Life and mission in Concordia

We in Concordia, in the province of Entre Ríos (Argentina), would like to share the life and mission of this little community which consists of María Estela Torres, Ana María Román and Glaides Austria (who has been in Ibirité, Minas Gerais, since August until March of next year for a time of sisterly spiritual and missionary sharing, exchange and mutual enrichment with our sisters of Brazil).

The community has been living in this working-class neighbourhood with areas where there is great poverty for the past five years. The people are very simple and open and their lives reflect the social and economic crisis with unemployment and many of the consequences: delinquency, drugs, alcoholism, prostitution etc. 
Paradoxically, here, as in the rest of the country, people re-elected the president who did not present a clear project of advancement and development, but is rather maintaining a large part of the population, above all the poorest, in a condition of great financial dependency through Social Plans and Subsidies that are gradually eliminating the culture of work. 
To this can be added the exploitation of the harvesters, with temporary jobs during the fruit seasons. The area is rich in citrus fruits and bilberries. Many children and young people drop their studies to work in the harvest and this work is not regulated; the result is that the work is poorly paid and in some cases the workers are exploited. In our neighbourhood the majority are young families; there are a lot of children and teenage mothers. In many cases they are bringing up their small children on their own. 
With regard to the Church, we cannot be greatly involved in the parish as there is no possibility of dialogue and planning with the priest. So, we are trying to collaborate where there is need, supporting all that raises awareness of the need for an overall pastoral ministry. We can feel very strongly the impetus that the Congregation is giving us: "Go with all your strength! Am I not sending you myself?" and, in seeking to respond to this specific reality we propose as our community objective: 
In the same way, and since one of the priorities that we have set ourselves is the family and youth, we are looking for different ways of reaching out to them. From the beginning we noted that the women are very downtrodden, in various ways. In many cases they are abused, they are not respected by their partner and their own self-esteem declines. Many of them have not had the opportunity to go to school. 
We found a person who brought together some mothers and taught them to read and write. In response to some of their desires, a workshop for painting on cloth was formed which operates in a room attached to the local chapel and is guided by María Estela. 
They are gradually discovering their abilities and valuing what they are doing. They realise that they are capable of creating something new. At the same time it is something that offers the possibility of a little work opening for them. They are already planning to have an exhibition to present the work that they have done.
Another possibility was to join REDINFA (a holistic net-work for the development of the child and the family). Last year Glaides, along with a group of volunteer women, entered into relation at national level with other groups that were already operating. This is a solidarity network that is seeking to renew the social fabric that has been torn by serious injustices. It is trying to promote and give an incentive to solidarity, working in an ecumenical spirit and with non-governmental and governmental bodies that are concerned with families and children. This task has now been taken on by Ana María who, with the volunteers, is continuing the work with families where there are children under 6 years, and with pregnant women. 
In one of these families, Tona (19) and Emanuel (24) (who have practically no relatives), we could see how this REDINFA aim is being lived out with great enthusiasm even though it is not merely a matter of carrying out health checks but also of raising up, encouraging and enabling community leaders for a prophetic and missionary action, and of creating con¬ditions in which women may become agents of advancement for themselves, their family and their community. 
This couple lives in a shaky little house measuring 2.50 metres by 5 metres, with many gaps that let in the wind and the intense cold we had this winter. 
Gradually, a solidarity chain was formed: the priest who has responsibility for Caritas obtained wood to build a little house that would have a bedroom, dining-room, kitchen and bathroom. He encouraged students from a private school to come to work on Saturday mornings, with a married couple who are catechists, over a period of several months. Some neighbours and people from the Chapel set about finding clothing and furnishing materials; other people from the local council and the municipality collaborated with the transport to bring the wood, sand, corrugated iron etc. Even soldiers from the Regiment came to give a hand. 
Tona had to have complete rest because of the danger of losing her baby at the 7th month and we were able to help her out by washing her clothes and helping her in whatever way she needed. 
The little house is still not finished, but on the 24th of October Adriel Bautista was born, a beautiful baby who is discovering that he is part of a big family made up of people from different social classes and from different neighbourhoods. 
And we are continuing to look after his mother and see to the household chores while she is recovering from the caesarean. 
Through REDINFA it is possible to reach the heart of the family, develop new relations, broaden the horizons people have and promote exchanges, the awareness of unjust situations, the quest for possible ways out etc. It is a door to hope and communion. Relations with the young people are very warm and demand that we be open and available so that they may feel welcome when they come to the community. This is not always easy… and we have to help one another for the various activities we have. 
We accompany the missionary group “Semillas del Reino” (Seeds of the Reign) which, along with some young Dehonians (Sacred Heart Fathers), carries out the summer mission in January. During the year each young person has pastoral commitments as it would be a very partial approach to do this only during the summer. The girls asked to have more formation with regard to some Church documents e.g. Aparecida, the Social Doctrine of the Church. For that we are counting on the support of a priest friend who comes every month and greatly enriches us with his talks. They experience it as a great help for the conflicts they come up against in their commitments and now they have elements on which they can base their opinions. 
At the same time we are preparing and reflecting on the material for the next mission that has as aim "Raising up future pastoral workers where we are." All of this is in co-ordination with the Dehonian priests who are responsible for the mission. Ana María also works with the diocesan Youth and Vocations Ministry, which is made up of Fr Moncho, a woman religious, a married couple and a young woman. There is a monthly meeting with those young people who feel a concern to know what God’s project is in their lives. 
The meetings are very interesting and enable us to accompany and be witnesses to the growth in faith of young people who are seeking God with great sincerity. 
We are continuing to journey with our people, keeping our eyes, ears and heart open to discover the signs of life and to continue building together. 
We feel very strongly the presence of Etienne and Antoinette in this time of change and of challenges to discover the newness that the Spirit wishes to bring about today in our life and mission. 
The Community of Concordia
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