News from Santiago (Chile)

Our fraternity seeks its identity, shapes itself and lives in a new way, new every day, all the more so now than 29 years ago when we started here.The fraternity in SantiagoThe fraternity in Santiago At that time, more than today, we had a certain 'context' of objective reference points, and the one that was the most common and ordinary came to us from work. That was what marked the rhythm of our days. In fact, with advancing age, Elias, Noel and I have had to leave this aside little by little, often with regret, and accommodate ourselves differently. We have, fortunately, our small retirement pensions to live on, which we were able to pay into during our long years of work. That has the advantage of not cutting us off from our social environment, which we keep up with, and the bonds of friendship forged all through those 'active' years remain.
But during the progressive changes that our age has imposed on us, we have had to recreate the equilibrium of our lives each day, seeking to be faithful to our gift to the Lord, and because of him, our gift to people. That is a more sensitive matter and has to be invented each day. The Lord also is present and gives us signs which we have to learn to decipher.
Certainly the principal sign that he sent us was Enrique. In the past, during his comings and goings, we received him here in Chile several times. In the 1980s he reappeared again but became ill with something that affected his feet! For a man with a vocation as a vagabond walker, this was an illness that affected his life directly. He recovered again and left. A few months later, in Paraguay, he met his niece, Helena, who was filled with admiration for the kind of life he was leading and decided to accompany him in the new stage of life which was soon going to start for him. By a combination of circumstances, it was in Chile that this happened. So it was that, around 1995, Helena and Enrique became integrated into our fraternity. It was mainly Elias and Noel who took on this welcoming because for my part, at that time, I was still in Peru where in February 1998 I had a cerebral haemorrhage with consequent paraplegia.The brothers Elias, Noel and Enrique, with HelenaThe brothers Elias, Noel and Enrique, with Helena
So Enrique and Helena took their places in the fraternity, but in recent years Enrique has been afflicted by the greatest form of poverty: each day he loses a little more of his memory and lives in his own world, quite cut off from the world of the people around him. This situation obliged us to re-adjust our forces, in the deepest sense of the word. It was a matter not just of readjusting things to make us more available to accompany Enrique, since he could not live alone, but also of learning to decipher the signs that the Lord gave us.

Anyone who saw Enrique was quickly struck by his need for various kinds of care and various sorts of help. If we only took on the physical aspect of the assistance he required, we risked overlooking the essential basis, accentuating his dependence on other people, without helping him to take himself in hand, as everyone does in the normal way. It is a long and difficult apprenticeship to try to discover the best way of helping another person to remain a person, as responsible as possible, while his personal resources are failing! Our own limitations were continually brought to light. It was this whole mass of questions, mixed with the constant requirements for attention to Enrique's needs, and the difficulties in having a true dialogue with him, which meant that accompanying him, by focusing ourselves each day on the true dignity of the person, was very wearing for everyone. In addition to Helena, it was mainly Noel and Elias who took on the task that was, of course, central to the journeying of our fraternity. This accompanying was very wearing for everyone. Helena felt it strongly in many ways, and was suffering at the time from pain in the cervical and lumbar vertebrae.
It was this that pushed her into looking for a rest home for elderly people, which she has just succeeded in finding for Enrique in the last few days. Both she and Enrique had reached the conclusion that this solution might be the best and the safest for them both.
At the moment Enrique is doing well. The staff at this rest home do not seem to be discouraged by the condition of Enrique's illness. Fortunately his irascibility is expressed more in French, which makes things a little easier and has a few advantages! Let us hope that this placement can continue and stabilise with time. Helena, like us, keeps up contact with Enrique, both by going to see him regularly in his rest home, and by inviting him regularly to the fraternity for a meal, and, depending on his condition, sharing at least a short time with him. Each day we still have to invent concrete and viable modes of living for all of us.

The neighbourhood of Renka, where the fraternity isThe neighbourhood of Renka, where the fraternity isFinally our fraternity, while living through the development of its own problems, is also seeking to maintain its reason for being here by living for the people around us and remaining attentive to their problems. From this point of view, my small place in the cultural group of the 'poblacion' retains its meaning and value, even though it remains very humble and even apparently useless, like all accompanying in friendship that is freely given and not centred on
'useful', demonstrable, profitable or measurable services.

Here we are able to feel powerfully how sad the country is, suffering deeply from an absence of reasons for living, from the fact that they have eliminated the value of the human person for his or her own sake alone. The only thing that counts, in fact, is economic profitability. This has its importance, of course, but in becoming the only reason for living, it suppresses the life of human joy, dreams or plans, since these are always seen and calculated purely from the point of view of their economic profitability. The life of human persons cannot become anything but gloomy and sullen. Once again we are invited to see the human person as God sees him or her, which is as someone capable of initiative, love and adventure, and to bear witness to this in our daily life which is certainly not marked by economic profitability.

At this difficult time for the country, we need to maintain the hope that a new day is about to dawn. It is for the birth of this new day that we need to work and it is the work of Good Friday! We are not masters of the result. We only know, with certainty, that this day will come.BenitoBenito A Happy Easter to each of you! May the Spirit of the Lord fill you with a sure and joyous hope!