Carmen Hernández Barrera


November 24th, 1930,
† Madrid, July 19th, 2016

Carmen Hernández Barrera

Carmen was, along with Kiko, an initiator of the Way. She was born in Ólvega (Soria, España) on November 24th, 1930. She was the fifth of nine children, four men and five women; she lived her childhood years in Tudela (Navarra, Spain).

In Tudela, she studied at the school of the Compañía de María (Company of Mary) and had contact with the Compañía de Jesús (Jesuits). Being influenced by the missionary spirit of St. Francis Xavier from a young age, she felt that her vocation was to go on mission to India. Following her father’s wishes, she began to study chemistry in 1948 in Madrid, where she graduated with the highest grades in 1954.

For a time, she worked with her father in the food industry, in a factory that the family had in Andújar (Jaén) but decided to leave the job to move to Javier, where she entered into a new missionary institute, the Missionaries of Christ Jesus. After her time in the novitiate, she studied theology in the house of theological formation for religious in Valencia. In 1960, she was assigned to India. To prepare for that mission she had to go to London, (India is a member state of the British Commonwealth), where she remained for a year. At that time, there was a change of direction in the Missionaries of Christ Jesus which limited the openness to the mission of the order, so Carmen returned from London to Barcelona. There she met Father Pedro Farnés Scherer, who had just completed his studies at the Institute of Liturgy in Paris, shortly before the Second Vatican Council and who after this actively participated in the Council for its realization.

In his classes, Fr. Farnés presented the paschal sources of the Eucharist and a renewed ecclesiology that showed the Church as light of the nations. Carmen’s live contact with the authors of this conciliar renewal later on had a great influence in the formation of the catechesis of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Carmen spent two years, from the middle of 1963 to the middle of 1964, in the Holy Land with her Bible, visiting the Holy Places. On her return to Madrid, she began to work in the shanty towns of the outskirts, thinking of going as a missionary to Bolivia with other celibate lay people. However, there she met Kiko Argüello, who lived in the shanty town of Palomeras Altas, and she decided to stay in the same area. In the midst of the poor, they both discovered the strength of the Paschal Mystery and of the preaching of the Kerygma (the Good News of the dead and risen Christ) and they saw the birth of the first community. Thanks to the confirmation of this new reality by the then Archbishop of Madrid, His Grace Casimiro Morcillo, Carmen started to work with Kiko, bringing this work of renewal in the Church to parishes, first in Madrid, then in Rome and thereafter in other cities and nations.

Carmen Hernández passed away on July 19th 2016 in Madrid, Spain. At her funeral, presided over by the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Carlos Osoro Sierra, and attended by thousands of people, Fr. Mario Pezzi emphasized that with the Way, it is “the first time in history that an ecclesial reality has been founded by a man and a woman who have constantly collaborated together for over 50 years.” Besides this, the Pope sent a message in which he said he had received “with emotion” the news of Carmen’s death and highlighted her long life “marked by her love of Jesus and by a great missionary enthusiasm.” “I give thanks to the Lord for the witness of this woman who, encouraged by a sincere love for the Church, has spent her life announcing the Good News in every place, even the most far away, never forgetting the most marginalized people,” wrote Pope Francis.