Sit down for a conversation with Damaris Avila and you will be joined by Our Lady of Schoenstatt. The Madonna is the face of a Catholic Marian movement that has had a positive influence on Damaris’s life. “The portrait of Our Lady is always with me wherever I go. When someone is sick, I bring her,” Damaris explained. “She has even been to the airport with me.”
The Schoenstatt movement was founded on October 18, 1914. It has grown into an international apostolic movement that reconnects faith with daily life through a deep love of Mary as intercessor and advocate. Damaris attends mass on the 18th of every month to honor Our Lady of Schoenstatt. On October 18 of this year, Damaris was consecrated to the Heart of Mary with a channel to the heart of Jesus. “Everything is better since she came to me,” Damaris said.
Damaris is a native of Mexico who moved to Ocean City with her parents when she was 14 years old. As a young teen she attended St. Frances Cabrini Church but did not feel strongly connected to God. Her attitude changed in 2010 when she attended a charismatic Catholic retreat in New York, along with other members of the St. Damien Hispanic congregation. “A lot of people changed their lives on that retreat,” she recalled. “I learned more about God and the Holy Spirit. When I came back, I became involved with the church and I have been more and more involved since then.” She also changed her life for the better, deciding to marry in 2011.
Damaris and her husband Gerardo Martinez are the parents of three daughters, Jully, Deidy, and Adamaya. All three girls attend religious education classes (CCD) in the parish, an opportunity that Damaris called “very important.” “They all started classes when they were five and they have kept going. This is where they learn about God and about the good things.” Last year seven-year-old Deidy was awarded first prize in the local Knights of Columbus “Keep Christ in Christmas” poster contest. Her award is displayed on the wall of the family’s living room. Their father, Gerardo, is a musician who shares his talents at Masses and retreats around the diocese.
Although she is a busy working wife and mother, Damaris, tries to make time for study, prayer, and service. In addition to studying for the Marian consecration process, she completed a course of study in lay ministry in the Camden Diocese’s Instituto de Ministerio Eclesial (IMEC). The three-year program focuses on theology, Bible studies, and spiritual and personal development. She has tried to apply her discipleship skills wherever there is a need. She has assisted as a liaison between the Hispanic congregation and the religious education program, helping parents by translating between Spanish and English. This fall, she recruited young people to attend a Catholic Renewal Weekend in Wildwood, another retreat sponsored by the diocese. Come Christmas, she will once again be collecting toys for area children. “I always want to help people,” Damaris explained. “Helping makes me happy.”
For Damaris, being Catholic means believing in the gospel, having faith and firmly believing in the Holy Eucharist. Her favorite Scripture passage is from St. Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans, 8: 31).