We met in Rome on September 18, 1981: eight “adventurers” going to begin the apostolic work of Opus Dei in the West African country of Ivory Coast. Some of us already knew each other, but most did not. There was Rose from Kenya, the youngest; Tonita from Portugal; Margot and Marie from France; Vivian who was from Venezuela but had lived for four years in Nigeria; and Charo, Maricarmen, and Rosario from Spain. On the 19th we began a series of unforgettable meetings with Tere Temes and Cuca, who had come from Kenya to share their experiences with us, and with Don Alvaro del Portillo, St. Josemaria’s first successor as head of Opus Dei.
One of the stories we remember from our three meetings with Don Alvaro – undoubtedly the best part of that workshop – was what he told us about our new home. He had just received a letter from Father Sanchez, then Regional Vicar of Ivory Coast, in which he said that although the men had already found their final home, they had discovered that the house they were preparing for us was no longer feasible and they were going to leave us their house because it was in good condition. Don Alvaro told us, “As you can see, once again they are taking the lead in order to make your journey easier. This is how unity in the Work is lived.”
He told us as much as he could in those meetings so we would be well-prepared to begin the apostolic work. One day we asked him when he would come to see us. He said that when we told him that we had our Lord in our home, he would visit every night because he used to “visit” the Tabernacles of all the places where his daughters lived. And it was true: we always felt that the Father was close to us, including when he made a pastoral trip to our country eight years later, in October 1989.