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Evangelization Missions among Guaraní Tribes
After 6 months of preparation, Missionary Youth of Buenos Aires had its summer mission.

Juventud misionera Agentina 3
(Buenos Aires, Argentina) - After 6 months of preparation, Missionary Youth of Buenos Aires, an organization directed by the Legionaries of Christ, began its summer mission on February 1st, 2001. This took place in the northeast region of Argentina in the province of Misiones. The young lay missionaries, who departed from Santa María de Betania Parish in Buenos Aires, were very enthusiastic. The trip took sixteen hours with only three brief stops. They spent the night in the town of San Ignacio Miní, where Jesuit Missionaries founded a mission towards the end of the seventeenth century; this site was the location for the filming of the popular movie, "The Mission".

On February 3rd, the 24 missionaries were divided between the two communities: Pastoreo and Isolinas. They made the chapel and school available for all the activities. They slept on the floor of a classroom in sleeping bags for a few hours´ rest each night. Providence was with them from the beginning as they contacted the catechists and leaders of the communities, who received them with joy and with the desire to learn something from them. The next day, they began their mission in pairs going door to door, conversing with the families, and inviting them to the different activities that they had prepared for the afternoons. They had temperatures of 103º F, lots of humidity, strong and sporadic rains that turned the red clay into sticky mud. Thanks to the initiative of some of the young men in the group, they were able to extend their reach to another town, Santo Domingo Savio. Because of this, seven of the missionaries from the Isolina community were moved to this town, and they found shelter in a small school.

Father Arturo Díaz, a Legionary of Christ priest, accompanied by a religious, Brother Joseph Fazio, was the chaplain, traveled from town to town bringing the sacraments to the villagers.

The next day, another major event took place: the first encounter with the Guaraníes. Father Arturo and Brother Joseph ran into the Chief of the Misiones province as they were searching for one of the villages.

Even though the Chief had to go to Posadas, the province capital, he gladly accompanied the two Legionaries to a village to show them around and to make sure that they would be allowed to enter. Though it is common to see Guaraní natives walking up and down the streets or selling arts and crafts in town, very few people actually ever visit them in their villages. They usually live deep in the jungle and not near the path that connects both communities. Their houses are of sugar cane and bamboo and they bathe in the creek that runs a few yards from the village. Children, wearing torn clothes and some of them even naked, came out to meet the visitors, while always remaining cautious and distrustful. They only speak their native tongue and they do not learn Spanish until they are ten or eleven years old. After greeting the Chief of this town, the two Legionaries obtained permission to return with the other missionaries and teach Catechism, bless the houses, and to attend to other needs.

The young men served as missionaries to two Guaraní tribes though there was a third one that they could not find. They discovered a people formed in the faith from the time when the first Jesuit missionaries arrived four centuries ago. Now they found them abandoned and the great majority had never been baptized. Yet, they have retained their faith by teaching the children songs and by celebrating Christmas and Holy Week as the most important feasts of the year. They told the missionaries that this was the first time that they had received a visit from a priest in many years.

The Catechesis that the missionaries taught in each town culminated in the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and first holy communion on Wednesday, February 7th and on Thursday, February 8th. Altogether, forty-five people were baptized and fifty-three received first holy communion. Some of the other achievements were the formation of youth clubs and the training of catechists. In remembrance of the mission, the missionaries put up a big cross in front of the chapel in Isolina with the inscription, "Open the doors to your Savior, Jesus Christ".

On the last day, Friday, February 9th, after a visit to the Iguazú Falls on the border with Brazil, the concluding Mass was celebrated by Father Arturo Díaz, LC with the participation of all the missionaries, many catechists and even the chief of a Guaraní tribe and his family.

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