Continuing our daily Advent reflection series, Missioner Annemarie Barrett writes about a woman who continues to greatly influence her life in more ways than one.

Mother. Administrator. Agronomist. Jefa. Friend.

Working with Casta, our parish administrator and jefa in the parish garden, has been one of the many transformative relationships that I have encountered in my first year in mission here in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

I met Casta the very first time I visited the parish garden, where I now work six days a week. I met other people that day as well, but it was the time that I spent with Casta that I remember and certainly what inspired me to return the following Saturday.

Photo by Annemarie Barrett

I remember her eye contact and her smile, the way she made me feel, from the moment that I met her, that I was welcomed and valued in that space.

As the months progressed and my involvement with the parish garden grew, so too did my relationship with Casta.

And in coming to know her, I believe that it is her spirit that has most affected me.

I’d love to give you a few examples of how Casta has shown me a “different way” to be in relationship with not only my sisters and brothers but also with my time, work, family, animals and plants, all of creation.

-When she visits us in the garden, we stop our work and we talk, we share stories. We follow her example. We slow down. We listen. And being present to one another becomes the priority.

-I’ve lost count now of how many times she has invited me and my co-workers to share a meal with her family, at a local restaurant or in their home. We enjoy the gift of being called part of their family.

-She cares for rabbits, pigs, ducks, sheep, cats and dogs. And she talks about them all as if they are her children. Whenever she talks about her animals, she simply cannot contain her smile.

-She speaks about her relationship with the garden and the plants as if it were a friendship. She knows how much pleasure and life it brings her to work with la Madre Tierra. She shares that joy generously with others.

I could go on… And honestly, it brings tears to my eyes putting into words how she has taught me a “different way.” This year I am most grateful for the opportunity to share work and life with Casta, to be touched by her spirit of generosity and loving presence.

Coming tomorrow: “Welcomed Through Music” by Audrey Sabatini!

From St. Paul, Minnesota, Annemarie graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies. Possessing a strong interest in social justice issues and some experience with international travel, she began her two years of mission in Bolivia in January 2013.

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