Last August, Fr. Pedro Jesús Arenas returned to Spain from Ecuador. He had been to Ecuador on a mission for many years. He had gone through complicated moments and very emotional experiences that made him feel the cordiality and gratitude of the Ecuadorians.
After 17 years in Ecuador, you have now returned to Spain. What is Ecuador meant to you in your life?
I’ve just arrived in Spain, so I lack the perspective to place these seventeen and a half years in my life. At the moment, I feel that the mission experience in Ecuador has been very important to me. I went to Ecuador at the age of twenty-nine as a deacon, soon after graduation from nursing school. There I have developed my entire priestly ministry. It has been from the age of thirty to forty-seven. Usually the most productive and fastest-growing stage of life.
What will you miss most about this Latin American country?
I can’t say for sure at this point, but I’m sure it will be:
- A religious environment in which God is present in daily life: “Give me your blessing”; “God bless you”; “thank God” etc. The normality of the sacred and the transcendent enriches of daily life, which gives meaning to everything that has life, so necessary at this moment of a pandemic.
- The warmth in the daily interactions, the closeness that is breathed at home and in the street.
I guess, you might have seen some very sad situations, can you remember any shocking situation?
It has been many years and in many situations. I have had the privilege of knowing the people living with HIV-AIDS during the years of 2004-05, with all the social exclusion and the life-threatening consequences that is entailed, getting the best of themselves and facing their situation by publicly saying: “Yes, I have the disease and I want to live”.
I can say the same about the people who are alcoholics, drug addicts or who have lived through complicated situations in their lives. Perhaps the hardest thing has been to witness someone who no longer wants to live, who no longer wants to fight or struggle.
In recent years you have been responsible for the House of Formation in Quito, what does this centre mean for people who want to follow their call to religious life?
Whoever enters into a process of formation for religious life assumes a very beautiful path of vocational discernment and human and spiritual growth.
In this sense, a house of formation is always a positive experience for a young person, regardless of his or her vocational future.
Would you like to go on a mission later on?
Now and then, what I want the most is to have the courage to discern God’s will and to be faithful to myself, wherever I am