Neuquén (Argentina). On 29 January 2022, two young volunteers from the Argentine Province of Saint Francis Xavier (ABB) finished their 11-month experience of missionary volunteer work with a farewell party by the community of Ruca Choroy, in which they served.
Missionary volunteering is an experience promoted by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians as formation in a mission context, to accompany young people in a process of discernment and opening their hearts to the people and culture of the territories of the ABB Province, in the north of Patagonia.
During 2021, Melanie from Buenos Aires and Marisel from San Ignacio, Neuquén, made themselves available to share their lives with the FMA and join them in the mission of Rangui Huenu Ñuke, which means “the Mother in the middle”, in Ruca Choroy, where the FMA have had a presence among the indigenous Mapuche community for 29 years.
It is a non-formal, preventive, promotional, and supportive educational presence both for young people and for families. In 2021, two FMAs participated in the project, Sr. Silvia Dupont and Sr. Nella Del Monte who, with the two volunteers, carried out the activities and proposals together with the animators of the different groups of the mission:
– the Kme Feletuan Community Assistance and Accompaniment Home – “Let’s be well again” – made up of members of the community committed to accompanying people in situations of social vulnerability linked to drug addiction;
– the youth group Pewmain pu hueche, “Young dreamers “;
– a support group for women who run craft and weaving workshops;
– scholastic support for children, young people, and adults;
– a community radio station, an important means of communication and interaction for the community.
For the young volunteers, it is an experience of significant growth, which has helped them in their personal journey of discernment and pastoral commitment at the service of the community, as Melanie recounts:
“I had the great gift of sharing a stretch of life with one of the Mapuche communities in Patagonia, in Ruca Choroy, Neuquén. I was able to re-evaluate the importance of their presence in the territory, the meaning that the Earth and everything around us has for them. There are many things that we should learn or re-learn to value.
I would like many to have the opportunity to live an experience like the one I had. And that, if some have the desire to do something for others, the courage to listen to their heart and fear does not win over the desire to be able to realize this dream.
Today’s reality invites us to do something, and I believe that missionary volunteering is a beautiful way to transform it, to transform ourselves and the way we see the world around us. Volunteering encourages us to dream with others. Sharing enriches us, allows us to know thousands of things that make us grow and re-evaluate what we have in front of our eyes every day and we are unable to see.
Being a volunteer today for me goes far beyond what I thought when I started the experience. It means getting involved, loving what happens, and above all letting yourself be loved by all the people with whom we share life on a daily basis.”
In the year 2022, four young people will live the experience of missionary volunteer service in the FMA Houses in the north of Patagonia. Three will be in the Missionary House of Mary Help of Christians in Junín de los Andes and in the Rangui Huenu Ñuke mission of Ruca Choroi, both in the province of Neuquén, and one will be in General Roca, Río Negro. Two other young people will continue for a second year in Junín de los Andes and Jordana Haygo in the Educating Community of General Roca.
In this year of the celebration of the 150° anniversary of the FMA Institute, the experiences of missionary volunteering help to awaken their missionary identity, community, service and dedication to the young and the poorest.