CHAPTER V: CLARETIAN MISSIONS
CLARETIAN MISSIONS IN AFRICA
Luanda (Founded in 1992) Province of Portugal.
The Bishop of Luso offered in 1969 to the Claretian missionaries a vast sector of his diocese and the Portuguese province accepted the call. The zone was an authentic mosaic of tribes: Quiocos, Quimbumbos, Luenas… Some of them with very difficult languages and quite ancestral customs. Not infrequently there were faith groups that walked as much as 60 km. by foot in order to attend the Sunday Mass. The guerrilla climate was something habitual. In 1974 the mission of Tchamutete was established. The increase of violence, however, ended up with the expulsion of the missionaries in 1977.
In 1992 the Portuguese missionaries returned to Angola, but this time they went to Corimba, in the outskirts of Luanda, where the Congregation started in the midst of great difficulties, due to the effects of war. The missionaries had to attend also to the refugees. The missionary consolidation seems to grow rapidly and full of hope.
Lubango (Founded in 1997) Province of Portugal
This is a new foundation whose aim is to attend to a vast pastoral zone –around 100,000 people, many of which are war refugees—and to collaborate in the formation of native Angolan candidates to the consecrated life. The Claretian team takes care of the parish of the Immaculate Conception, in the outskirts of the city of Lubango.
Akono (Founded in 1970) Delegation of Canada.
When the Archbishop of Yaoundé, Msgr. Zoa, explained to the Claretian Congregation the needs of a vast sector of his diocese, the province of Canada responded accepting the responsibility.
Although the official languages are French and English, it is necessary to know the native language in order to reach the people. There are several mission centres from which the missionaries must distribute the work throughout an area of 860 km2. The centres are Akono, Abang-Mindi and Nkol-Bisson. The people are poor but not miserable. They live in a subsistence economy. Almost all of the 15,000 inhabitants that compose our mission are already Catholic, thanks to the previous work of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the work to be done is not always that of implanting Christianity, but rather of cultivating what is already there. The pastoral work of the missionaries is centred on the formation of lay leaders and native catechists. To this effect they take care of the Lay Formation Centre of Akono (CEFOLA) where they impart formation sessions to the laity of a diocesan zone.
In addition to this pastoral work they also participate in the formation of the Claretians of Central Africa. The noviciate is in Akono. The first noviciate was established in 1978 and it marked a new stage in the experiences of the mission. The Claretian theologate of the entire Central Africa (Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Guinea and São Tomé) is operating in Yaoundé since 1988. In 1983 the first Claretian from Cameroon was ordained.
Bamenda (Founded in 1986) Province of Nigeria.
In 1986 the Claretians of the province of USA West, after helping in the development of the Claretians in Nigeria, opened a new missionary field in West Cameroon, diocese of Bamenda, with two missions: Babanki-Tungo and Batibo. Lately the latter was abandoned and, for reasons of community life, the parish of Ndop was assumed. We are referring to the English speaking zone of Cameroon in the boundary with Nigeria.
It has 30,000 inhabitants, about 10,000 of which are Catholic. The geography of the place is mountainous woodland and located 900 meters above sea level, enjoying a mild and not very humid climate. The roads are generally dusty and relatively good, except during the rainy season. The Christian communities are rather young, hardly 15 to 20 years, and the customs of the traditional African religions are predominant. The missionary work mainly consists in making almost initial evangelisation, and presenting the Good News with simplicity.
In 1993 the mission was placed under the jurisdiction of the Province of Nigeria.
Abidjan y Bouaflé (Founded in 1990) Province of Poland
The first Claretian Missionaries arrived from the Province of Poland on 17 June 1990, to take charge of the two mission posts in Ivory Coast. One is in the zone of Abidjan (Vridi), diocese of Grand Bassam; once they familiarised themselves with the local language, they spread to the second in Bouaflé, a rural zone of the diocese of Daloà, in the interior of the country, with 135,000 inhabitants and 22 tribes, mostly animists. Since 1970 the Religious Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret work in Ivory Coast.
Being a Catholic in Ivory Coast is, in a sense, a distinctive sign of social uplift. Only 10% of the population are Catholic, and they belong to the upper middle class. There are committed lay persons, but they are few. The growing material welfare chokes all spiritual interests and leads to a comfortable uncommitted Christianism. The Church-run schools have indeed offered faith, but without real missionary rooting. On the other hand we must not forget that the evangelisation started in Ivory Coast scarcely one hundred years ago and, in some regions, less than 50 years ago.
The need for more missionaries is urgent, due to the proliferation of sects. In 1993 the first native Claretian missionaries of Ivory Coast made their profession. The prospects of the mission are indeed optimistic. In 1997 the first native Claretian priest was ordained.
Franceville (Founded in 1975) Province of Italy.
Everything started when the Italian Claretians committed themselves to work with the Gabonese exiles in Equatorial Guinea. When they returned to their country, they asked for these missionaries until they decided to commit themselves to start a fixed mission. The revolution and the period of persecution had just ended.
Franceville is the capital of Haute-Ogooué, to the Southeast of Gabon, with some 18,000 inhabitants and near 7000 Christians. The Claretian mission has some 25,000 inhabitants in 3 parishes: Mingara, Okondja and Akieni. They speak their native tongue in addition to French, which is the official language. The number of Catholics is about 11,000.
Their priorities are the building up of Christian communities and the youth ministry. Human development is always at the basis of any missionary animation. Lately a Church has been constructed in Okondja, a symbol of the effort and growth of this community. A great step is also being taken with regards to literacy. In this work, the Claretians of Nigeria are collaborating and are currently thinking of the possibility of taking charge of some mission area. The Missionary Sisters of St. Anthony M. Claret are also collaborating in this mission. In 1997, the first two native Claretians of this missionary zone were ordained priests.
Libreville (Founded in 1995) Delegation of Equatorial Guinea.
In 1995, the Province of Equatorial Guinea deemed it appropriate to found the new community of Libreville as a welcome house for the missionaries from the interior of the country, or those who are passing through; also as a Mission Procure for the French-speaking Africa. At the same time they serve a parish.
Damongo (Founded in 1997) Province of Nigeria
The diocese of Damongo is located in northern Ghana, West Africa, and is made up of two administrative districts, namely West Gonja and Bole. Damongo comprises a territory of about 24,627 square kilometres. The area is now divided in five parishes. The diocese is estimated to have presently a population of 221,000 inhabitants and is predominantly rural in nature, with very few towns that exceed 5,000 people. The transport network is rather poor, with secondary roads that are impracticable during the rainy season. The postal service is also extremely poor; even today traditional means of communications are being used, such as drums, musical instruments and messengers. The literacy level is very low, to the extent that in some places for every 10 communities, only one person can be found who can read.
In the diocese, besides the Catholic Church, there are also the Pentecostal and the Methodist churches, the church of Musama Discop Christo, Islam and the traditional religions. There are more than 20 ethnic groups in the diocese and it is very difficult to communicate the Christian doctrine in an illiterate milieu. The multiplicity of dialects or languages prevents the missionary from learning one that may serve as a means of communication for all.
Bioko and Río Muni (Founded in 1883) Delegation of Equatorial Guinea.
These were the first missions taken by the Claretian Missionaries. This fulfilled the dreams of Fr. Xifré. The first expedition was composed of 12 missionaries, selected from among very many volunteers. A great many missionaries died there, victims of the inclement weather and the arduous apostolate, but the enthusiasm was constantly increasing among them. “The Most Rev. Fr. General, wrote Fr. Armengol Coll, at his return from the Eternal City, manifested to the Noviciate the hopes that Rome had placed in us. He described with vivid and, sometimes, dreadful colours the reality of the equatorial countries: the many wild beasts, serpents and poisonous animals that swarm there, etc. And seeing how eagerly we listened to his stories and how ardently the young men desired to be sent there in spite of all these difficulties, he was filled with joy.” The missionary adventure took the lives of many missionaries: the statistics tell us of 50% dead and 25% rendered useless through sickness in just a few years. This however never daunted the missionaries.
In 1968, Equatorial Guinea obtained its independence. The Claretian missionaries, both Spaniards and natives, including the Claretian bishop Msgr. Nze, were working in 10 schools, the press, radio and TV, 23 colleges, in addition to the parochial work. Almost 80% were Catholic: the most Catholic nation of Africa. But the events came suddenly. Soon trials and persecutions began and the missionary activity gradually diminished. In 1970 the first missionaries were expelled and in 1971 the Claretian bishops too abandoned the place. In 1975 all seminaries, schools and colleges were closed. The Church was reduced to silence. Only the native missionaries and one Spaniard were able to remain in the country, though they were arrested, first in their houses and later in public prisons.
The coup d’état put an end to the nightmare. Since then the mission has been reorganised. The Congregation is presently trying to promote missionary life in Guinea through the provinces of Spain. Its objectives are: to rebuild the morale of the Christian communities through the servants of the Word, education and promotion of the people. There are three dioceses in Guinea: Malabo, Bata and Ebebiyin. The Claretian missionaries, one of which, a native, is Bishop of Ebebiyin, are working in all three of them. Emerging from their own ashes, the Claretians started gathering promising young men in 1980; the first ones have already been ordained. The present challenges are: the formation of the laity, the training of catechists and the promotion of lay ministries.
Mombasa (Founded in 1991) Province of Nigeria.
With this new position, the Congregation makes itself present in the East coast of Africa. Since January 1991, two Nigerian priests are working in Mombasa. Their main activity is learning the native language, the Swahili, the understanding of the reality of the country and some pastoral work. In 1992 they were entrusted with the care of the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Shanzu, in the outskirts of Mombasa, with 50,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of which are Catholic. They dedicate themselves in a special way to the tourists who visit Mombasa, Kenya’s second industrial city and its main port.
The diocese where this Claretian enclave is rooted has 51 diocesan priests, most of which are native. Almost all of the 18 religious working there are foreigners.
A project is on the move to establish in Nairobi the Mission Procure and the Claretian theology house for Eastern Africa, comprising Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Owerri (Founded in 1973) Province of Nigeria.
The Claretian seed that was to bear fruit in Nigeria was providentially carried by Fr. Christian Ihedoro who worked first in Guinea as a teacher for the Nigerians. He studied in Spain and when he was about to return to Guinea after the civil war, he was denied entry because, during the trip, his passport and visa were stolen, and he was forced to go to Nigeria.
The Claretian work started in the diocese of Owerri, territory of the Ibos, 65% of which are Catholic. The basic work was vocation promotion and formation. This ministry soon gave positive results, and Nigeria became one of the organisms of the Congregation with highest number of vocations. The missionary work they were already performing in the parish of St. Patrick, near the formation centre of Maryland and the noviciate of Utonkon spread in 1987 to other parishes: Bacita, Jebba and Ogbomosho, where Islam and the traditional religions are dominant. This zone is inhabited by a great number of workers from neighbouring industries belonging to many ethnic groups with a strong tribal conscience, which makes mutual understanding and even communication very difficult.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Kingandu (Founded in 1962) Province of Germany.
In 1962, the German province took under its care the Mission of Kingandu, which had been founded in 1929 by the Jesuits. The beginnings were difficult because the Republic of Congo (former Zaire), independent after 1960, was in a chaotic situation: revolts, secession moves, rebellions and degradation at all levels, which made missionary work most difficult. The country came into a relative calm when the army took over the government under the command of General Mobutu. The Mission went through a difficult period in the 70’s, especially in 1972 and 1975. The recourse to authenticity provoked a serious conflict between Church and State under president Mobutu: prohibition of Christian names, of religious movements, closure of seminaries, etc., all of which greatly limited all missionary activity. Many missionaries abandoned the country, others were expelled; but from 1975 on, the situation began to normalise. The Church came out of its conflict strengthened: the conflict had elicited in many lay people a positive awareness of their responsibilities. In addition, the conflict had also been positive for the resurgence of vocations.
The countryside is made up of a series of plateaux deprived of trees and covered with wild grass about one meter tall. There are two missionary zones: Kingandu-Pay with more than 100,000 inhabitants and Mukila-Kindi (a mission accepted in 1982) with about 20,000 inhabitants. These zones are poor, with great dependence from the chiefs of clans, lack of communications and of health and education infrastructures. In 1964 the first native priest was ordained, and the team began to increase. In Mont Ngafula a great number of Claretians from various African nations are being trained since 1982.
The basic work is initial evangelisation, formation of catechists, youth ministry, vocation promotion and human promotion: teaching, health and agricultural development. Lately the situation has again become most difficult for the missionaries.
SÃO TOMÉ AND PRINCIPE
São Tomé and Principe (Founded in 1927) Province of Portugal.
These islands are located in the midst of the Atlantic, astride the Equator. The climate is tropical, hot and humid. The Congregation came to these islands on 1 November 1927. No priest had set foot there for eight years. The great religiosity of the natives was all mixed with superstition and polygamy reigned there as a normal thing. The Claretian missionaries had to face many obstacles and they strove to overcome them with a great spirit of patience and perseverance.
In 1974 the revolution changed everything. Starting in 1978 a persecution began which culminated in the confiscation of the central house of the Claretians of São Tomé. In just a few years, a long period of apostolic work came to nothing. In 1981 a new dawn of faith broke again. The diocese is being basically run by Claretian missionaries. The population is approximately 100,000 inhabitants. The Claretian Fr. Joao Freitas Alves became the Apostolic Vicar and with great decision he restructured the entire pastoral plan. The basic priorities were: catechetics, youth and family ministry and formation of catechists. In September 1944 for the first time there were priestly ordinations in the island: three Claretian young men were ordained. The missionaries are fully committed to catechetics, teaching, radio, press and the lyceum.
Musoma (Founded in 1994) Province of Chennai.
Musoma is located in the eastern part of the country, on the banks of Lake Victoria. It has a population of one million inhabitants, about 5% of which are Catholic. The Missionaries of Africa or White Fathers were the first evangelisers of this region of Tanzania.
The Claretian missionaries arrived in September of 1994, coming from the Province of Chennai with the intention of learning the language and collaborating in the pastoral plan of the diocese of Musoma. In this part of Africa there is abundance of vocations. They are working in the Makoto Centre, a centre that offers courses and seminars for lay people.
Morogoro has been selected to house the postulants of the entire Eastern Africa (Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya).
Jinja (Founded in 1995) Province of Bangalore.
After serious study, the Province of Bangalore decided to found a mission in Uganda. Our missionary presence started in the diocese of Jinja, to the Southeast of Uganda. In 1966 the Bishop offered to the Claretian Missionaries the direction of the Diocesan Catechetical Centre and part of the parish of Kiyunga, 55 km from Jinja. The interreligious school of philosophy of Jinja was chosen for the formation of the Claretians in the Eastern part of Africa and in 1999 the noviciate of Eastern Africa was inaugurated.
CLARETIAN MISSIONS IN AMERICA
Formosa (Founded in 1961) Province of Argentina-Uruguay.
This mission was founded in the year 1961 and enthusiastically accepted by the Claretian Province of Argentina-Uruguay when it was offered to the Congregation. Soon a great many volunteers offered themselves to work there. Its main centres are the towns of Comandante Fontana, Ibarreta, Estanislao de Compo and Pozo del Tigre, with a vast rural area and a population of about 30,000. In the Summer months the temperature rises to 42º C. Some villages are isolated and many roads become impassable during the rainy season.
The population is a mixture of classes. On one hand, there are the natives, Creoles descendants of Spaniards, foreign Paraguayans and some 2,500 aborigines (Tobas, Wichis and Pilagás), lacking labour security, with precarious abodes and deficient health and education. On the other hand, the so-called “gringos” foreigners or children of foreigners (Polish, Yugoslavs, Ukrainians and some Turks), who handle commerce, own large estates and control the economy.
In this climate the Missionaries seek two goals: evangelisation and human promotion. The former, through Ecclesial Basic Communities and animators who have been well trained by means of courses and live-in seminars. The latter, by creating centres of integral development, promotion of women, fostering of dialogue and approach to the aborigines, respecting the signs of their popular religiosity, etc.
