Volunteers from Lux Mundi Torre del Mar and Fuengirola met at the Santa Rosa hotel in El Morche, Torrox, on Wednesday for their annual lunch. This year it was the turn of the East of Malaga centre to host the event, coinciding with the silver anniversary of the opening of the Torre del Mar centre.
Around 80 volunteers from both sites enjoyed a buffet lunch while reflecting on the centre's achievements over the last 25 years.
The many nationalities that make Lux Mundi the international ecumenical centre that it has become were represented around the table with attendees from Spain, the UK, Germany, Colombia and Singapore, to name but a few. The volunteers also provided an update on the charity work that the two centres are doing as well as the work of those who help out with food banks, such as Los Ángeles de la Noche and others.
Centre director, Gloria Uribe, said, "It's thanks to our volunteers that the waves that we create grow and for that we are extremely grateful. I hope that between us Lux Mundi will continue for another 50 years, or more, providing a service to the church and to society."
The Torre del Mar centre opened its doors to the public in September 1994, after founder of the original centre in Fuengirola, the late Father Delius, also recognised a need to help the growing international Christian community in the east of Malaga area.
Gloria explains that it was during a meeting of the executive committee of Lux Mundi Fuengirola in 1993 that the idea of opening a centre in the Axarquía area first arose.
An appropriate building was sought and after extensive searches in Nerja, Rincón de la Victoria and other towns in the area, in May 1994 the Casa de la Viña, a then small, run-down house at the bottom of the Viña Málaga area of Torre del Mar, was chosen as the location.
Work started to turn the space into a useable facility and it opened its doors in September 1994. It has been extended and reformed since and many people have walked through its doors. "Since then Lux Mundi has grown, we have met wonderful people all of whom have left their mark here," reflected Gloria.
Over the years, and like many other organisations in Spain, Lux Mundi Torre del Mar has felt the effects of the financial crisis, seen many volunteers come and go, and lost many cherished friends, either who have passed away or returned to their native countries. Gloria has expressed a wish for people who have used the centre, or been a volunteer, to get in touch with a view to marking this year's anniversary with memories of the help given to, or received from, Lux Mundi Torre del Mar.
Another key member of the Lux Mundi Torre del Mar staff is Pilar Flores. Pilar, who is from Malaga, first met Gloria 25 years ago when she was looking after Gloria's grandmother. Another coincidence was that the house next to the centre belonged to Pilar's family. She explains that she has officially worked for Lux Mundi for 18 years as the centre's secretary and Gloria's 'right-hand woman'.
"It's like a big family," says Pilar, whose son, Pablo, was born shortly after she started working there. "Everyone at Lux Mundi treats him like their nephew," she laughs.
Pilar gives the twice-weekly Spanish classes and organises many of the events that take place there. "I am always there," she jokes.
Irene Weinhöppel, who is originally from Germany but has lived in the Axarquía for the last 15 years, is also a volunteer and has spent a decade helping German people who come to the centre and who need advice and translation, "particularly when they first arrive". Irene says that she is "always there on Fridays" for the coffee morning and also loves organising the regular charity fashion shows.
Another volunteer who has been with Lux Mundi Torre del Mar and who attended the lunch is Katherin Ockenfels, who is originally from Singapore, but who moved to Spain with her German husband in 2000. "I was looking for somewhere I could attend Mass," Katherin explains, adding "two Spanish ladies, all dressed in black, literally dropped me at the door of Lux Mundi. I spoke no Spanish and I don't know how they understood what I was looking for," she recalls. Since then she has been a loyal volunteer, teaching English and "helping out with whatever Gloria asks me to do," joke Katherin.
Another important member of the Lux Mundi team, especially for SUR in English, is press officer, Patricia Rothwell, who keeps the newspaper informed of the many events and trips organised by both centres. Patricia explains that she divides her time between Torre del Mar and Fuengirola.
With a general decline in people practicing Christianity and a loss in volunteer numbers over the years, Gloria and her team know that there is a lot to do to keep Lux Mundi going, but with their hard work and dedication, the centre is sure to celebrate many more anniversaries over the years.