The “Refugio San Eugenio” in Virrey del Pino, Buenos Aires, Argentina, is celebrating 10 years of service to youth. The provincial of the Argentina-Chile Province, Fr. Tony MARIANGELI,and the director of the “Refugio”, Fr. Sergio MENEGONI write about it…
(Fr. Antonio Mariangeli, OMI) Our missionary house for youth began as the home of the prenovitiate (1995). We changed residences until we moved into the present one (1999). At the same time, since the house was located in an Oblate parish, it became the center of youth ministry in the parish. But things change; with the arrival of a new parish pastor, the youth ministry began to take place in the parish buildings and the prenovitiate, for various reasons, was moved to Chile (2005).
Fathers Sergio MENEGONI and Omar MAZA received an obedience to the house. It was necessary to give it new meaning; it was a house for youth, but we needed to give it an identity, and it is there that a dream became a reality ten years ago. If the charism beats in your heart, the Spirit works marvels. After contacting other programs and discussing the idea with Oblates and laity of the area, Fr. Sergio began to give shape and content to the “Refugio San Eugenio,” which took its first steps there in the month of April 2007.
(Fr. Sergio Menegoni, OMI) Looking back, I can feel the joy of seeing that the parable of the mustard seed which the Lord invited us to consider is a reality. That little seed which God had put into our heart grew and became this tree which has sheltered, protected and sustained many youth over these years.
Our only concern was the desire to respond generously to the call to serve youth; God did the rest. He was light in times of darkness, consolation in times of discouragement, and above all, we learned to recognize him as the proprietor and the Lord of his own work: “El Refugio San Eugenio.”
The experiences that we treasure in our hearts clearly reflect all that has happened in this space. For many youth and adults, there was a before and an after, a beginning of a new journey that filled every day with hope. The key was in learning to let ourselves be loved, in learning to love, and above all, to make us aware of the great love that God has for us and which was reflected in every embrace, in every welcome, in every moment shared away from the problems that many times overwhelm us.
Only words of gratitude arise in me because every young person who came to this place taught us to treasure their struggles, their joys, their pain as something sacred; before our eyes, we had the privilege of lovingly caring for their pursuits, their dreams, their despair. All of them are great people who hope only to have an opportunity to feel alive, to feel valued in a society that often immerses them in a culture of death.
Those who have accompanied the growth of these young people have given their best, their time and talents to build family life. Many were the sacrifices made with much joy and with the certainty that only the gaze of God who is only love can bring to light the potential in the heart of each youth. Building a fraternal community and experiencing that it is possible to live as brothers and sisters is the greatest gift the Holy Spirit has given us. Thank you to all who were and still remain part of this dream of God.
This work, inspired by the charism that St. Eugene de Mazenod bequeathed to us, has been accompanied and supported by the Oblates and by those who share a desire to put themselves at the service of the most abandoned. The arrival of the COMI to our parish and their invaluable contribution at the “Refugio”, beginning this year, has been a true grace of God.
Every youth who comes to the “Refugio” is the visit of God himself; with each of them we see reflected our frailties and greatness, our pursuits and convictions. Our main mission is to embrace their lives with the supernatural love of the Lord and walk with them. He will do his work and as an artist he will remove whatever prevents them from discovering themselves in their dignity and will enrich what we all have: our capacity to love.