Río Negro (Founded in 1969) Province of Argentina-Uruguay.
As early as 1969 the Congregation was established in Austral Patagonia, more than 1,600 km south of the city of Buenos Aires. We are referring to two missionary parishes: Pilcaniyeu and Bariloche, in the diocese of San Carlos de Bariloche. The geography of the place goes down rolling from the Andes to the Atlantic, with very scarce vegetation: only poplars can withstand the fury of the wind that in winter can blow at speeds from 120 to 160 km/hour. The temperature can descend down to 25º C below zero.
Pilcaniyeu is a purely rural parish, with an extension of 12,000 sq. km. and 5,000 inhabitants. These are mostly of Araucanian descent and their only means of subsistence is taking care of sheep.
Bariloche can be considered a semiurban parish. It attends to several peripheral suburbs, where some 15,000 Chilean immigrants and peasants live surrounded by poverty problems, unemployment, alcoholism, family disintegration and prostitution.
The missionaries pursue in their work a double concern: to make people’s faith grow, especially that of children and youth, with the collaboration of some religious Sisters and catechists, and to accompany the popular promotion and development organisations, especially by means of production and consumption co-operatives.
Humahuaca (Founded in 1968) Province of Bética.
The Prelature of Humahuaca is located in North-western Argentina, adjacent to Chile and Bolivia. It has an extension of 33,000 sq. km. and a population of about 78,000 inhabitants: the Collas. The heights vary between 2,500 and 5,000 m. above sea level, with a tough climate in winter and torrential rains concentrated in the summer months. In the highest part we find the Puna, the Andean high plateau, immense, lonely, with scarce vegetation, high mountains and abundant hills. Toward the South, the Quebrada goes along the great river up to the Capital of the Province, San Salvador de Jujuy. Finally, toward the East we penetrate the foothill valleys with more abundant vegetation spread among tablelands, slopes and short cuts, especially dangerous during the rains.
The Colla people, descendants of the Incas, are patient, hospitable, simple and deeply religious. They raise llamas, sheep and goats, they spin their wool by hand, cultivate the land where the climate is more benign, and extract minerals from their hills in their mine exploitations, most of which belong to a multinational company. It is a subsistence economy and the people are rooted in their land, their Pachamama. Many of the ancestral traditions of the Colla culture, marginalised today, are still kept alive.
A team of Claretian missionaries shares with these people a fruitful ecclesial experience engaged in three great fronts: ecclesial basic communities, formation of evangelising leaders and human promotion, carried out mainly by the Claretian Development Work (OCLADE). Several hundreds of animators of the Word, distributed among some two hundred communities, who in turn are also forming their own animators of catechesis and social promotion, already constitute a solid hope in this young Church. To complete the number of evangelisers of the Prelature, whose bishop is a Claretian, there are the Mercedarian Religious Sisters, the Daughters of Christ the King, the Claretian Missionary Sisters and three native diocesan priests.
Bermejo (Founded in 1968) Delegation of Bolivia
The Delegation of Bolivia took charge of this mission in 1968. It belongs to the department of Tarija and is located 220 km South of this city in the border with Argentina. It is a tropical zone, rich in oilfields and sugar cane. They have a population core, that is the city of Bermejo, with some 25,000 inhabitants, and 50 more rural communities scattered throughout the 3,000 sq. km. that comprise the mission. Some of these communities can only be reached by foot or on horseback, after many hours of travelling. Except for a small length, all the roads are dirt tracks and during the rainy season they become impassable. There is a mission project that is yearly evaluated in an assembly attended by all pastoral agents. One of the means of evangelisation they use is a radio station that covers the entire zone.
Northern Potosí (Founded in 1975) Province of Euskalerria.
This mission was entrusted to the Claretians of Euskalerria in January of 1975. It is an eminently mountainous region, with a varied climate, in tune with the diverse heights, between 2,300 and 4,800 m. above sea level. Villages are linked by bridle paths, some dirt roads that are increasing, and there are also isolated zones.
The number of inhabitants is estimated in about 75,000. About 60% belong to the Quechua culture and speak their own language. About 30% belong to the Aymara culture. About 10% are mestizos or Cholos and speak basically the Castilian language. There is a mixture of three cultures: the Colla or Aymara, the Inca or Quechua and the Spanish. Their values are: family, work, community-solidarity, respect and dignity of the person, love of language and motherland, the omnipresence and immanence of the divine in their life. Their relevant mode of expression is the feast, both human and religious, around birth, marriage, death, land, peak moments of agriculture. Since the mestizo or Cholo dominates the socio-economic apparatus, there are two clearly distinguished worlds: that of the mestizo who lives in the cities or provincial capitals, and that of the native peasant who lives in the agricultural communities.
The Sisters of Providence, lay missionaries and Medicus Mundi of Navarre are collaborating with the Claretian Missionaries. The project of the missionary team that works in 3 provinces: Alonso Ibáñez, Charcas and Bilbao Rioja, takes care of human and Christian promotion, the education and preparation of catechists, liberation from illnesses and promotion of women, the promotion of agriculture and the knowledge of Jesus, the great Liberator.
Santa Ana (Founded in 1976) Delegation of Bolivia
This is a rural zone, also in the department of Tarija, but closer to the city, which comprises 38 rural communities scattered in 800 sq. km. It is a poor and quite inhospitable terrain, generally more than 2,000 m. above sea level. The Delegation took charge of this mission in 1976. Since 1995 the team of the Claretian community of Tarija is attending to it. The entire region is adversely affected by the emigration of young people. Its inhabitants are already less than 12,000 and there is no population centre of any importance.
Guayaramerín (Founded in 1993) Delegation of Bolivia
This is a zone located in the Northern part of the country, in the confluence of Bolivia with Peru and Brazil. It is a fully Amazonian region of about 8,000 km2. From Guayaramerín to Bermejo there are almost 2,000 km: if we fold the map of Bolivia, the two would coincide. The mission comprises the city of Guayaramerín (25,000 inhabitants) and some 4 rural communities. The access to most of them is only possible by river. From the ecclesiastical viewpoint, it belongs to the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando which, in an extension bigger than Portugal, has only 7 priests, three of whom are Claretian.
The Claretian Missionaries took charge of this zone in 1993, in a moment when the Apostolic Vicar could find no one to take care of it. The mission is located in front of the one held by the Catalonian Claretians in Grajará-Mirim. Only the large river Mamoré separates them. Among the means of evangelisation, the mission has a TV station of limited range.
Matto Grosso (Founded in 1981) Province of Meridional Brazil
Paranatinga, diocese of Sinop and centre of the Claretian mission is located in the State of Matto Grosso, with an approximate area of 42,000 sq. km. It borders to the Northeast on the Prelature of Msgr. Pedro Casaldáliga. Today it has a population of 35,000 inhabitants that belong to more than 40 communities in formation, attended to from the mother community. The pastoral priorities are the formation of small communities or ecclesial prayer and reflection groups, the formation of pastoral agents, family ministry, vocation ministry and ministry with the natives. In the last years the Province tried to promote the mission of Matto Grosso, by sending more missionaries and assuming new mission fronts.
In addition to Paranatinga, the missionaries take care also of Campinápolis and Nuevo San Joaquín, of the diocese of Barra do Garças. At the beginning of 1997, with the creation of the municipality of Caúcha do Norte, another group of missionaries was established there. All these municipalities are more or less 200 km from the centre of the Mission. The total area of the mission is approximately 60,000 sq. km., with a population of 50,000 inhabitants. In the mission territory there are two groups of natives: the Bakairí and the Chavantes. Religious Sisters and lay missionaries are also working there.
Guajará-Mirim (Founded in 1982) Province of Catalonia.
Guajará-Mirim is situated in the Brazilian State of Rondonia, in the midst of the Amazonian forest, bordering on Bolivia. The Claretians collaborate with the diocese in the construction of the local Church, attending to four parishes and co-operating in diverse diocesan activities, especially in the Seminary.
At present the missionary community is divided in three small nuclei: Guajará-Mirim, the centre of the mission, Nova Marmoré, some 50 km. away, and San Miguel de Guaporé, almost 900 km. away. There are several lay missionaries, who usually make a commitment of collaboration with the missionaries for a minimum of two years. They live in community and work especially in the promotion of small farmers through various associations, and in the education of children and adolescents from destitute families. Special attention is given in the pastoral work to the formation of catechists, leaders of basic communities and the promotion of the laity in general, as well as to the formation of the future local clergy.
The population is composed of small autochthonous groups and of emigrants of the most diverse origin. The majority of them are people who are seeking in the immense Amazonian region for an opportunity to own a little parcel of land that may guarantee the future of their family, an opportunity that they could not have or was denied them in their places of origin. The entire mission zone still has important deficiencies in transport services and communications, electric energy, education and health. Illnesses such as malaria, hepatitis or the most varied types of verminosis have always been endemic
São Félix do Araguaia (Founded in 1968) Province of Aragón.
Right where the Brazil of the expressways and the skyscrapers ends and the Brazil of the forest begins, the Claretian Province of Aragon has one of its missionary advance parties. It is located in the Amazon basin and has an extension equivalent to one third of Spain. Its climate is hot with an average of 35º C. Rivers, pastures, virgin forest, cultivated areas. Multitude of races intermingle in fraternal coexistence: from the pure Indian to the black, going through the mestizo, mulatto, European, etc. Simple people, poor, “retirantes” or emigrants, with the sleeping net on their back, their bony horse and many children. People of strong faith, long-suffering, “sofredoras,” frequently treated as slaves by the exploiters of those enormous estates.
When the Prelature was created in 1970, its first Apostolic Visitor, later Bishop, the Claretian Fr. Peter Casaldáliga took charge of it. Soon repression came and schools and dispensaries were closed, the pastoral agents were imprisoned and tortured, and all of them slandered. The culminating point came with the assassination of a Jesuit, Joao Bosco Penido, a team member, at the feet of Bishop Casaldáliga. The pastoral work is carried out with the participation of the people, with the help of publications and work by communities.
Chocó (Founded in 1909) Province of Occidental Colombia
The missions of Chocó have created a long and solid tradition in the Congregation. Three Apostolic Prefects administered Chocó until 1953. This year the mission was divided into two Vicariates: Istmina was left to the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Yuramal, and Quibdó to the Claretians under the direction of Msgr. Peter Grau, Claretian. Among the many material difficulties, communications was not the least important, since they had to make use of the slow canoe. The climate, the plagues of mosquitoes and the ensuing malaria earned for this mission the reputation of being the most difficult of Colombia. Seeing the innumerable trials that the Missionaries had to suffer there, Fr. Martin Alsina proposed to abandon the mission, but the missionaries preferred to continue their huge task in spite of the enormous difficulties.
In 1988 the mission was made a diocese with the Claretian Msgr. George I. Castaño as its Bishop. Our missionaries work at the pastoral ministry of Quibdó, among the rural and indigenous population, teamed up with Claretian lay missionaries. Presently there are three missionary centres. The Medio Atrato attends to 40 settlements of black population, located on the banks of the Atrato river; the Centre for Pastoral Care of the indigenous natives accompanies all the indigenous communities of the diocese; and the Biblical Centre takes care of the popular biblical pastoral and the formation of evangelising agents of the entire diocese.
In the diocese of Apartadó, partly formed with territory segregated from the diocese of Quibdó, the Claretian missionaries attend to a mining post in Riosucio, from which they pastorally serve 140 rural communities scattered along the rivers and they also attend to the indigenous communities of the entire diocese. In this territory a true war is being presently waged between the guerrilla and the paramilitary forces. The civil population has been the main victim of this confrontation and, in order to save their life they have had to abandon their lands and move to other regions, forming new communities of refugees that are also attended by the Claretians.
In 1996 the first Emberá native Claretian was ordained priest in Riosucio, his birthplace.
Espriella-Tumaco (Founded in 1995) Province of Occidental Colombia.
This mission is 40 km. away from Tumaco, at the South-western end of the country, adjacent to Ecuador. It comprises an extensive territory with three well characterised zones. They are the settlements on the banks of the Mira river that marks the boundary between Colombia and Ecuador, with a basically black population; the mountain zone or “piedemonte,” where indigenous settlements predominate; and the road area, with some thirty “veredas” or villages, and the urban part of Espriella with 1,000 inhabitants.
The Vicariate of Tumaco has about 230,000 inhabitants, the majority of them below 50 years of age. Infant mortality doubles the national rate. 90% of the population are black, 2% indigenous (4,000 Awás, 600 Emberás) and 8% mestizos. Illiteracy reaches 51%, but in the rural areas it rises to 80% and 90%. About 60% live in absolute poverty and 38.7% in squalid condition.
Sincelejo (Founded in 1996) Province of Occidental Colombia.
At the request of the Bishop of Sincelejo, the community that had been serving an urban parish has also assumed the missionary attention to the indigenous population of his diocese, belonging to the zenú ethnic group. They occupy some 40 communities within the Department of Sucre, engaged in the defence of their life, land and culture.
In the Diocese of Apartadó three missionary posts are attended to, within a very complex geographical demarcation, due to their socio-political problems and their very cruel outbursts of violence.
La Havana-Santiago (Founded in 1930) Delegation of Antilles.
Although in its first period Cuba could not be considered a mission, given its present circumstances, today we have to include it among the other missions of the Congregation. Cuba has always been one of the most beloved centres of the Congregation, whose presence goes back to the time of our Fr. Founder who arrived there as Archbishop of Santiago in 1851 and left in 1857. Fr. Manuel Vilaró, one of the co-founders, accompanied him.
In June 1880 eleven Claretians arrived in Santiago, but this foundation was a failure because of the yellow fever. By September nine missionaries had already died and the other two returned to Spain to save their life.
In 1918 a community was established in Palma Soriano, and others soon followed: Santiago, La Havana and Cárdenas. In 1961 the revolution came and the number of Claretians was reduced. In 1979 only two Claretians remained in La Havana, one of which died in 1986. Providentially in September of 1986 our missionary presence was finally strengthened with two additional Claretians, and two more in August of 1988, who started a new post in Guantánamo. In 1995 two Claretians began the new foundation of Santiago de Cuba and in 1995 in Guáimaro.
In La Havana efforts are made to care for and strengthen the Christian community of the Shrine of the Heart of Mary in a situation of re-evangelisation, welcoming, attention to popular devotion, formation of the laity, participation and Christian presence in society. Two rural parishes were attended to until 1991, when the missionaries were entrusted with the parish of El Cerro, very near the Shrine of the Heart of Mary. They also work in the Seminary, in the organisation of the teaching of Catechism in the Diocese, in the Centre Associated to the Institute of Theology at a Distance and in the animation of Religious men and women.
In Guantánamo the missionary work is done in the two parishes of the city: Santa Catalina and La Milagrosa, plus several other communities in the countryside. Forming a team with the Claretian Missionaries are the first group of Claretian Sisters who, after many years, were able to enter the country where their Congregation was founded.
The parish of Santiago has a good pastoral plan for the city and the suburban developments drafted by duly prepared lay people. Guáimaro is a small city, but the pastoral work extends also to other surrounding communities.
Latacunga (Founded in 1985) Province of Oriental Colombia – Ecuador.
This mission comprises two ecclesiastical “parishes” composed of some 20 villages, most of which have a church or chapel. The central house of the missionaries is the parish called “11 de Noviembre.” From there they attend to all the communities. Poaló, in addition to being an ecclesiastical parish, is also a shrine with a tradition of nearly two centuries of popular religiosity that has gathered a great number of indigenous communities and peasants of various provinces of Ecuador.
The main work of the missionaries is: catechesis, formation of Christian communities, very intense liturgical and sacramental worship in those regions because of the strong religious tradition of that people. They are native people who live in the mountains at a height of more than 3,600 m. They raise llamas and sheep. Their poverty and marginalisation are absolute. The native Maca has been subjected and exploited not only by the governments, but also by the Church itself.
In 1955 the mission house was inaugurated in the indigenous community of Maca-Grande. It is the symbol of the process of inculturation with a native-faced Church. This house has been enlarged to become a Missionary Formation Centre.
Izabal (Founded in 1965) Province of Central America.
Guatemala looks out of a broad window between Belice (British Honduras) to the left and the nation of Honduras to the right. There the Claretian Province of Central America has its mission, scorched by an implacable sun. The territory of approximately 13,000 sq. km. has a population of about 70,000 inhabitants. Some members of other religious Congregations and a group of diocesan priests who live in community are also collaborating with the Prelate. Their style of life and work is imposed by the reality of the field of apostolic operations and realisations. Theirs is an atmosphere of atavistic Christianity, basic poverty, and a need of education and evangelisation at a personal, family and group level.
Until 1994 this mission was attended by the province of USA East in collaboration with that of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and their personnel is still there. Claretians, Claretian lay missionaries, De La Salle Brothers and three more Congregations of Religious Sisters are working in a team both in the pastoral care and in the socio-religious field. They have more than 300 delegates of the Word and catechists who collaborate with them in the region.
Santa María de Jesús (Founded in 1966) Province of Central America.
Five kilometres away from La Antigua, to the North, in the slope of the Agua Volcano, is found Santa María de Jesús, a village of Cakchiquel Indians, unique in America, a pure race and secular tradition. In the midst of a marvellous landscape, the multicoloured clothing of women catches the eye, when they go to the public square fountain to fetch water for their kitchen. This is a population of about 12,000 Indians of simple faith and ancestral type religiosity.
At the beginning the Claretian missionaries attended to them from the Bishop’s Palace of San Juan del Obispo but later on they moved to their village.
Atlantida (Founded in 1967) Province of Central America.
The Atlantida, a department with an extension of 4,251 sq. km. exposed to the tropical sun, shelters a human community scattered in some 185 towns and villages with 18,000 blacks, 30,000 whites and 80,000 mestizos. Not all of them occupy continental land. In front of the torrid balcony that goes from the mouth of the Ulúa to that of the Balfate River, we can see the islands of the Bay.
The Claretian missionaries are there since October of 1967. The first ones to go there were from the Province of Castile. The earlier missionaries (Vincentian Priests) left to the Claretians deep channels of sacramentalisation and associationism. From the two most important cities, La Ceiba and Tela, the task of evangelisation meets great challenges: deepening into the Gospel, formation of lay leaders, promotion of material and cultural development of the natives, dialogue with other Christians, appreciation of autochthonous culture and promotion of the local Church by means of native vocations.
In 1972, in the capital of the Diocese, San Pedro Sula, a vast parish called La Guadalupe was established. In 1988 the first two Honduran priests were ordained. In 1994 the mission was transferred to the Province of Central America and, since that time, the bishop of the diocese is a Claretian missionary.
Puerto Principe (Founded in 1999) Delegation of Antilles and CICLA
On the occasion of the Claretian Jubilee Year, the Provinces of Latin America and the Caribbean region decided to make their dream of founding in Haiti, the poorest nation of America, come true. It is an Afro-American country whose white population is only 4%. There are no natives either. Its origin comes from the transfer of African slaves. It is overpopulated, boisterous and creative. More than 7 million inhabitants in only 27,000 sq. km. The country is extremely poor, in full political chaos, with a great ecological disaster. It has its own language, the Creole, derived from French, with elements of English and of the African languages. The illiteracy is very high. The people are very religious. Pastoral attention is concentrated in the centre of the city, leaving the masses of the periphery abandoned. There is a great variety of sects in addition to the voodoo, an Afro-American religion.
There is an abundance of priestly and religious vocations In Haiti. The Claretians of the Province of Antilles already have a first promotion of Haitian vocations in the Dominican Republic.
Tlacoapa (Founded in 1960) Province of Mexico
Since 1960 the Province of Mexico has, within its own territory, an arduous and difficult mission, enclosed in a very rugged geography. It is located in the Sierra Madre del Sur that reaches a height of 3,000 m. above sea level, and whose chief town is Tlacoapa. The mission is made up of several “rancherías” or settlements many hours away from one another, and they can only be reached by foot or by mule. Its agriculture is scanty because the land is poor and for lack of irrigation. Its inhabitants earn their livelihood by making overcoats and huaraches or sandals; some raise goats. Malnutrition is the main cause of infant mortality. The population is indigenous, made up of Tlapanecs, Mixtecs and Nahuas, each one speaking their own language with practically no knowledge of Spanish.
From the very outset the Claretian missionaries undertook the task of evangelisation beginning with human promotion itself; thus the first primary school emerged, then the first arts and trades centre, the first dispensary and even the first airfield. There is a profound religiosity, albeit mixed with superstitions, myths and legends. Catechesis is given and they are accompanied in processes of hygiene, health, agriculture, apiculture and other programs beneficial to the community. There is a good number of lay collaborators who place their persons, their profession and their goods at the service of the Mountain people. The migration of Tlapanec youth is very high, up to 70%, which brings new challenges to the missionaries: to prepare the youth to respond to the reality they will find in the new milieu, and help the old folks who must remain in the Mountain, with their hunger, poverty and loneliness.
Santa María de Zacatepec (Founded in 1980) Province of Mexico.
Santa María de Zacatepec has a population of 25,000 inhabitants. It is located in the western part of the state of Oaxaca, in the Sierra Madre del Sur, near the great Mixtec Nudo. The climate is hot with abundant rains. The population is distributed in “rancherías” or communities scattered throughout the entire mountain range, many hours away from one another. The first settlers were the Mixtec ethnic group. The territory where the Claretian missionaries work is composed of three different ethnic groups: the Tacuates, the Mestizos and the shepherd-Mixtecs. The Mestizos are absorbing all the ambits of the population: civil posts, commerce, land parcels with the usual dominance and authority as well as the rejection and scorn on the part of the Tacuates. The latter like to call themselves “naturales” or natives and retain the organisation of communitarian services, fiscalías or prosecution offices, or the responsibility of organising the religious feast of some of the patron saints, Mayordomías.
The Claretian missionaries, from the outset of their work here, have centred their attention on preparing new evangelisation agents: catechists and celebrants of the word, in such a way that they may become effective builders of the kingdom. They have also cultivated the Bible ministry in different ways: spreading and distributing of materials at a low cost, biblical initiation classes and practical application courses. Finally, the accompaniment of youth has been intensified, with very positive results: personal commitment, collaboration in evangelising work and even vocational consciousness.
Colón (Founded in 1925) Province of Central America.
In 1925 the Holy See granted the Claretians an Apostolic Vicariate composed of the Province of Colón with the region of San Blas (Cuna Yala), the Province of Darien and the Archipelago of Las Perlas, all in Panama. Noteworthy are the beauty of Gatun Lake, the Atlantic coasts and the innumerable hamlets lost in the jungle. One of them, Belén, has the honour, according to tradition, of having the first Christian altar of the New World, although it is now one of the most forgotten regions.
The conditions of our first missionaries were difficult in the middle of a tropical climate and an almost total lack of infrastructure. The first Apostolic Vicar of Darien was the Claretian Fr. John Joseph Maíztegui.
The mission of Colón may be divided in three large zones: the capital of Colón with 80,000 inhabitants, 90% of which are black, and constituting the second most important city of the country, together with the canal and the residence of the Bishop who is always a Claretian; Costa Arriba, with the historical city of Portobelo; and Costa Abajo and Gatun Lake.
In 1968 this mission is placed under the Province of Castile who provides the missionary team, always under the jurisdiction of the Claretian Bishop. The apostolate is done as teamwork together with the missionaries of Darien and Cuna Yala. On 19 December 1988 it is separated from Darien as a Vicariate. The rest, that is, Colón and Cuna Yala, become the present Diocese of Colón. In 1994 the Province of Central America takes the responsibility over the mission.
The evangelisation of this region has been extremely tough not only because of the lack of infrastructure, but also because of the ethnic composition and the number of sects that are developing a strong activity in the zone.
Cuna Yala (Founded in 1925) Province of Central America.
