Part of our history: Ruca Choroi

We have not often taken the time to share with you just how much this deeply religious and non-Christian people feed our experience of God. Our Father Bishop, Jaime de Nevares, faithful disciple of Brother Charles of Jesus and expert on our contemplative vocation, invited us to-his diocese already more than 15 years ago saying: 'You who are searching to live close to God, come and live near the Mapuche people.'

We live this inter-religious dialogue every day in its simplest form. We participate also in the yearly 'rogativa', a privileged place to express their faith. They welcome us and teach us their way to go to God.

'The Little sisters will stay attentive to the religious soul of the people around them. As they learn to pray with them, they will try to reach all the way to the deep intuition which brings the people in contact with God.' (Constitutions art 66)

View from our communityView from our community

For several years, the 'lonko', chief of the community, invited us to participate in a more complete way, by making our own 'rarnada' (shelter made of branches). We hesitated thinking that we don't have alot of physical strength and also we don't know all the ritual forms very well. Finally we decided to go ahead and we started preparing with the family of the second lonko. We felt we had taken a step forward in being really able to express our views truthfully and it was then that the lonko expressed his doubts to us. He told us that his 'ramada' would be seen by everyone as very much in the center so we would have everyone looking at us. There would be those who would not agree that white people pray with the Mapuches. We realized that we will always be guests, always 'the others'.

Sorrow and relief interlaced! So we stayed and participated as always as ' the others who are different'. We had this strange sensation of being and also of not being, belonging and distant. This event made us more aware of how their cultural and religious identity are being strengthened through affirming their difference. We felt invited to accept this stage of their journey aand to grow ourselves in loving respect.

Our actual lonko, a young man, deeply convinced of his role, called the whole community, the young people first, to affirm their originality as a people. He said that this identiy was born from their awareness and affirmation of their religious identity. 'The one to fear is the one who does not know who he is'.

We see this people standing tall and walking straight. There is both energy and the moral will to reunite, to get together and draw in all poorest. Of course here, we can only speak of our own province (Neuquen) and of our village (Alumine).

The demands of the Mapuches reflect the demands of other groups too: those of the municipal workers, teachers, doctors, ecologists and organizations for human rights. The Mapuches have enemies and we are sad to see  racist attitudes and increasing discrimination. We hear evil said of them and they are pushed aside. Alumine is ericircled by eight indigenous communities which have been very strong in thie protests and their demands for justice to recuperate their lands.

This awakening is strong and clear, focussing on their cultural and religious idenity. It is about the identity of a people who have always been put in a situation of inferiority. In some quarters this arouses concern because it amounts to poor people mobilizing other poor people!

They want to recuperate their lands and get organized so that their voice is heard. Their resistance is completely non-violent. 'We are going, without weapons: only those who are afraid or who feel a lack of security need wapons. We are reclaiming what is ours and so we are not afraid. For those unable to take part there is another way to be present; pray to the Father so there will be justice, because He looks over us, we are all his children.'

After 20 years of life shared together, we feel at ease to be along side them and in solidarity with them. They call us their little sister neighbours, those who are always with us. We owe this little place to being many years together and our white hair gives us the freedom to dream more and as they have taught us to visit in a gratuitousway, (to visit is their sacrament!) or to spend a few days together in their summer or winter camps. They are nomads and take their herds higher and higher, searching of pasture.

Collecting woodCollecting wood Our chickensOur chickens

To be retired doesn't take away the joy of continuing to work in the garden, to make jam, spin wool, weave, either at home or in the little workshop, to keep an eye on the ducks, turkeys and little chicks or chickens.

We often feel that we have less strength now to be attentive to all that life presents. Some we have carried in our arms when they were born, are already mothers and fathers of families. Their confidence, affection and friendship however are of the same openness as that of their elders.

But daily life in Ruca Choroi generates life! Every day is a challenge but we are convinced that the form of our vocation-mission opens us ever more to being integrated and truly belonging to this people. Like Jesus who said:

'I come and live among you.'

Our gardenOur garden

This little handful of families who open to us all their riches, their friendship, their affection teach us the mystery of the Visitation. We learn from them the way they treat others, always with great respect for their difference. Their receptivity in front of life and their joy full of humor, in the midst of the simplest or most difficult events of life, show us a way of living which evangelizes us, because it humanizes us.

To those who would like to renew the experience of the foundation: 'To be born in the house of the other', we say to you with joy: ' Come and see!'

In the joy of having shared all that is the deepest in our hearts, we send you with love an 'abrazo' from the southern Cordillera of the Andes!