ARGENTINA, Fr. José María Iturrería •
It is January 2024 and the Family Missions in Argentina have completed 25 years of existence. In 1999, a group of intrepid couples and young people from La Plata dared to travel to Paraguay to bring a missionary experience that today has expanded throughout the length and breadth of the country. —
What began as a daring initiative and a trust-based challenge to the Blessed Mother has become an experience of family in faith that has transformed the lives of many people of all ages and stages of life: children, youth, adults, married couples, and consecrated persons.
The Family Missions have been the cradle of religious and marriage vocations, decisively changing the lives of many of us. That is why, aware of this special milestone marked by 25 years, we cannot fail to bear witness to what God has done, and continues to do, through this wonderful experience of faith as a family.
I no longer wanted to go on mission one summer or the next…I wanted to go on mission all my life
I would like to share with you personally something of what they have meant to me, and I also leave room for you to immerse yourselves in the testimonies of those who have been touched in their souls by this “missionary vocation” that we live as a family of families.
Back in January 2000, as a young university student, I went to the town of Belgrano, and I joined a rising and very enthusiastic experience, but still very unknown: Missioning with families, missioning as a family. What would it be like to go out on mission from house to house with couples and their children? What would it be like to have a “family of life” during the mission, to attach yourself to new “brothers” and all “adopted children” of a couple? To live and sleep with one hundred people in a school? Little certainty, but a lot of confidence. I said to myself: if it is from the Blessed Mother, it must be good. I never imagined so much! I was moved. And the following year I was praying and insisting that my brother would go with me. We went to Maipú for the first time. A transformation experience. And in 2002 I returned to Maipú, this time with my brother, my mother, and a decision in my heart: I no longer wanted to go on mission one summer or another… I wanted to go on mission all my life. I will sum it up very briefly: this is my vocation. And I decided to be a Schoenstatt Father.
And my brother, I also say it very briefly and simply, met his wife thanks to the family missions. Today he has a beautiful family. He is not the only one: several of my great friends defined their vocation thanks to this missionary experience. Is it magic? I would say it is the magic of the Virgin Mary. That explains everything.
To wrap up and to increase the appetite for more and better testimonies, I would like to tell you about a Providence’s “icing on the cake”: as a priest, today I am the adviser of the Family Missions of La Plata and this year we returned to the same town of Maipú, to the same school, with some of the same friends, as we did 23 years ago. At that time I was saying goodbye to the Boys’ Youth (Boys’ Youth) because I was entering the seminary; today I am saying goodbye because I am finishing seven years of service as adviser of the Family and the Boys’ Youth of La Plata, accompanying the crowning of Mary as Queen of the Family Missions for these 25 years. I cannot think of a more meaningful way to close this stage of my life.
José María Iturrería, Schoenstatt Father
I remember that in my first family missions, in my lifetime family, there was a boy from Maipú who had been baptized in the Family Missions of 2001. It seemed crazy to me because it was the first impression of Schoenstatt, something that leaves its mark.
This year, on my first missionary outing, after chatting with a lady, she told me that her nephew had been baptized in Maipú in 2001 and it was indeed him. God shows me day by day that Schoenstatt leaves footprints, that we ourselves leave footprints and I am happy to have been a witness of this.
Josefina Lupano, University Girls’ Youth
The visit of the Blessed Mother in the last moments of life
Visiting the Hospital of Maipú with the missionaries, a very old lady, hospitalized in one of the rooms, called us as she could.
It was a “coincidence” that we passed by there because we were “lost”.
We do not know the name of the lady because she could no longer speak, but the emotion and peace in her face for the visit of the Blessed Mother remained engraved in my memory.
What a joy she must have felt in her heart that in her last moments the Blessed Mother passed by, that in her last moments she felt her visit and her blessing.
Mariana Alloa, University Girls’ Youth
Family Missions make us happy
From the Family Missions you draw the strength to face the challenges of life with joy. The strength founded on the trust in the bonds that you forge there. Surely the bond with the missionary, yes, because you believe that he/she “needs” your visit with the Virgin Mary, and he/she shows you how much you can give with a little quality time. But the most visited one is you, because in that need that we all have of having healthy attachments that accompany us on the challenging road of life, the Family Missions create and nourish, from pure love, the strongest attachments that you can form in your life. The bond with the missionary, yes, but above all the bond with yourself and with the other missionaries and, together with them, the bond with Jesus and his Mother”.For us, the Family Missions are just that, a source that nourishes the most important bonds that we can develop as humans, the bond of brotherhood, the bond of friendship, the bond of a child of a Mother and a God who loves us as we are.
We have gained our best friends, our courtship, and 20 years of our marriage from the family missions. Today, 25 years later, the Family Missions find us strengthening our family bonds with all our children and those who join us year after year. We see at the same time how our children enjoy receiving and giving that love that holds us firm in the storms we all face.
The Missions celebrated their 25th anniversary in Argentina. They came to stay, to transform and recreate themselves year after year inspired by the same Holy Spirit that gave them origin. May our dear Mother in Heaven continue to bless this beautiful expression of the Schoenstatt apostolate. We firmly believe that this is what F was referring to when he invited us to be Family by saying:
“The spirit of the family does not ask: what do I receive? It only lives from the thought: what can, and should I give? He who serves selflessly, reigns. He who gives home to others, finds it. He becomes home for many.”
Juan Martin y Mercedes D’Agostino, missionary family
For me, the Missions of Maipú 2024 were very meaningful, I had an encounter with Jesus and Mary and friends. I met many people, and it was very nice and fun.
Ma Clara D´Agostino, 12 years
The Family Missions were a week of disconnecting from the routine to connect with God and with the people of the movement and Maipú. It is an unforgettable and indescribable experience.
Ma Milagros D’Agostino, 17 years old
Our children at the mission asked us how long we were going to do it
The Lord is great and infinitely merciful! He gives his graces through Mother Mary who guides, transforms, and sends us. And it was no different this time with the Family Missions that once again set out on the road to Maipú, for the second time in their history.
As a missionary family, the gift came from the hand of our third son who, after 16 years, joined us for two days, fruit of a conversion that, as it could not be otherwise, was attributed to the Blessed Mother.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of our beloved Family Missions and given our 17 years on this road, our children in the mission asked us how long we would do it. Our answer: “until God wills it”. “As my mother used to say: we receive a hundredfold.
Who, if he finds a treasure, does not leave everything to obtain and keep it?
Its fruits are countless and lasting.
She is the great missionary; she will work miracles.
Fernanda and Julio Bussi, missionary family
Being a family on mission
We are Alejandra and Guillermo Ferreyra, members of the Schoenstatt Institute of Families and we have been present in the last eight missions.
In our case, our participation arose from seeing our children’s desire to go on mission and from an inner voice that urged us to leave our comfort zone to join them and to be a family in the mission. God and the Blessed Mother did not let themselves be outdone in generosity and gave us the possibility of developing deep bonds with many young people and being able to accompany them during this time from our maternity and paternity, as well as to nourish and renew ourselves with their spirit and testimony. We have learned a lot from them.
On the other hand, we have witnessed God healing wounds, listening to life stories, giving time, and renewing hope through generous hearts.
We always received much more than we were able to give.
Ale and Guille Ferreyra, a missionary family
Where I smile 24 hours a day for the eight days of the mission
The Family Missions are the place where I smile 24 hours a day during the 8 days of the mission. It is not a Movement activity; it is about living together as a Family. To experience the Schoenstatt charism through this mission is to feel that the heart embraces the heart of the other. With the one next to us and with the one who is being missioned. It is so strong what is shared, what is experienced…everything that one thinks, dreams, and works for months becomes a reality in one week. The smile and the joy of the neighbors of Maipú will remain engraved in the soul forever.
Cris García Cortina, University Boys’ Youth
Spreading the word of Christ
“When I am weak, I am strong” (St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:10).
This phrase was very much reflected in me during these days of mission because it reminded me that, in spite of the tiredness, of leaving the comfort zone and of not having more comfort than one is used to having, I knew that there was always a greater reason why I was there. It was always the Blessed Mother who led me and supported me in my journey to carry through her the word of Christ, she was the one who gave me the necessary strength to move forward and to know that we were not alone, but that she was giving us her hand and inviting us to walk with her to reach all the hearts of those who needed her. Undoubtedly, it was a very rewarding experience that I will keep forever in my heart.
Cata Garcia Cortina, University Girls‘ Youth
I lived as a family
I had always participated with my parents in the family missions. But this time they were not going to be able to go. I imagined and prepared myself for a bit of a bitter taste for these missions. But in spite of that, I found family. I lived family. I found mom, dad, brothers, and sisters. I lived home. My heart was safe; it is. And thanks to that, my mission also fired, my strength to go out to the encounter had a place to be transformed and renewed. Schoenstatt is for me a place of life.
Mili Folonier, University Girls’ Youth
The experience must be lived
We started with Facu, my oldest son, who founded the Family Missions with the Zurita family. In the second year my daughter María Paula joined us and the enthusiasm, love, joy, and brotherhood that existed among the group was so great that we saw that it was contagious, and we were there the third year with my husband Francisco. To describe what the family missions meant to me in an active way is very difficult in words because it goes beyond words. The experience has to be lived and what moves is the soul, the spirit and the heart.
We always did missionary work in Entre Ríos, we never did it in the Province of Buenos Aires, as you did. We were a very consolidated group for many years. Until the family missions were divided, thanks to God, because of the incredible growth of families and missionaries.
We had the honor of being leaders of one of the missions, a job that was not such, it was a gift from the Blessed Mother that gave us enormous and profound experiences, satisfactions, desires, and harvests that are truly unforgettable beyond everything that being the leader of a mission implies in all aspects.
In our first mission we were accompanied by Father Pablo Mullín, who is or was not only the advisor of many of us but also a brother in life. We were with Father Javier, with Father José María… Oh, I do not want to forget any of them, I would better not go on naming them because I’m overcome with emotion.
If anything describes the Family Missions for me “inside” it is being a family: never, never, never stop being a family. Years go by and one continues to remember not only the families of life (the first “our little son”, Sebastian Stelman, is now a priest), but also the mission family with whom one has lived the strongest experiences I have ever had.
If there is something that makes you grow, that makes you grow, not only as a Christian, but nothing more and nothing less than as a human being, it is the Family Missions.
Roxana Di Mattia Padejimas, missionary mom
Original: Spanish. Translation: Marcela Fernández, Toronto, Canada