend who had made their Profession a few years earlier had said to me: ‘Look, it will be one of the most beautiful moments in your life.’ I can say the same thing. Of course, there were all many problems: the pandemic, difficulties in travelling... It was an adventure arriving in Milan. When I passed the last checkpoint at the airport, I began to cry". Just like had happened whilst watching that DVD... "For me, the Profession was an opportunity to look back to the beginning and at my whole history. It was a hint of fulfillment, in a very mysterious form." What does "fulfillment" mean to you? "I want to be happy now. It is not a promise for the future and that is it. It is something that is already being fulfilled now. I have experienced it. And I experience it now."

Liara speaks of the Pope's letter to those making the Profession, "It was a surprise, a great gift. It moved me." And then of the songs, "the same ones that have accompanied me from the beginning. We sang, and my whole story passed before my eyes. Everyone who had accompanied me over the years was present. And I was praying that my 'yes' to Christ would help theirs." She says that in those moments she often thought of something else, which comes back to her again and again: "Fr. Giussani, when he talks about John and Andrew. They were the same, but they were different, because after their encounter everything was completely different. It is the same for me. I am still myself, but I am another person. It is another world. But within this world.”