Women of the Dawn: Sr. Mónica Benavides
Women who make the Word dawn to inhabit the territory
We publish the commentary of Sr Mónica Benavides, sdv, to the new document of the Latin American Confederation of Religious (CLAR): "Women of the Dawn: Inspiring Horizon 2022-2025". (available only in Spanish)
To read and interpret the proposed Women of the Dawn as an icon of the Inspiring Horizon of CLAR in the present, places us not only in front of another woman, but also in front of a plural group of women as day is dawning. It also sets us in the darkest hour, which is that closest to the dawn, that is to say, in a time of transition. Whoever has the experience of walking at that hour, knows very well that it is a moment of sharp contrast between light and shadow; and, therefore, people can only be identified by their clothes, their bodies, or the tone of their voices, but not really by their faces.
The icon evokes women who know how to live in the daily and historical contrasts. The Women of the Dawn live in their own skin an important event in the tomb, which is, until that moment, a territory of death and darkness. Concretely, they have the courage not to evade what has happened, but to go to see “the tomb,” where the crucified lie, victims of a history marked by systems of abuse of power. They go through mourning, grief, and nostalgia; they anoint or heal scars to turn the experiences of pain into births of resurrection. They stand, to see and touch the facts, to confront and wrest from the stones answers, new paths for life.
Women have the capacity to weave the fragmented life, which has broken the sense and meaning, and so to nourish existence, to heal physically and spiritually the relationship of the community with the territory of life. They also recall and show injustices until they are fully exposed. This symbolic act carried out by the women makes it possible to move from loneliness, impotence, and indignation on to the construction of socio-territorial sorority-fraternity. The vindication of the right to dream, of human rights, and of the rights of Mother Earth, open the territory to new possibilities and paths to be travelled. The spiritual, artistic, propulsive, and effective force of women actively contributes to subvert the history of the peoples.
The icon of the Women of the Dawn helps Religious Life to see, listen, read the signs of the times, and interpret reality with empathy in order to embrace and transform it through a hermeneutic of praxis that sheds light on new horizons.
The Women of the Dawn are creators of unprecedented stories in the community. One easily sees how the flow of the narrative advances through a transforming watershed. Indeed, with their presence, they make the territory into a stage of movement, where there is room for encounters, dialogue, announcement, comings and goings, and deep feelings, all indicating the passage towards life. Thus, in a collective mapping of reflection-action, which speaks of that socio-territorial framework, the Gospel shows the women who make the Word dawn. That is, they make what had been announced happen. We read in the text that the searching is filled with the experience of encounter, fear with joy, paralysis with running, blindness with embracing reality, silence with the Word, and night with dawn.
The Women of the Dawn are an inspiring icon for Latin America’s reality and for that of other cardinal points because from the most remote places they fight for an equitable society, with equal conditions for all peoples and territories. In all times, they have been a body of resilience and resistance, that like grains of wheat join to become bread. In fact, joining is the personal and collective action of bodies outraged by the injustices experienced by other bodies, because of an oppressive system. Their ability to create sorority, gatherings, and associations allows them to find the right relationship in order to be vigilant and give each other affective, spiritual, and political energy for re-existence.
The Women of the Dawn weave new hope-filled narratives amid the darkest and most difficult moments. They live permanently outbound, ready to cross borders or to inhabit them, if necessary. Likewise, they break calcined rites or imposed times that petrify existence, in order to renew the cycle of life. The capacity to form revitalizing networks is a political alternative intended to empower communities with their wisdom, sentiments, relationships, and self-sustainable actions that make living in the territory sustainable.
The icon of the Women of the Dawn helps Religious Life to see, listen, read the signs of the times, and interpret reality with empathy in order to embrace and transform it through a hermeneutic of praxis that sheds light on new horizons. At the ecclesial level, it proposes a synodal style of relationship, decision, and action, for the synodal process with the People of God, who live in the territory with actors whose purposes are utilitarian and lucrative. At the social level, it vindicates the role of women, who are important in all the transitions of history and of the communities, so that there are resurrected territories. At the level of political and ancestral ecology, they constitute a body sensitive to the cosmos that sustains the relational link with Mother Earth and resignifies inhabiting the territory for the common good and good living.
Sister Mónica Benavides, sdv
Sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Will. She belongs to the indigenous community “Pastos y Quillacingas” in the region of Nariño-Colombia. She has studied Religious Sciences, Catechetics, University Pedagogy, and Theology. She is a member of the Theological Advisory Team of the Presidency of CLAR - ETAP.