Cuna Yala, traditionally called San Blas, is an archipelago inhabited by Cuna Indians in the Atlantic coast. About 28,000 Indians live in this region of more than 400 islands, only 40 of which are inhabited. These Indians retain their own culture and language until today. Transportation from one island to another is made by cayuco or dugout canoe; those belonging to the missionaries are normally provided with an outboard motor.
The history of this mission is closely united to that of Colón. Many a missionary dedicated long and arduous years to this mission, among whom Fr. Erice deserves special mention. He wrote a dictionary and a grammar of the Cuna language. Soon his work resulted in a number of vocations and now there are several Cuna missionaries, some of them Claretians.
Darien (Founded in 1925) Province of Central America.
The Darien zone is located in the easternmost part of Panama, just where the inter-American road disappears. It is a vast forest and unpopulated zone. The last census speaks of 27,000 inhabitants divided in Afro-American Darienites, Afro-American Chocoans, peasants and Emberá and Uanana Indians. The population is poor and scattered, economically regressive. The natives live on the banks of the rivers in the middle of the forest, where they can only reach by means of canoes. The typical dressing of women is noteworthy. They are friendly and simple people. Their food and health care, as well as their education, are deficient.
The apostolate is done through BEC (Basic Ecclesial Communities) that are slowly being formed in each village. In 1988 the present Vicariate of Darien was established and separated from the new Diocese of Colón; a Panamanian Claretian was appointed Apostolic Vicar with his see in Metetí.
Yhú (Founded in 1979) Province of Aragon.
At the beginning of 1979 the first six Claretian missionaries arrived in Yhú from the province of Aragon. Between the great Paraguay and Paraná rivers, almost in the centre of the country, we find the Department of Caaguazú and, within the Department, the districts of Yhú, meaning black river, and Vaquería, attended to by the Claretian missionaries. The district of Vaquería has an extension of 1,165 sq. km. and 15,000 inhabitants; that of Yhú, 1,105 sq. km. and 35,000 inhabitants. There is a great number of people scattered throughout the countryside and organised in Colonies and Compañias or villages.
The main problems of Yhú are the speculation of the land, which is rich, but most of it is in the hands of foreigners or very rich people of the capital. The Guaraní peasant is poor and a victim of all sorts of illnesses, mostly for lack of hygiene and adequate nutrition. The nearest hospital is 100 km. away. There is lack of schools and apt teachers. More than 60% of the children cannot finish their primary education and from every 100 children who do, scarcely two go on to secondary level.
The average Paraguayan of Guaraní language and culture is very religious, but of little formation. The Claretian missionaries take care of numerous Christian communities organised and directed by catechists or Christian leaders. The visit of the missionary and the celebration of the Eucharist takes place when the rains, the distance, etc. allow it. Each community takes care of building their respective meeting place and chapel.
Since 1983, the Missionary Sisters of the Claretian Institute collaborate very closely with the missionaries, especially in the health ministry and, since May of 1991, the Missionary Sisters of Jesus Crucified too. Some Spanish volunteers also help with occasional health works.
Juanjui (Founded in 1970) Province of León
In 1970 the Province of León founded this mission that seemed to be difficult. The zone had already been evangelised but the people were living their faith experience in the midst of prejudices and distortions. It was indispensable to plant the seed again.
The region is poor but there are possibilities of promotion. The land, if properly cultivated, can provide all the basic products. Religious indifference was the main enemy encountered by the missionaries but, by dint of great enthusiasm, the first difficulties posed by the local reality were overcome.
Around the year 1987 this mission began to live a period of sorrow and uncertainty due to the appearance of two influential phenomena. On one hand, the presence and activity of the revolutionary movements “Sendero Luminoso” and “Tupac Amaru.” On the other, the progressive invasion of the zone by the cultivation of coca that opened the way to drug traffic, with the concomitant corruption of the people and social classes, and to violence.
Although the apostolic activities continued, quite a few visits to villages and other actions had to be cut down because of the risks involved for the missionaries. Various pastoral orientations advised special attention to concrete persons, imprisoned and tortured, prudence and defence of human rights. In 1991 the first native Claretian priest from this region was ordained.
Paramonga (Founded in 1988) Delegation of Peru.
Paramonga is a town on the Peruvian coast, 220 km. north of Lima, belonging to the diocese of Huacho. Earlier the Claretian Missionaries had been working in the city of Huacho, until it was constituted a diocese. In addition to the town of Paramonga, which was born around a sugar cane industry but has declined today, the Claretians took charge also of a zone called Gorgor, located in the middle of the Andes, 150 km. from Paramonga, a zone that could only be attended occasionally. Lately this zone is being served from Huacho.
The Mission serves some 27,000 inhabitants and about 25 peasant villages, many of which are difficult to reach for lack or deterioration of the roads or deficiency of organisation, both civil and religious. Their nutrition index is very low due to defective feeding habits and lack of means, and priestly presence has been almost null for a time. Here too, as in other parts of Peru, there is tension coming from terrorism that is trying to dominate the rural population.
In order to attend to this mission zone, in keeping with the policy of revision of positions, the Delegation surrendered to the Diocese the Claretian school of Arequipa with about 1,200 students. It also left the parish of Cocharcas, in Lima, in spite of the fact that it was the first house and parish the Claretians had in Peru.
Puerto Plata (Founded in 1938) Delegation of Antilles.
During the first years it was the entire province of Puerto Plata. At present the civil province has several parishes. In the city there were two parishes, each of which was ascribed one part of the territory. The parish attended by the Claretians was in the oldest and poorest part of the city, and it included the port area. The church was San Felipe, the mother church of the city.
Not long ago the Diocese of Puerto Plata was erected and the church of San Felipe became the cathedral see and was turned over to the diocesan clergy. The Claretians moved to the parish of the Perpetual Help, with other sectors of the city and other rural communities. From there they are trying to start their work again in these new sectors with no chapel in their villages and with undeveloped communities. Within the parish and in one of the rural zones, Lajas de Yaroa, is located the Centre of Spirituality and Social Promotion, from which the Claretians also exercise their apostolic work.
Delta Amacuro (Founded in 1985) Province of Venezuela
This Claretian Mission belongs to the Vicariate of Tucupita, entrusted to the Capuchin Missionaries. It comprises a vast extension of the lands and caños or small navigable rivers at the mouth of the Orinoco river that crosses almost all of Venezuela.
The Claretians serve the native Waraos, the first dwellers of the zone, who live in small settlements, the peasant Creoles coming from other Venezuelan states, and a small group of English speaking Guyanese emigrants.
In this socially abandoned zone there are small villages such as Sierra Imataca, El Triunfo, Los Castillos, Piacoa, Santa Catalina and Sacupana. Scattered among these there are 36 more settlements, situated in the many caños of the river, which can be reached by curiara or canoe.
The Claretians have a pastoral plan inspired in the documents of the Latin-American Church and the options of the Claretian Congregation. The missionaries of Venezuela want to incarnate the Kingdom of God into history and open new avenues for the integral development of all women and men of the zone. To this end, they accompany the Christian communities, facilitate both the formation and access to labour of the laity, foster youth ministry by which new leaders are raised and formed, and promote all activities that tend to develop health, education and community organisation.
During these years the Sisters of the Guardian Angel, the Parochial Missionary Sisters and the Marist Brothers have laboured and constituted the Missionary Team together with the Claretians. During vacation time, volunteers from Spain and from other parts of Venezuela support with their personal work the labour of the religious.
CLARETIAN MISSIONS IN ASIA AND OCEANIA
Seoul (Founded in 1982) East Asian Delegation.
In September of 1982 the first two Claretians arrived from the Philippines to South Korea, concretely to Seoul, where they were welcomed by the Maryknoll Fathers. Soon, after an experience of two months’ stay in the Presbyterian Seminary, they moved to stay with the Franciscans because their residence was near the school. The situation was favourable due to the growth of the Korean Church. In 1983 they obtained their first own residence. In 1985 they formed, together with Japan, the East Asian Delegation.
