SPAIN, Vicky Forn •
At the beginning of 1999, we spoke with Fr. Carlos Padilla about the possibility of undertaking some kind of social work as Schoenstatters in Madrid.
During his year as a seminarian, he had worked in Puente Alto in Santiago, Chile, in a very disadvantaged area where María Ayuda had a school, and he was enthused with the idea.
In May 1999, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the 31st of May, many of us were in Bellavista, and we learned more about the initiatives that were carried out, more concretely, the work developed by María Ayuda. This is how we made contact with the people responsible for it; we asked permission to use the name of María Ayuda, and we returned to Madrid willing to make María Ayuda Fr. Hernán Alessandri dream a reality in Spain.
We were enthusiastic about the idea of working with infants, but it was not an easy task, and we placed it in God and the Blessed Mother’s hands so that they would give us a sign of where to go.
Finally in May 2000, we constituted the María Ayuda Foundation with the total initiative of lay people and with the spiritual accompaniment of Fr. Carlos Padilla. At that time, we still had not completely defined our activity, but we did know that it would not be just another non-profit organization. We wanted our Foundation to have a very special, spiritual characteristic. No matter what our activity, it would always be united to the Shrine where an atmosphere of being at home, shelter, and self-giving to others is always breathed.
Soon we were offered the opportunity to collaborate with a Salesian religious school. There were a large number of students, who were children of immigrants, and they had learning problems, lack of rootedness, and social integration. That is how project “Big Friend” was born with university volunteers. Throughout the school year, every volunteer or Big Friend accompanied a student or Small Friend, who had affective difficulties.
This project was a success. The school began to notice very positive changes in the children, Small Friends, and it lasted for some years until the students passed to another school.
Support for the most helpless
Meanwhile in Spain the topic of abortion intensified. The number of abortions grew daily, and for us it was God’s voice telling us perhaps we had a task to carry out. We noted that the majority of the young mothers were single and immigrants. They were told not to abort, but on the other hand, they were not offered enough help to continue with their pregnancy. This how the “Catherine Kentenich” House of Shelter for Pregnant Youths was born; today, it continues to provide shelter and support to every woman who needs it.
From its beginning, the Catherine Kentenich House has been a home for these young girls, possibly the home that many never had, where they receive affection and listening, orientation and training, where many have encountered God and have asked to be baptized, some of them have even sealed their Covenant of Love with Mary. It is also the place where they receive the tools to begin a new life, along with their child, and it is the home where they are always welcome, loved and sheltered. Ultimately, they know that the Catherine Kentenich House is their homeland.
Original: Spanish. 8 January 2018. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA: Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA