ARGENTINA, Facundo Gauto (via schoenstatt.org.ar) •
On December 26th after a farewell Mass at Carmen Arriola de Marín School, 220 missionaries left from Buenos Aires for Balcarce and its surroundings accompanied by Fr. Manuel López Naón, Fr. Tomás Dell’ Oca, seminarian Juan Molina, and Sr. Rafaela.—
A motto in our hearts became action: “I am here because you have called me.”
We were seven communities in total, three remained in Balcarce (they stayed in the gardens, but they carried out their activities at San Cayetano, María Auxiliadora and María Luján chapels) and the rest went to towns on the peripheries, visiting Los Pinos, San Agustín, Mechongué, and the Capricho area.
House by house
During those ten days, we lived with the area’s people, carrying out visits into homes in the morning letting them know about our visit and activities.
Yerba mates and profound talks shared with people we had only just met, moments of prayer to the Blessed Mother —praying for health, for their families, and the expressions of gratitude we received simply for being there were some of the experiences still echoing in our thoughts from those mornings.
We informed the townspeople about what events we were offering including interactive activities for children, teenagers, and adults that were held in the main square from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. During this time, we prayed the Rosary with those who wanted to participate. At 8:00 pm, the priest celebrated Mass with the Liturgy of the Word in community with the people, where the seminarian or religious who accompanied us always assisted.
One day, a short pilgrimage, with singing and the carrying out different mysteries of the day, leading to Mass at 8:00 pm.
At 9:00 pm, we returned to the school, the rectory, school, or garden where we stayed to finish meal preparation and to eat dinner.
Our nights ended with prayers, contemplating and giving thanks for the day we experienced, and the guitars and music expressed what words of weariness or joy could not express.
With God and the Blessed Mother as the driving force
The intention of detail is to comment on how spirituality was present throughout the mission, considering God and the Blessed Mother as the motor of MTA.
On the 31st, several missionary families began to share with the different communities. By then there were 250 of us going on mission day by day.
The Mass of the 31st was held at night, to begin the New Year in the midst of celebration (a custom of the MTA Masses), and on the first day, all the community missionaries celebrated at St. Joseph Parish in Balcarce, Bishop Gabriel Mestre celebrated the Mass.
On January 2nd, Youth Night was held in different towns and communities, which consisted in a night celebrating with the townspeople and to slowly lead to our departure. Although it is called Youth Night, everyone of all ages was invited, and any guitarist, comedian, or artist was invited to the stage that we set up wherever the town provided a place. Everything ended with laughter and entertainment between the local people and us, which generated unity and an atmosphere of happiness where you had to be there to experience it.
On January 4th, our last day, everyone gathered once again at St. Joseph Parish, and we bid farewell to Balcarce not with a “goodbye,” but rather with a “until we meet again.”
In conclusion, we shared an excerpt from the Gospel about the disciples on the road to Emmaus, which portrays a little of the feeling of each one of the missionaries of MTA 2018/2019:
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
When Jesus speaks to us, the words are not always clear, it is not always a religious image, and it is not always something that we understand, but the heart burns before an experience it is him who is undoubtedly present.
I can only say, during these days the hearts of 250 people and the community were on fire.
And I repeat: It is not a “goodbye Balcarce; it is a “until we meet again.”
Original: Spanish. 20 January 2019. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA