† Madrid, July 19, 2016
Carmen was, along with Kiko, an initiator of the Way. She was born in Ólvega (Soria, España) on November 24, 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 Compañía de María (Company of Mary) and had contact with 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 in mission to India. According to her father’s wishes, she begins to study chemistry in 1948 in Madrid, where she graduates with the highest grades in 1954.
During 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. For that mission, she had to go to London to prepare (at that time, India still belonged to the English Commonwealth), where she remained one year. In 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 meets 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 it, actively participated in the Consilium for its realization.
In his classes, Fr. Farnés presented the pascal sources of the Eucharist and a renewed ecclesiology that was presenting the Church as light of the nations. Carmen’s lively contact with authors of this conciliar renewal had a great influence, later on, in the formation of the catechesis of the Neocatechumenal Way.
Carmen spent two years, from the middle of 1963 to 1964, in the Holy Land with her bible, visitng holy sites. Upon her return to Madrid, she began to work in the shanty towns of the periphery, thinking of going as a missionary to Bolivia with other celibate lay people. However, there she meets Kiko Argüello, who lived in the shanty towns of Palomeras Altas, and decides 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 witnessed the birth of the first community. Thanks to the confirmation of this new reality by the archbishop of Madrid Mons. Casimiro Morcillo, Carmen started to work with Kiko, bringing to parishes, first in Madrid, then to Rome and thereafter to other cities and nations – this work of renewal of the Church.
Carmen Hernández passed away on July 19, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. At her funeral, presided by the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid Carlos Osoro Sierra, and attended by thousands of people, Fr. Mario Pezzi stressed that with the Way, it is “the first time in history that an ecclesial reality is founded by a man and a woman who have been constantly collaborating together for over 50 years.” In addition, the Pope sent a message in which he said he 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, encouraged by a sincere love for the church, who has spent her life announcing the Good News in every place, even in the most far away, never forgetting the most marginalized people.”, wrote the Pope. Francis.