Over the years, the Columban priests have established three parish communities in Iquique, Alto Hospicio. Two of these parishes have already been turned over to the diocese. The community I worked with was under the parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus where the Columban priests continue to work. Columban missionaries, lay and ordained work together in various parish activities.
The locals consider this area as a ‘dormitorio’, a place to sleep in, since majority of the people living in the municipality work in Iquique which is the nearest city by the coast. In the area, there are many migrants from Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Haiti, India, some even come all the way from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. A number of them work in mining industries since the northern part of Chile is very rich in minerals.
I was assigned in ‘Tomas’, one of the squatter settlements in the area. Here, we visited families at home and celebrated mass. But I also went to other communities with my fellow lay missionaries to visit families in their homes, teach catechesis to youths to prepare them for sacraments, as well as to help the choir in preparing for the Saturday and Sunday masses. My ministry also involved giving guitar or piano lessons to those who wanted to learn, young and old; crocheting and making handicrafts made of recycled materials with the elderly; and facilitating Lectio Divina for families.
Indeed, life was never boring with all these activities. Through our lessons, gatherings and work together, I was able to get to know more people and deepen my relationships with them. I did these things as a way to reach out to them and be part of the community. I was able to know more about their culture and traditions which helped in understanding the needs of the community better. My experiences with them helped my eyes to see clearly, my heart to feel, and my mind to gain a better perspective. It is because of them that I’ve had a beautiful and unforgettable mission experience in Chile. Indeed, my life has been enriched by the diversity of race, culture and tradition among the people I’ve journeyed with in Chile.