FORTITUDE: A Christmas Story

Our parishioner Erendira Ruiz has given us her permission to share this reflection with you at Christmastime. Her personal courage and the transformation that she has experienced is an inspiration to all of us. We hope you find her story as inspiring as we have!

My name is Erendira Ruiz and after two years without interruption, I have participated in the HOPE program at St. Pius V Parish. Several months ago, my companions and I, along with our dear counselor, named our group “FORTITUDE.” We call it that because we have learned what it is to live, love, have confidence, respect, healing and wisdom, to name a few.

It has not been an easy task for our counselor to teach us, week after week, how important it is to have a healthy esteem and love for oneself; to begin to get to know ourselves in order to recognize when someone is doing us harm, when we like something and it interests us; to cease being co-dependent, feeling guilty, negative and pessimistic. To be able to discard that heavy burden of past resentments; to be able to say that little word “NO”: No to the ill treatment, to the abuse, to the self-inflicted punishment.

Instead, we have learned that we have a right to live in a peaceful home free of domestic violence, and to be loved; to have confidence in ourselves and in what we decide. We have struggled, my companions and I, day after day, to set limits in our lives, learning to live healthy and independent lives. For me, what has been most difficult is to raise my self-esteem; to not permit anyone to think that he or she has the right to invade my privacy, to not be so hurt when someone rejects me, or to not want to always be with others so as not to feel abandoned, hoping with all my strength that those people will fill the void within me.

To all women who, like me, are victims of domestic violence, I encourage you to take advantage of the programs offered by St. Pius V Parish. Don’t wait fifteen years as I did. Seek help before your family is destroyed. The counselors are there to guide us, encourage us and instruct us, not to tell us what or how to think.

I am tremendously grateful to all the people who work at St. Pius V parish. It is a difficult job to maintain their programs and the sessions are free of charge for all in the community.

To my beloved friend Rosalinda, who practically carried me to the door of St. Pius V; to Luis, Carlos, Maria, Magdalena, Sandra, Dolores and others, many thanks for sharing with me your knowledge and your time. My wounds are healing. I also wish with all of my heart to thank my counselor Veronica for all the help that she has given me. With her I learned to say “Stop” to the things I don’t like and realized that it isn’t so bad to be alone. Today, after two years, I can say that I enjoy a good breakfast alone. I sit and watch the moon. I like to run, to walk, to dance, to read alone. And, if sometimes I feel the necessity of a hug, well there are the trees or some little animal that loves me and thanks me. Veronica, for being part of this change in my life, I feel very fortunate for having met you. I have many things for which to thank you and I want you to know that thanks to your counseling, today I am able to walk with a lighter heart because I have forgiven myself and I struggle every day to pardon the people who have hurt me. Now I know that God has been with me always; that He never abandoned me and never will.

This post is also available in: Spanish