Soon after, they started their pastoral activities in parishes, hospitals and religious communities, as well as their vocation promotion work. In 1987 they accepted a parish in the diocese of Inchon. The number of Christians was about 1,000, mostly peasants and workers. The greatest difficulty is the learning of the language and the adaptation to the cultural reality of Korea. They are trying to go into other non-parochial work, especially among the youth, workers, Justice and Peace groups, the sick, etc. The formation of religious is another challenge they have to meet. The first formation structure they built was the noviciate. In 1992 the first priestly ordination of two Korean Claretians took place.
In 1994 a formation house and a centre for Retreats and Recollections was established in Kwangju, a city of one and a half million inhabitants.
Basilan (Founded in 1951) Province of the Philippines.
This island received the Gospel for the first time in the XVII century from the Spanish Jesuits. All throughout the years its Christian community went through many vicissitudes and was without pastoral attention for long periods of time. Out of its 280,000 inhabitants, only 30% are Catholic and the rest are Moslems, distributed in different ethnic groups or cultural minorities; Yakans, Samals, Badjaos and Tausugs.
Some of the Claretian missionaries expelled from China arrived there in 1951. Some years later, one of them was appointed bishop when the mission was made a Prelature in 1964. For several years, the Claretian USA West Province collaborated with Bishop Querexeta in the eastern part of the Island, and the Betica Province in the western zone. In addition to the pastoral service to the Christians, several schools, clinics and a radio station were opened at the service of the human and cultural development of all the inhabitants of the island. The cultural and religious barriers, lately aggravated by fundamentalist attitudes, have always been a serious challenge to the missionary activity. In addition to English, Visayan and Chabacano (a sort of Creole Spanish language or Pidgin Spanish) spoken by the Christian sector, it was necessary to learn also Yakan, Samal, Badjao and Tausug in order to bring the missionary activity closer to the Moslems.
Bro. Joseph M. Torres became especially popular through his work in the clinic of Lamitan. In 1972 a new very sad phase began in the history of this young Church, with the declaration of Martial Law on the part of the dictator Marcos and the secessionist rebellion on the part of the Moslems. War broke out with unprecedented violence and death. Just when Moslem fundamentalism was becoming more and more radical, the Church opened up to a dialogue of life with them. During these years the work of indigenisation of clergy and religious was intensified, turning over to them most of our pastoral and cultural institutions, while the Claretians went towards the front lines of the dialogue of life with the Moslem brothers. At present we still keep three small parishes with a Catholic minority of 10%. The main efforts are carried out through many programs among the Moslem cultural minorities, with whom we try to establish an authentic dialogue of life and faith by accepting them with their religion and culture and promoting the cause of reconciliation, of justice and of peace.
Kuravilangad-Bangalore (Founded in 1970) Province of Bangalore.
To the south of the immense Indian territory we find one of the most flourishing regions of Christianity: Kerala, of oriental rite, where Kuravilangad belongs. The Congregation saw there the possibility of establishing a mission centre that could in time extend to the entire peninsula. The German Province threw itself into this task from the very beginning and to this end it did not spare any means to bring about this work that appeared to be so promising. The first vocations were sent to Germany for their studies. At present the native missionaries are many and the number of vocations continues increasing. The first Seminary was founded in Kuravilangad in 1970. In 1971 the Claretians are already in Bangalore. In 1982 their missionary activity spreads to Bhattiprolu, Medchal and Nallajerla (Andra Pradesh), a mostly Hindu zone. In 1984 the Province of India is erected and becomes independent from Germany that continues working in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
The Claretian presence in the Northeast of India goes back to the year 1984. The Claretian Missionaries were invited by the Bishop of Tura Meghalaya, a zone inhabited by tribal groups coming from Mongolia, China and Burma whose orography includes great mountains and hills, impenetrable forests, rivers and wild animals… About 50% of the inhabitants are Catholic. Catholicism had arrived to this area one hundred years earlier. In 1986 the house of studies of Shillong was opened. In 1988 the Archbishop of Bangalore invited the Claretians to assume a rural zone of his diocese, an area of 30 sq. km., 40 km. from Bangalore, with only 17 Catholic families. That same year the mission centre of Peddabayalu was opened. This is an exclusively tribal zone of Andra Pradesh, where the very word missionary is suspicious due to earlier political intrigues of the missionaries. For all practical purposes, there are no Catholics in the zone. In 1989 the mission of Wardha, state of Maharashtra, was inaugurated. Also in 1989 the “All Saints” mission was established in Rongra, a centre of 45 villages along the border with Bangladesh. And in the same year the “Saint Anthony M. Claret” mission was assumed in Ampathi, in the centre of the tribal zone of Garo, with 44 villages in a radius of 20 km.
In 1994, a dependent Delegation is established within this Province for the Catholics of Syro-Malabar rite, comprising the houses of Kuravilangad, Wardha and Uythiri missions, and the parishes of Bangalore.
Karumathur (Founded in 1976) Province of Chennai.
In 1974 the native Claretians of India started their first mission in Karumathur, spiritual centre of the Kallars, 25 km. away from Madurai, Tamil Nadu. When the Claretians started working in India in 1970, they considered raising autochthonous vocations as their priority. To this end they placed a missionary in this zone with the intention of establishing a Seminary and a mission. Because the Kallars are poor and dwell in small villages, they started with the “Claret Social Service Centre,” that began by digging out drinking water wells, creating schools and organising health centres.
The Province of India was separated from Germany in 1984, while Karumathur, the zone of Tamil Nadu and the mission of Sri Lanka became that same year a Delegation dependent from Germany. It also kept Barrackpore, diocese of Calcutta, to the north. In Karumathur, in addition to the Seminary, a mission parish is also attended in non-Christian territory, with an impressive work of human promotion among the Hindus.
In 1993 the new Claretian Province of Madras, today Chennai, is created, comprising the Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa areas and South-eastern Bihar. That same year the missions of Silda, Amarda and Tolahar are founded. The Sri Lanka mission continues as a mission of Germany.
Suai-East Timor (Founded in 1991) Philippine Province.
The first contact with Timor was made through the Timorese residents of the Claretian Parish of Darwin, Australia. In 1987 the first visit to the zone took place with a view to the foundation. East Timor has 13 regions and 12 cities with more than 710,000 inhabitants, of which 90% are Catholic. Fohorem, 20,000 inhabitants, lies about 25 km. from Suai and from here to Dili, capital of East Timor, there are about 205 km. It is a very mountainous zone, with peaks of up to 1,500 m. The roads are not very good. One has to cross about 20 rivers, some of which do not even have a bridge, and wading across them can be an ordeal due to the rains and strong currents. The local language of East Timor is Tetum, although the official language of Indonesia is the Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language). There are about 32 dialects. The people are simple and hardworking. The churches are packed with people during the Eucharistic celebrations, even on weekdays. The Claretians work in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima, since the foundation began on May 13.
The Claretians also assumed the region of Bobonaro, about 250,000 inhabitants, adjacent to the mission of Fohorem, also in a mountainous zone (from 1,000 to 3,000 meters high). It is the largest mission territory of the diocese of Dili. Since 1992 the Major Seminary has also been functioning in Kupang, provincial capital in West Timor.
Lately there has been a great increase of vocations. The Claretians too have thrived in this field. We already have Claretian Seminarians and our own Seminary. In 1995 the first 13 native Claretian Seminarians made their first profession. At present a new formation post is being created in Yogyakarta. In 1997 this territory was constituted as a Dependent Delegation of the Philippine Province. In 1999 the first native priest was ordained.
Osaka (Founded in 1951) East Asian Delegation.
Fr. Schweiger proposed to the General Council the foundation of a mission in Japan on the occasion of the Centennial of the Foundation of our Congregation (1949) and of the Canonisation of Fr. Claret (1950). On 9 September 1951, the first Claretian, Fr. Anthony Briskey, arrived in Japan. He was shortly followed by others who lodged in the old diocesan seminary in Osaka, where “at the gate they had prepared for them about 20 pairs of slippers to change their footwear.” The first local government of Imaichi, place of the first foundation, took possession of office in the seminary on 1 November 1951. The transfer to the house of Imaichi took place on 30 December 1951 and the inauguration of the house on 2 January 1952. Soon they decided to build a school. In less than three years they had three houses there, and it became a Visitorship and a Delegation in 1954.
