2020-10-29 MEXICO

Argelia Hernández Mendoza: Being a LaValla200> member in Mount Druitt

Argelia Hernandez Mendoza, from the Province of México Occidental, participated in the Project LaValla200> for three years. She was in the Mount Druitt Community, Sydney, Australia, from April 2017 to May 2020, with her husband, Rodrigo Gris Castro. In this interview, she shares some of the things that impacted most on her from that experience.

What living in community has meant for you?

As a married Lay Marist, community life meant a total change in my way of life. Community living has been what has most impacted my life, feeling part of and belonging to a community at every moment. It allowed me to open a window on the consecrated life of the Institute. It was is a great privilege and responsibility, to experience from within the dream of Marcellin Champagnat, to live fraternity in everyday life with the brothers who invited us to imitate that same love of neighbour.

And the ministry of the community?

Sharing mission has been an outward expression of the union of the inner strength and hope that we share as Marists of Champagnat.  Our ministry was a tangible expression of how as Laypeople and Brothers we share the same charism and mission, how we go side by side to be with children and young people on the peripheries. Working together in mission has meant growing in solidarity, combining our professional experience and our personal skills, putting everything on the table for the common good.  It invited us to set aside self-interest and individualism.

What key words summarize your experience?

Brotherhood/Sisterhood, mission, encounter, solidarity, union, invitation, Spirit, light, mentoring, journey, listening…

What is the most significant scenario or event in your time with Lavalla200>?

One significant moment was to witness firsthand the brothers’ working with young people, to see their dedication and commitment to be at their side facing whatever life throws up, to see their tireless commitment to be brothers for others. To witness the simplicity with which they relate to the most vulnerable. In these days where not all the ministries have brothers or sisters to accompany children and young people, to have been able to see this has been a great privilege, one that in turn becomes a strong call to imitate such brotherly love. There were many meaningful moments, but I believe that just experiencing brotherhood in such a close and lively way has filled me with hope and energy to continue our Marist mission.

What was your most important learning?

The sense of fraternal community and humility. We can all feel close to or in solidarity with others when we are on mission, but actually living together brought me face to face with an expression of community that invited me to a deeper perspective on life, an invitation from the Spirit that was nourished in prayer and through daily contact. Living in community demanded other values such as reconciliation, tolerance, empathy, honesty, and joy and helped me to rediscover the meaning of humility, of knowing myself as vulnerable and limited.  It taught me that I cannot walk or do things alone, that we need each other to keep going.  It was an experience of shared life, gives that was transforming and life-giving.

How did the experience help you grow in your Marist vocation?

It helped me to deepen my experience of the Marist charism, to discover my co-responsibility in mission and to nourish my experience as a lay person. It was an opportunity to experience being a bearer of the simplicity and humility to which Mary invites us by her example. Living the LaValla200> experience has helped me to discover myself as part of a global charismatic family; it made fe feel somehow responsible for my sister and brother Marists; it connected me to the Marist world ‘without borders’, knowing that we can live the dream we share with Father Champagnat of going to the margins of society to be with children and young people, despite differences in language or culture.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during this time?

Entering into a different culture meant confronting my way of being, thinking, acting, speaking, etc. Every decision or event that contrasted with my personal worldview became a personal challenge but also an opportunity for growth as well.  Being immersed in a different culture made me more aware of the ‘other’, of differences that enrich. I became I am a migrant in a new world; it gave me a new perspective; it helped me develop empathy, simplicity and especially humility. I was constantly challenged by the invitation to get out of my comfort zone, to discover new possibilities, to see things that are ‘outside the box’, to have a more open mind, ready for change.

What would you like to say to the brothers and lay Marists who are thinking of participating in Lavalla200> communities or other international/intercultural projects of the Institute?

To participate in an international/intercultural project is an opportunity for transformation in every sense of the word – spiritual, personal and professional. It is an opportunity to know ourselves better as we go out of ourselves to encounter others. It is a chance to live the dream of Champagnat. I also believe that it is a path of discernment in which the Spirit is leading us, the Spirit who is inviting us to join in a project of fraternal love which Jesus modelled in the witness of his life; it is an invitation to be a disciple and to go out to other lands. Let us listen to the Spirit and go out fearlessly to distant places.

What were your reasons for leaving everything to participate in an international, intercultural community?

For me the motivation was to continue to participate in Marist missions and solidarity programmes, something Rodrigo and I had been doing together. When the invitation came from Br. Emili Turú, this was a moment where both of us felt the call of the Spirit.  It was not in our life plan, but we recognized it as a call from the Spirit that came up at a specific time and that took shape with accompaniment and a process of discernment. Despite hearing such a call, I believe that it is important to discern the implications of life and mission, to find how they intertwine, discover how they nurture each other, take a decision and head off to an unknown land.


25 lay Marists complete the 5-year "Itinerary...


Region of Oceania: moving towards a single, u...