Mercy Should be Shared
Editor's note:Vicente Bonilla, administrator in the Consulate General of Panama, visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy for the first time in 2012. Upon entering the Shrine, he saw how God's mercy has changed his life and how he needed to share God's mercy with others.
I was born in Panama on March 9, 1953 with nothing to my name. I was born in a small, impoverished town called Maria Eugenia, Chilibre — not in a hospital or bed, but on the ground beneath mango trees. At the time, my mother already had five children from her first spouse. She did not have a good relationship with my father's family given her previous marriage. My father's family was against the relationship between my mother and father given her past and my father's young age. So we struggled without their love.
By the grace of God I was able to attend elementary school, but I did not have any utilities, clothes, or basics. God blessed me with compassionate teachers who always supported me and fed me several times during the school week. My oldest sister's husband owned a small bakery and took me in at the age of 9. During the summer I sold cookies on the street to save up for my school supplies and clothes.
Moving in with my older sister and her husband was a blessing in my life. They took care of me and helped me finish high school. I then studied accounting at the University of Panama, taking night classes while I worked. In 1972 I began working in the banking industry. I worked in the Panamanian banking system for nearly 15 years and then in real estate as a general administrator. Thirty-four years ago, I married Nereida Castanos de Bonilla. We are blessed with two daughters.
On Sept. 8, 1990 I arrived in New York City to become administrator in the Consulate General of Panama. I learned English there. Becoming an administrator at the Consulate is a great blessing received through the mercy of God, but I didn't realize it at the time.
I visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy for the first time in the summer of 2012. It was then that I realized the great mercy of God, and that everything we have and receive comes from his mercy. When I entered the Shrine, I was enveloped by an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude. I saw my life as it was — and how I was not fully living because I wasn't allowing God to come first. And I saw how everything I had, everything I'd accomplished, was because of God's mercy and love for me.
When I returned to my life in New York, I came home to the Church. I lived the Cristiandad Cursillo (Christianity Course) at the New York MCC Saint Joseph Center in the Bronx. I became active in the Cursillistas Movements. I volunteered as lector at St. Patrick's Cathedral, in Manhattan, New York at the Spanish Mass and also as lector and Eucharistic Minister at San Bernard Parish in White Plains, New York.
My family, which was breaking up before, reconciled. After I prayed in the Shrine, I realized material things were not important. I understood that God was merciful. And I understood that the Divine Mercy God has given me is something to be shared. It is looking at people the same way God looks at you, through his merciful eyes.