LATIN AMERICAFloods affect the poor
Father Miguel FRITZ, General Councilor for Latin America, tells of the background to the terrible floods that the Oblate missions in the Chaco of Paraguay have endured in recent months.
Missionary Oblates arrived in Paraguay in 1925, many indigenous communities,
particularly the Nivaclés, based their livelihood upon the Pilcomayo River
which was their means of survival and, therefore, considered their “paradise.”
The Oblates established there the first two missions where they eventually
built two parishes, a hospital and schools from which they defended the
Nivaclés, in a joint effort with two other religious congregations, against the
Forty years ago,
the capricious river completely flooded one of the parishes. Then, about 20
years ago, an Argentine president, with the support of the European Union,
faked a development project and constructed a canal which diverted water to the
Argentine side. The Paraguayan government, on its part, reacted by building a
canal toward the Paraguayan side, which, during the rainy season, watered this
side and was used by different ranches through the construction of dams, for
which the government reopened the old channels, in contrast to the Argentine
government which was less interested, because of widespread flooding; this led
to the neglect of the canal they had built.
Presently, the Pilcomayo River on the Paraguayan side has been hit by various disasters as the result of three factors:
On May 7, Fr. Anuncio LÓPEZ sent Fr. Fritz an e-mail with information regarding the present situation.
I am working amidst
the floods which were caused by the heavy rains which last January struck the
areas of Mariscal, Santa Teresita and Mariscal Estigarribia. The latter
remained flooded for a month; fortunately, there were no human victims to mourn
because the people took precautions and kept safe. Later, other weather
conditions caused rains of 800 to 2200 millimeters in some areas. Because of
this, the areas of Fischat, Esteros and General Diaz were flooded; at the latter,
the flood wall broke.
In the areas of
Campo Aceval, Linea 32 and Santa Maria, all the roads were impassable and it
was impossible to deliver aid by land due to the continuing rain; it was
possible to move help only by helicopter. As a vicariate, we decided not to
receive contributions and distribute them because we do not have the means to
deliver them, plus it could create problems in the communities. So we are
channeling all aid to the National Emergency Group who are doing their work
Unfortunately, the community of Fischat-San Leandro is still cut off by land, either through Argentina or Paraguay. The missionaries who are there are well and are trying to get ahead of the situation which they are sharing with the people; they have received some donations by helicopter, but it is not nearly enough since there are situations of great need, such as the case of patients who want to be evacuated as the need arises.
We are seeking help for rebuilding the communities and lessening of the damages caused by the floods. We hope that after the communities recover, we can begin the pastoral care of support and strengthening the communities under our care; that’s how we, as Oblates and as Church, want to respond. We commend ourselves to your prayers.
Fr. Yoland OUELLET, director of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape in Canada, saw the devotion to the Blessed Virgin in the context of a different culture.
Father Joseph CHARLES has managed to promote devotion to Our Lady of the Cape, bringing the Pilgrim Virgin destined for the American diaspora and for Haiti, from north to south in his country. This visit of Mary reached its peak at the charismatic congress in Port-au-Prince, last April 13-15. The congress was televised throughout the whole country and also to the Canadian-American diaspora. Thousands of people heard the story of Our Lady of Cape, before seeing her in a procession of as many as 200,000 persons. Mary has gone to help the Haitian people keep their lamp burning (theme of the Congress, Psalm 18:115); to maintain courage in hardship and trust in the Lord who is going to rebuild her! (Psalm 102:17). I was very impressed with the organization, with the many committees of young volunteers offering various services. The program with various youth choirs and various artists who came to the event helped me build relationships with certain groups of singers that we hope to hear one day in the plazas of the basilica of the Cape.
The congress prayer was, of course, addressed to Mary: “Virgin of Beautiful Love, help us to keep our lamps burning so that Our Father might transform our country into a little corner of heaven!” Haiti is still reeling from the effects of the earthquake. Father Charles showed me the destroyed city and the faces of terrible misfortune. But hearing these people pray and sing their faith and their hope convinced me that, with the beautiful Love which the Virgin continues to give us, this people is beginning to rebuild themselves and can become a little corner of heaven! (INFO OMI, 1 May 2012)
On May 18, 2009,
a group of assailants killed the Oblate priest, Lorenzo ROSEBAUGH, originally
from the United States. The attack also wounded Fr. Jean-Claude NGOMA NDEWES,
originally from Congo. Three years after the death of Fr. Lorenzo, absolutely
nothing is known about the motive and the identity of the killers. On October
28, 2009, the police captured Pedro Choc, Miguel Xo Botzoc and Alfredo Xo.
However, after almost six months of trial, the court of Coban found them
innocent and they were set free for lack of hard evidence, despite the fact
that the bullet found on the dead body of Fr. Lorenzo, according to ballistics
experts, matched one of the guns, a 22 caliber automatic Magnum, owned by Don
Lorenzo dedicated his life for the poorest of the poor in Latin America, in Brazil, El Salvador and especially Guatemala. His struggle for peace and disarmament, his resistance to the U.S. presence in Vietnam, his struggle against nuclear weapons, and his opposition to the training in the U.S. of young Latin Americans for war…repeatedly sent him to jail. There are few who like him have lived and shared the “fate” (or better, the misfortune) of the most disadvantaged. With unkempt hair and a long beard, he dressed poorly and was confused with the street people. Sometimes, he slept under bridges with the homeless and, with them, he looked for discarded vegetables in the markets to feed them to the poor. In Brazil, he was falsely accused of stealing a cart he was using to bring food to the homeless. Imprisoned in a miserable jail, he was abused and even beaten by other inmates.
When the Oblates learned of his whereabouts, they told the bishop of Recife, Dom Helder Camara, who went to court on his behalf until they released him. He also worked among Salvadoran peasants who were terrorized by the civil war in El Salvador in the 80’s.
He continued his work for the poor in Guatemala, a ministry he interrupted to return to the United States to be near his dying mother. Upon her death, he stayed in the U.S. a couple more years to write his autobiography entitled: To Wisdom Through Failure: A journey of Compassion, Resistance and Hope. In it, he wrote: “After being back in the United States over two years, I feel sort of like a fish out of water, having been exposed to the poor and their living conditions. I anxiously await the day I can return to Guatemala.”
And to Guatemala he did return, to serve the people he loved. There he was shot on May 18, 2009, at the age of 74. (Ser misionero hoy, No 7)