Summer is a very busy time for those RSCJ in Spain who are involved in pastoral work with young people. This year I had the good fortune to be part of two activities with young adults from our schools and from universities.
Between the 10th and the 18th of July, 23 adolescents from 15 to 17 years of age, two RSCJ and two teachers from our schools set off to walk 150 km on the Camino to Santiago. The idea was to offer the young people from our schools a time for inner reflection, for a meeting place with God and with others, as well as to enjoy the natural beauty along the Camino.
Our days began very early, sometimes at 6 in the morning, before the sun had appeared over the horizon! After a short time of prayer where we placed our day before the Lord, we set off on the Camino. Ahead of us we knew there would be many kilometres (20, 25, even 28km) full of challenges and difficulties, but also of walking along with other pilgrims from the four corners of the earth. At the end of the day’s walk, having rested and as evening took over from the day, we gathered to reflect together on different topics and to review the day.
Our heavy backpacks, sleeping in dormitories (sometimes on the floor), blisters, long hours of walking; these were all taken by the young people in a spirit of challenge and as opportunities to look out for one another, experiencing that Jesus also walks with us on the Camino to Santiago and on life’s journey.
From 19th July to 2nd August our commitment with young people took me to the South of Spain, to Roquetas de Mar (Almería). This region is well known for having the largest area of greenhouses in the whole of Europe, where some of the thousands of African immigrants who arrive on Spanish soil work, often in very difficult conditions.
Along with 12 female and 12 male university students and three other adults, we tried to see what the reality of life is like in one of the neighbourhoods of Roquetas de Mar, with a mainly African population. After praying together each morning we got out onto the streets, organising activities for children between 4 and 12 years of age. For the majority of these children there would not be other such opportunities to have fun and exciting things to do.
In the afternoons we formed a real community together, sharing our reflections on the reality of immigration, times of prayer, accompaniment and reviewing life. We listened to, and were challenged by, the testimonies of some of the Africans who shared their stories of how they had reached Spain. The friendship that opened up among us allowed us to glimpse their dreams, their hopes, their struggles for a better life.
It was truly a gift for me to accompany these young people who, with open, searching hearts allowed theselves to be challenged by the Gospel and the reality of our African sisters and brothers.
Patricia Hevia rscj