LATIN AMERICA100 years with St. Anthony
A personal note from Missionary Oblate, Fr. Réal CORRIVEAU, which appeared in the June edition of News and Notes by Bro. Augustin COTÉ.
As you know, my
parish, St. Anthony of Padua, celebrated its saint’s feast on June 13. This
year is also the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the first
Catholic chapel there in 1912. The founding as a parish took place 5 years ago
when Archbishop Miot named me pastor. He was killed during the earthquake. He
appointed me for 6 years. It looks like my time is almost up, doesn’t it? A
younger Oblate priest will surely climb those mountains more easily.
On the feast
day, we celebrated in great pomp. The church was beautifully decorated for its 100th
anniversary and also for the 5th anniversary of the founding
of the parish. Auxiliary Bishop Erik Glandas presided at the Mass and was
accompanied by 10 priests: 7 Oblates, 1 Spiritan, and 2 diocesans from the parish.
The Bishop gave a very vibrant and exciting sermon. As far as I know and could
see, nobody fell asleep. The choir and the musicians performed an especially
fine animation for all inside and outside of the church, and kept everyone
After Mass, the Sisters of St Anthony presented us with a very decorated and delicious banquet at the rectory. We all really enjoyed this moment after the 3 hours of praying and singing. One might conclude that this was the continuation and living of our communion at Mass.
The people at Fonds d’Oies said that St. Anthony always provides rain on his feast day. It was extremely hot as we left Fonds d’Oies yesterday, but there were dark clouds coming over the mountains. I don’t know if rain fell after I left, but rain did fall here in Port-au-Prince just before my arrival. I did pray for rain because their gardens were in great need. It seems true that St. Anthony is a miracle man.
It is said that the name Paraguay means “water flowing to the sea.” The term comes from the Guarani and indicates both sections of the land and the river flowing between them, dividing in two the smallest country in South America. Paraguay is as large as Germany and Switzerland combined, but has only 6.3 million inhabitants.
Bishop Lucio ALFERT arrived in Paraguay in 1972. A member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he was born in 1941 in Heek, Germany, near the Dutch border. Since 1986 he has been bishop of Pilcomayo, in the northeast of the country, an Apostolic Vicariate, which extends for about 650 kilometers and includes just six parishes. Half of the inhabitants of the area are Catholics, scattered in an huge land with no large cities and vast distances to be covered. There is only one paved road; the rest are all sandy lanes that become impassable quagmires on rainy days. There is public transportation but it travels only on the highways.
However, it is not the winding roads that preoccupy Bishop Alfert, but the ethnic and social conflicts in the region. Since 1927, German-speaking Mennonites began to move into the Gran Chaco from Canada and then from Russia, farming the land. For many decades, the Protestant community has determined the destiny of the region, devoid of any infrastructure, while maintaining a sizeable influence even today.
As in other areas of Paraguay, also in the Gran Chaco, the indigenous population, the Guaraní, was ousted and exiled. Since then, the legal status of Indians has improved, but social tensions have never been completely overcome. Now, the Mennonites are also much more open towards the Catholic Church.
“Indigenous people should be able to play an active role in society,” says Bishop Alfert, “and they want to contribute more than mere folklore.” Two of the four priests of the Vicariate of Pilcomayo are themselves indigenous, the first Guaraní priests of the country. There are six other priests belonging to various religious orders and eight seminarians, one of whom belongs to the ethnic Nivaclé. The Vicariate does not have its own seminary, and thus the formation of future priests is at the National Seminary that has two locations: the first level of studies takes place at Caacupé and the final years in Asuncion. The cost per student is about 200 Euros.
To help find funds for the training of priests, and a good variety of other pastoral projects, the Vicariate is totally dependent on outside help; in recent years ACS (Aiuto alla Chiesa che soffre - Help for the Suffering Church) has financed different projects, including the construction of the parish of St. Eugene de Mazenod and the publication of 10 thousand Bibles for children, translated into Nivaclé.
Waiting approval is also a project that involves the construction of some buildings to use as spaces for ministry or to house the offices of the Vicariate of Pilcomayo. At this time, Bishop Alfert does not even have his own house, but lives in a room in one of the houses of his congregation. To get to his office - located in the middle of a military camp - he has a long drive every day. (www.acs-italia.org)
Last June 12, to
our surprise, the Hubert Constant second year students insisted on honoring, in
their own way, the administrative staff for their enthusiasm, their desire to
encourage in young people a taste of truth, goodness, and beauty, and their
willingness to foster an education in citizenship, self-confidence, solidarity,
leadership and environmental protection.
To each member of the administration, there was issued a Certificate of Honor and Merit. This simple gesture reinforces in us our determination to support the youth in their search of a worthy goal, these youth who need to have confidence in themselves, to be creative, and to be productive creators of their own destiny. (Fr. Jean Luc BOURDEAU)
Mexicans know about
martyrs and martyrdom in their own homeland. But Catholics of “New Spain” know
and believe that they are members of a Church which is catholic (= universal)
and therefore they do not limit themselves to their national martyrology. They
have opened their hearts to the martyrs of “Old Spain”. An example is the
Oblate parish in Cuajinicuilapa, which has dedicated its brand new parish hall to
the Oblate Martyrs of Pozuelo. Brother Ernesto MAGÁN, wherever he goes, is
noted for his enthusiasm and inventiveness... May the newly blessed of Madrid
bring upon you God’s abundant blessings so that this locale might be a focal
point of evangelizing radiance.