PARAGUAY, Ayolas, by Alejandro and Eva Frías •
To begin to write the Family Branch history at Ayolas, one must begin around the year 1994, or perhaps much earlier than that with a large and enthusiastic group of women (mothers of families) and some men who began the Rosary Campaign in this community. They were thirty-six missionaries, who with their prayer, commitment, mission, apostolate and enthusiasm, made it possible that today we can speak about the Family Branch as a seedbed of St. José Mí Parish’s Family Ministry.
Another important milestone was the installation of the MTA Wayside Shrine in 1997, and the 2003 visit of Fr. Francisco Javier Pistilli, now the Bishop of Encarnación, to the Boys’ and Girls’ Youth.
Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst
The words that Jesus said to the Samaritan woman are very relevant today, and they are fulfilled in the fervent desire of a couples’ group, who had already learned about the road that takes them to the source having participated in the Marriage Encounter movement. Those couples approached Diocesan Coordinator, Elodia Amarilla, to ask how to begin the Family Branch at Ayolas. She contacted Fr. Antonio Cosp and the response was immediate.
Go… to a land that I will show you…
God’s words to Abraham can be applied to the lives of two people filled with love and commitment to God and the Blessed Mother: Papito and Chiquita (Sebastian and Concepción Martin) from Encarnación, who Fr. Antonio Cosp gave the mission of taking care of the nascent Family Branch at Ayolas.
The Blessed Mother placed her gaze on our land…
One Sunday of September 2014 – springtime in our hemisphere – and with the permission of the pastor, Fr. Bernardo Ríos, the Martins arrived at San Francisco Javier Chapel after the 7:00 a.m. Holy Mass; it was like announcement of a new flourishing in the Church. They introduced themselves with simplicity and the couples, that were fortunate to be at this first encounter, were drawn like a magnet in confidence toward what now would be our home, our community, our group…
It was decided that they would meet fifteen days later with the commitment of inviting more couples. Today, as I remember that moment, it is evident that it was Mary who acted: a Mother who gathers her children under her protection.
The attendance was good, little by little, in the measure that the Schoenstatt spirit was explained, a fervent desire to belong was awakened. Some details such as setting the day, times and frequency of the meetings were arranged. The Blessed Mother was slowly and profoundly conquering hearts.
Fr. Antonio Cosp at Ayolas
The Start-up meeting…the big day
The end of the year celebrations were over… 2015 began, a year of blessings!
The couples gathered again with great enthusiasm at San Francisco Javier Chapel on a beautiful April day. Many couples participated responding once again to the Blessed Mother’s call. The commitment became firmer, men and women conquered by a simple and quiet woman…
The new activity demanded a commitment thus the established schedule, place and date for the group meeting needed to be respected. Happily, Fabiana and César González, a young and committed couple, collaborated on the training. The meetings were bi-weekly, and after a few location changes, San Roque González Church was chosen. The gatherings were pleasant, with reflection, prayer, training and self-education. The group began to consolidate: fifteen couples prepared the bi-weekly meetings with their couples’ gatherings. The integration was such that finally the gatherings were held in the nascent community’s members’ homes.
First fruits and talents…
The months passed and the group was growing, carefully educated by the Blessed Mother with delicacy, love and understanding. The enthusiasm that those in charge instilled was such that they decided to invite the Hearts of Solidarity Group from Encarnación. It was a pleasant time, where once again, the love, solidarity and of course, the joy characteristic of the Blessed Mother’s children was shown. The brothers and sisters did not delay in reciprocating hospitality; at the end of November, they held the closing of the year gathering for all the branches at Encarnación. There were worthy representatives for the artistic segment, since the Lord gave the group a variety of talents, among them the possibilities of forming a choir in the future.
On this occasion, the group visited the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Itacuá, where they participated in the Eucharist before returning to their homes blessed and grateful for so many gifts.
One more step…
The end of the year celebrations were approaching, the cider, sweet bread and gatherings… Those in charge encouraged the group to take one more little step, to choose the leaders so they could grow in the process by the Blessed Mother’s hand. At a meeting held in the González Family home (Paty and Jorge) with the Fr. Yiyo’s presence, the election was held among the ten couples that had persevered in the training itinerary. The result was: Mario and Mirtha Fleitas, leaders; Alejandro and Eva Frias, sub-leaders; Patricia and Jorge González, treasurers. Other couples were given other tasks, and a blessed year ended, with the commitment to make the Family Branch grow in Ayolas.
The great gift…
The Martins, who were in charge of the group that they accompanied with love, patience and wisdom joyfully confirmed Fr. Antonio Cosp’s visit. On that day, even nature collaborated to prepare the ambience, the church had rarely accommodated such a large number of people eager to hear and to fully experience the Lord…and the Blessed Mother, who cannot be outdone in generosity, wanted to establish herself in San Roque González Church. On the night of 29 February, she was enthroned there to crown a gathering of joy, fulfillment and blessing. At the same time, the mission to form a second group of the Family Branch and begin the Ministry of Hope emerged.
A time to love
During 2016, the Blessed Mother continues to pamper her children confirming them in her choice. On 12-13 March, the first retreat was held at Tupãrenda: “A time to love” with the objective of reviving the fire of married love that for some had emerged decades ago, for others a few years. The group left strengthened having experienced God and the Blessed Mother’s love, now determined to serve the Church as Schoenstatters and endeavoring for other families to encounter Jesus through his Mother.