Invitation to mission in Chile. Reflections No.3

22nd August 2017 - by Nathalie Marytsch

ST elvira

Irene Prentice from Bath shares her experiences and reflections as the group continues its journey in Chile.

I speak no Spanish. Last night we spent the night with local people from the Parish of Santa Elvira.  My host had little knowledge of English, so we spent the time we had trying to make sense of what we thought we heard, a conversation between ducks and a hen. You get the idea. I think I had the better deal as I had a free Spanish lesson, breakfast, and a warm and cosy bed for the night.

The following morning we met the rest of the invitation to mission group at the Chapel of St. Andrew Kim Taegon where we were warmly welcomed with tea and snacks by the Catholic community there. Sr. Kath, a Columban sister, gave the keynote presentation, and gave us an insightful account of her 43 years’ experience in Chile, and around the catholic community of Puente Alto, south of Santiago. As background information, we were informed that the Parish was an agricultural community of 13,000 inhabitants in 1985. By 2012, this had increased to approximately 140,000 inhabitants. The Catholic chapel where we gathered was part of the parish of San Pedro de Nolasco,founded in 1887.

Sr. Kath explained that the root cause of social problems in Bajos de Mena- where San Pedro de Nolasco is founded- is due to social injustice, discrimination, and unemployment due to the lack of education. In addition, the inhabitants live in poor housing conditions, lacking in space and cheaply built. This result in abuse of drugs, drug trafficking, and child abuse. A poor diet due to poverty meant that there was an increase in problems associated with obesity whilst not very long ago, malnutrition was prevalent. These are the people that Sr. Kath works with. These are the issues that Sr. Kath works with in the community.

One way of connecting with the people in the parish was being visibly present outside, tending to the plants around her house, and keeping the roadside clean. By doing this and being a familiar face around, greeting passer bys, exchanging pleasantries, she soon became a friend, someone to be trusted with problems providing a listening ear, and offering comfort and a hug. This is a commitment over a period of time and not a short-term effort. This is also missionary work.

With my host family, I was in unfamiliar territory but my anxieties were soon put at rest as I felt that I was among friends as they reached across to take me back to their home. It was a privilege and I felt humbled to receive such generosity and kindness from strangers. These people are no longer strangers as they opened their homes and hearts. In conclusion, I share a thought from Sr. Kath who was equally open and sincere, “This place does not lack God”.

VIDEO: Amigos y amigas de Inglaterra visitan comunidades columbanas