The first difficulties they experienced were the language and the inculturation into a cultural reality so different and rich, and new in the Congregation. Their main work was the parish ministry. They created some kindergartens attached to the parishes in order to connect with the people. From there, the apostolic work was extended to the families and the youth. Expansion was quick: the parishes of Kori, Takatsuki, Hirakata, Kadoma. In 1957 the Keiko Gakuen school was founded; in 1959, the parish of Ibaraki, and in 1962, that of Shijonawate. Later on Nagoya was constituted, the first foundation outside the limits of the diocese of Osaka. At the beginning it was intended as a Seminary, but it only functioned as kindergarten, because that same year the vocation crisis came. Also, the missionary centre of Nagoya became a parish under the name of Midorigaoka, dedicated to Fr. Claret. In 1978 a community was founded in the capital city of Tokyo, dedicated to formation of seminarians and to youth ministry.
The missionary concern has been expanding toward neglected and working-class zones of Osaka, where the missionaries work in ecumenical collaboration with other Christian and non-Christian groups, and with civic organisations. At present they are working in several parishes, a school and in the field of missionary animation and the marginalised world. In 1994 the parish of Ibaraki, where we had been working for 30 years, was turned over to the diocese and a new residence was constructed in a neglected zone of Kamagasaki.
Colombo (Founded in 1991) Province of Germany.
Sri-Lanka started as a Mission of the German Province together with the Indian zone of Tamil Nadu. There were already several native Claretians from Sri Lanka even before June 1991, when the presence of the Claretians became stable in this Asian island which was called Ceylon during the colonial time. The first Sri Lankan Claretian priest was one of those who took residence in Colombo, the capital, in September of 1991.
The work of the Congregation in Sri Lanka had started in the 80’s, through a Sri Lankan religious Sister who was working with the Claretians in India. After her vacation, she brought some young men to India. There they studied the Humanities and Philosophy and made their Noviciate. Since they could not take up the theological studies in India for political reasons, they continued their Theology in the Philippines. Sri Lanka is mostly a Buddhist country (69.5%), but it has a higher percentage of Christians than other Asian countries. With its 7.5% Christians (6.8% Catholics) it is the third Asian country, after the Philippines and Vietnam, with higher number of Christians. The Congregation has a house in Jaffna, to the North of the country, but the pastoral work is next to impossible there because of the veritable civil war that is being waged there, which has already taken many lives of priests, sisters and lay people. For this reason work has already started in the capital and in the Centre among the labourers of the tea plantations. In 1994 a formative community was founded in Guyudeniya (Kandy), and in 1997 the first Noviciate was started.
Since 1993, when the Province of Chennai (Madras) was created, Sri Lanka is the only Mission that remains dependent from Germany.
Taipei (Funded in 1994) East Asian Delegation.
Since January 15, 1994 the Claretians are in this island as a step towards Continental China. It arose as a fruit of the beatification of our martyrs of Barbastro, some of whom saw their dream of going to China shattered. In Taipei they are presently serving a parish and a residence. For the time being, the greatest difficulty of this mission is the language that requires at least two years of study. The political regime of Continental China does not allow as of now the entrance of foreign missionaries. However, they were able on two occasions to visit the old Claretian mission of Tunki and even to contact a catechist who remembered that mission as it was before the Maoist revolution.
CLARETIAN MISSIONS IN EAST EUROPE
Priwalka and Zelwa (Funded in 1991-92) Province of Poland.
We started to work in Priwalka, diocese of Grozno. Later on the pastoral work was extended to Zelwa (1991), where the church had to be restored. The main task is catechesis at all levels, due to the total lack of formation brought about by the implacable religious persecution during the Soviet era. One of the great difficulties the missionaries have to face is the language: the old folks speak Polish, the middle-aged Russian, and the children Belorussian. The other great difficulty is the lack of priests. The Claretians are serving seven parishes.
Podbrezova y Tuzina (Founded in 1996-97) Province of Poland.
The General Government entrusted to the Polish Province in 1996 the foundation in Slovakia. At first, the city of Brezno, 40,000 inhabitants, in the diocese of Banska Bystryca was considered, but finally it was decided to start the work on a smaller scale, in the small town of Podbrezova, with 4,000 inhabitants, 6 km away from Brezno. Pastoral work is done in Slovak and the mission is limited, for the present, to the administration of the sacraments and the formation of children and lay adults. They also attend to the village of Myto pod Dumbierom, a tourist zone where about one thousand people live. In this zone there are few religious and, even in the material aspect, everything is still to be done, after the long years of religious persecution. In 1997 the Claretians extended their pastoral work to Tuzina and Klacno, of the same diocese, with a population of 3,000 inhabitants.
Prague (Founded in 1995) Province of Germany.
In 1994 the first exploration was made towards the foundation in the Czech Republic. After studying the various possibilities, it was deemed better to found in the capital, Prague. Once the first difficulties and the learning of the language were overcome, work began basically with of young Czechs from the Faculty of Agriculture of the University where the Claretians are chaplains. Out of these groups a small active contingent has already been formed, willing to work summers in Belorussia. They also collaborate with various parishes and serve the Spanish-speaking colony, ambassadors, embassy employees and a good number of Cubans residing there. In 1999 a parish was accepted in the diocese of Plzen.
Krasnoyarsk (Founded in 1992) General Government.
In 1991 a Claretian from the Polish Province and a postulant from Siberia went deep into the vast Siberian region with the purpose of connecting with all this zone where there were still remnants of the Catholic religion. After several subsequent visits and a thorough dialogue with the Bishop of Novosibirsk, the mission of Krasnoyarsk was accepted.
The zone belongs to the Asian part of Oriental Siberia. The entire extension of the parish would be about 7 times the territory of Poland and more than 5 times that of Spain: the second largest parish of the world. The city of Krasnoyarsk has 950,000 inhabitants and the zone about 3,600,000, with a great variety of nationalities, among which there are also Polish, Lithuanians, Germans… The climate is cold: polar in the north. The surface is covered with forest and tundra. Its main industry are coal and metal mines.
The religious situation is going through a moment of revival. Their faith is generic. The most practised religion is the Christian Orthodox and there is also a resurgence of Protestant groups. Religious books are abundantly used. The absence of Catholic priests is very noticeable and in the zone there are at present no priests or religious with fixed residence.
An important work is being done through the Claretianum Publishing House by means of the publication and distribution of Catholic books; in fact the Claretians have been the first to publish the Liturgy of the Hours and the Lectionary of the Mass in Russian. In 1997 the Parish-Community was divided in two: Krasnoyarsk and Atschinsk.
St. Petersburg (Founded in 1998) Province of Castile
In 1995, on the occasion of the Centennial of the Province, and having integrated the missions of Panama and Honduras in the Province of Central America, the General Government entrusted to the Province of Castile the foundation of a community in European Russia. Toward the end of 1996 the first two missionaries were sent to the community of Krasnoyarsk, in Siberia, to learn the Russian language. On 16 July 1998 took place the foundation in St. Petersburg, a city of 5 million inhabitants, old capital of the Czarist Russia until the Bolshevik revolution. The majority of the population are Orthodox but it still has a small number of Catholics, despite the persecutions of the Soviet era. During all this time the properties of the Catholic Church are being recovered, among them, the seminary, the cathedral and several churches. St. Petersburg belongs to the archdiocese of Moscow. The basic work of the Claretians till now has been the formation of the candidates in the one Catholic seminary in Russia. At the same time, the seminary for the postulants of the Province has been created. In addition to this, other activities in the service of the Word are being done, such us retreats, conferences, ecumenical dialogue, etc. The Claretians have also been made Dean of Studies in the seminary and President of the Conference of Religious in Russia.
In April 2000 the Bishop of Moscow has given to the Claretians the parish of Murmansk, a city with half million inhabitants, some 1,400 km North of St. Petersburg, in the Arctic Circle. It is the Northernmost Catholic parish. Since this parish was founded in 1916, there has been no religious presence until the fall of Communism. The number of Catholics is very scarce and one must begin from zero.
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