Invitation to Mission in Chile. Reflection No 6

25th September 2017 - by Nathalie Marytsch


Helen Dufficy,  from the Columban offices in Solihull, shares here her reflections on the experience of the invitation to mission programme in Chile.

The morning started early with our flight from Iquique back to Santiago. Finally we all got to see that much talked about aerial view of the majestic mountain ranges of the Andes. These we found to be in stark contrast to the dry arid conditions facing the people we had left behind in the north before landing into the chilly early morning air of a bustling Santiago where we immediately headed over to the Columban central house.

There we received a very warm welcome from Alvaro, the Director of the region and his team. We all joined in a celebration of Mass in the house chapel, the highlight of which, was a beautifully adorned stained glass window depicting St Columban and commemorating the Columban’s 60 year presence in Chile. Mass was offered in both Spanish, the traditional language of Chile and English for our groups benefit. During Mass various members of the group shared their experiences to date, which already had been many and varied. The overwhelming feeling of us all was the amazing warmth, generosity and welcome the group had received from everyone  they had had the opportunity to engage with on their journey so far. We all felt a sense of awe and wonder at the resilience and sense of community spirit of those we had met with on our trip; the experience for many of us had been humbling and thought-provoking. We had also witnessed a beautiful facet of the Columbans; namely their ability to extend a generosity of spirit and selfless giving whilst retaining a sense of openness and humility. Mass was followed by lunch in the garden where the group savoured some traditional Chilean food and drink, on what was a mild winters day in the capital.

Afterwards the group took a meandering walk through the town, taking in the sites en route to see the magnificent metropolitan cathedral, a national monument with its imposing architecture and famous arches. It is the home of the country’s Archdiocese and is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The right nave holds an urn that guards the hearts of war heroes who fought in the Concepción battle.

By now it was late afternoon and so we headed to the Columban Lay Mission house where we were joined by two volunteers from TECHO an international Non-governmental organisation.  TECHO seeks to overcome the poverty situation that thousands of people who live in precarious settlements face, through the joint action of their inhabitants and young volunteers. From lack of housing to living in slums, insufficient access to public services and appropriate support and advice. The organisation works tirelessly with staff and volunteers who together offer assistance to those individuals in the poorer communities who require it and seek to bring levels of housing, access to water, electricity, sanitation and education to an acceptable standard for all. The two volunteers kindly joined us to highlight the issues faced by the poor and impoverished, not only in Santiago and Chile but further afield also, they patiently waited for our hosts to translate firstly their presentation and then our questions and their answers. Their wonderful work for the benefit of local communities here in Santiago is solely voluntary and their desire to make a difference for the betterment of all most evident.

The day ended as always with a period of reflection and prayer, and what was becoming evident was the gradual deepening of our connection, to each other, to all that we were witnessing, but most especially to God and what in particular he was asking of each one of us.