Spain - My life as an Aola in Madrid

I am an Aola (Associate of Our Lady of the Assumption), a Christian laywoman called to live out the Gospel by being open to the "Newness" of daily life as the special place for the Experience of God.

It is only along the path of life (Gospel: Emmaus) that I can encounter Jesus of Nazareth. I have my roots in Madrid (Spain), in the neighbourhood of Vallecas where there are about 500,000 inhabitants; there is a high percentage of unemployment. It is a neighbourhood where the people have a sense of community and are conscious of the struggle for justice and the common good. The prevailing political ideology is left-wing and, at Church level, there are Basic Communities that have a combative spirit, but in keeping with the person of Jesus. 
I try to be open to God and to others. I have put down roots in the area, people know me and I know the situations of many persons. Here, I try to discover the small signs of hope and I share them (e.g. support to those who have been evicted). Jesus marks out the path of sharing, a sharing that is vital, in life and from life. "It was essential that he should become completely like his brothers…" (Heb 2:17). I feel great respect for other persons; for me they are sacred places. 
Thirty years ago a small group of professionals saw the need for work with children and we set up a voluntary Association in which I am still working. It is part of the Social Services Network of the Madrid city council with a specialisation in Childcare. At present there are about fifty of us who intervene professionally in cases of ill-treatment of children. In recent years, during which we expanded so much, I was freed to see to the management side. Most of my time is spent on employment matters; the work is demanding (interesting). For me, it is the small everyday things that are particularly relevant, as is the case in the struggle for justice and for the dignity of the person, trying to be clear in my contributions (if you show trust the other person grows) so that the staff know where they stand, with a sense of equality for all, trying to be objective, simple and upright of heart. "I will set myself to be simple and upright in all things." (E. Pernet) 
On the other hand, I have some work in other fields, accompanying persons whom I have known in different circumstances of life, some of them just for single occasion and others where I keep up contact, being attentive to their needs. The Lord is calling me today through the voice of the ’unimportant people’, asking me to offer time, availability, a listening ear, friendship, sharing and support. It is where I hear the call of the Lord "I am at the door and I call". These are generally people who are not valued, who are living in difficult situations and some of them are not accepted socially. I try to discover the Presence of love in the other. For me, these relations are demanding; I try to be attentive to small things in their lives. I think that, in this, my commitment in the faith, my sensitivity and my formation are being unified. "May your actions speak Jesus Christ." (E. Pernet) 
I belong to the Christian community of a parish where one can note welcome, sensitivity, simplicity and concern for personal formation. There is a great variety of groups in it (faith groups and social ones). I participate in some of them, for example "New neighbours" (immigrants), with contributions on family care and I also take part in the ongoing theological formation. 
A small group of us meet once a week in the evening for a Eucharistic celebration that is full of life and in which we participate very deeply in an atmosphere of fellowship and confidence. We also have a meal together afterwards. 
Some weekends I go to some rural villages where there is no priest and some of us laity hold a Celebration of the Word. Here too we give extra support on special occasions. 
It is at night that I go to the Father with confidence, in silence: "… he went up into the hills by himself to pray." (Mt 14:23). That is when I have my space of encounter with the Lord, humbly gathering up the situations and events that struck me during the day. This gives me a hopeful outlook on life. It is a time when I place myself at the disposition of his Word, when I listen to the Spirit showing the truth in my life so that it may be He who guides my steps, I know that His Presence is going before me. In the encounter there is the dialogue in which I can express myself at the deepest level; I know that He is with me always. In my heart I recognise that I am poor, limited "because when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Co 12:10). It is also a time of thanksgiving. Deep down there is always the desire to have Him dwell in me and to go further. I give thanks for the friends, they are a support in my life and they occupy a special place. There are also some members of my family, but they live further away. 

Pepi Vallbona 
Madrid (Spain) 4 January 2013
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