Faces of mission – Maureen Araya

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Maureen Araya served as a missionary in Bolivia and Chile with the Holy Cross Associates from 2004 to 2006. Since 2007, Araya has worked with Latino immigrants and schools around education equity issues for a non-profit organization. She grew up in Eden Prairie, where she attended Pax Christi. She and her husband, Matias, attend Santo Rosario/Holy Rosary in Minneapolis.

How did you become interested in missionary work?

Maureen Araya

When I was 15 years old, I crossed the border to Guaymas, Mexico, on a 10-day youth mission trip. That trip changed my life path and opened my eyes to a reality that I no longer wanted to turn away from. Sitting in rural Mexico while watching the sun rise and listening to the roosters crow I felt certain that God was preparing me to live abroad for an extended period of time in my life. At that point I wouldn’t have been able to explain in what capacity, or even why I felt God was calling me in such a way. All I knew was that in that moment I felt more alive, more authentically whole, and surrounded by God’s grace than in any other moment in my life. I returned to Guaymas the following year, and my life path became cemented in stone.

How was your service connected to you faith? What did it teach you about faith?

The foundation for my spiritually was formed to include facets that addressed issues of social justice, faith being moved into action, and experiencing God through encounters with a wide array of cultures and people. As a Holy Cross Associate, these facets found themselves being lived out through the four pillars of the program: spirituality, simplicity, community and service. I have learned that faith must be brought from word into flesh, and that for me that happens through daily actions with others.

Talk about one memorable story from your life as a missionary?

I remember my dad calling me and explaining that on more than one occasion he was questioned by co-workers about what I was doing in Chile. When he explained that I was accompanying fellow community members, visiting the sick, having tea with neighborhood families, working with local youth groups and in general “being present,” a look of total confusion would follow. I was struck to realize that in the US, I had been formed to believe that productivity and “doing” were valued over “being.” My life in Chile had taught me that what I was doing was a lot less important than how I was doing it.  I now sought to do small things with great love, and that was enough.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your experience?

I do not think that it dawned on me that I was taking on the title of “missionary” until I read a quote by Max Warren, a Maryknoll missionary, that changed my understanding of service and spirituality. He stated: “Our first task in approaching another people, another religion, another culture is to remove our sandals, for the place we are approaching is holy; else we may trample on people’s dreams or, even worse, we may forget that God has been there before our arrival.”  I learned that I did not go to Chile to serve those who were poorer than me nor because they needed me. No, I went to Chile to serve and to receive, to experience the richness of the gifts and holiness that others constantly were sharing with me as I also sought opportunities to do the same.

Did your missionary experience prompt you to live differently when you returned home?

Absolutely! My life as a missionary did not end because I left Chile at the end of 2006. My spirituality is defined by what some have called a “missionary heart.” Mission is no longer defined by external parameters such as geography or specific acts of service. Instead, it is a way of being, the answer to the call of discipleship. I find that it is often more challenging to respond wholly while living in the U.S., yet I continue to seek ways to live the fullness of the call.

What would you like others to know about being a missionary?

We are all called to be missionaries in our everyday lives.

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Category: World Mission Sunday