(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
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
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.
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.
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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