PARAGUAY, www.fides.org and editorial team •
From Tuesday of Holy Week until Easter, an army of 1,300 missionaries between the ages of 18 – 33 will invade a juvenile detention center and 13 rural areas in Paraguay with the objective of announcing the Good News to approximately 20,000 youths and adults that have little possibility of hearing it. “The missionary youths’ faith is solid, and many of them end by keeping their commitment to the Church throughout the time,” Fr. Pedro Kühlcke, ecclesiastical adviser to University Catholic Missions, noted to Fides Agency, illustrating the initiative. —
“I have always wanted to live Holy Week more profoundly,” a young girl named Ximena confessed; this Holy Week she will be in Coronel Oviedo Sur like last year. “It was the first time, and I knew that I had to get out of my comfort zone to find myself in prayer despite many sacrifices. But I also knew that it would be a time of fulfillment.
Every area welcomes the young missionaries over a period of three consecutive years to give solidarity on the way to growth in the communities. “In many of these communities, the Mass is celebrated once a month or even less often because of many reasons, such as distance, lack of access on dirt roads when it rains, or the scarcity of priests,” the organizers explained to Agencia Fides. Bruno said, “Thus in the first house made of dirt and straw we entered, (typical of the Paraguayan countryside), I realized that for this woman, we were what seemed more Christ-like and she had not seen that in a long time.”
“Very often we did not understand what the people say to us because of Guarani – the maternal language in most of Paraguay, but hardly spoken in the large urban areas. However what counts is our attitude of listening. When the people notice this, they feel loved, and they open themselves, freeing themselves of the burdens that weigh heavy upon their hearts.” Ruben, a Chilean resident in Paraguay, confesses: “I have found God in the children’s lively eyes, in the loving welcome I have received from the first moment. I pray for this mission.”
The Catholic University Missions have reached their 18th edition inspired by the homonymic initiative of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and it is encouraged and promoted by students with different charisms and from different ecclesial movements. The joy, enthusiasm, family spirit, and the profound spirituality, a characteristic of the Paraguayan people, moves the missionaries visiting the villages’ residents house by house. They take a Bible and a picture of the most-loved Blessed Mother with them to every community. Fifty-six percent of Paraguay’s population is less than 30 years old.
Something new in 2018
This is the first time that the University Catholic Missions will include Itauguá’s Educational Centers for juvenile offenders. The “Visitación de María” (“Mary’s Visit: a prison ministry”), Fr. Pedro Kühlcke’s great work, along with a group of committed Schoenstatters prepared the ground showing the great need for this type of work. The work in the Itauguá Educational Center, and in La Esperanza (Hope Educational Center) has been carried out for a little more than four years. The work of the ministry consists in taking the word of God to youths, carrying out catechesis for the Sacraments: Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation, and taking snacks every Saturday afternoon. Since October 2017, the missionary family began to accompany the ministry in these tasks by preparing hearts for what will be experienced during Holy Week.
“One of Pope Francis’ invitations is to live the mercy of God with our fellowman, following Jesus’ teaching, “Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world …for I was in prison and you visited me…” (Mt: 25:34-36), and this is how this beautiful mission emerged,” they commented on the Mission’s website, www.muc.org.py.
Original: Spanish. 23 February 2018. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA