PARAGUAY, Maria Fischer •
On the 21 March 2017, Mother of Tupãrenda House was festively decorated for the celebration of the Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation of seven participants from the CMT Project that through their own volition enthusiastically prepared for months with Cristina Santa Cruz, who generously accompanied them. CMT is a center for work training and human development of youths released from the juvenile detention center; it is located in the shadow of Tupãrenda’s Schoenstatt Shrine, and it is a permanent fruit of the Year of Mercy.
Seven youths dressed in white shirts, willing to receive Jesus into their hearts, willing to go through life in the hands of him who came to save sinners, those who never had an opportunity, the sick of body and soul, the marginalized, the poor… The yellow and white balloons, the flowers and all Mother of Tupãrenda House’s decorations reflected the great feast celebrated in heaven for this moment of grace – this moment of Jesus’ warm embrace of his favorite brothers, of the paternal welcome of God the Father for these sons who have returned home…that is, who have come home for the first time. “We are inside a miracle, we can touch a miracle with our hands,” commented Ani Souberlich, the director of Mother of Tupãrenda House. It is true and we should always remember it: what was experienced at this celebration is a miracle, a miracle of transformation from the human and divine welcome that these youths experienced; it is miracle born in the warm, eternal, repeated hugs that these youths seek and give…Hugs that are converted into signs of the Merciful Father’s warm embrace, which they freely returned when they asked for Baptism, Communion and Confirmation.
It was worthwhile to set everything aside to be at this celebration
It was worth it to launch oneself by car into the terrible traffic from Asunción to be there. It was worth it taking an overnight flight from Costa Rica to be here; it was worthwhile to set everything aside to participate… Ana Maria Mendoza de Acha, President of Fundaprova, the legal entity behind Mother of Tupãrenda House, along with other members of Fundaprova, Fr. Pedro Kühlcke, Maria Fischer, Cristy Santa Cruz, the instructors, volunteers, a reporter…everyone was present at 12:00 p.m. to share this celebration with the seven youths and their companions, and to welcome Bishop Joaquín Robledo of San Lorenzo on his first visit to Mother of Tupãrenda House, the first rehabilitation and integration center (or, in fact, the first integration) of young offenders in his diocese and in the entire country, carried out with the great help of the Paraguayan Justice Ministry and the solidarity and commitment of many in Paraguay and in the International Movement.
The celebration began with a festive luncheon. There were brief speeches from the Bishop, Ana Maria Acha, Fr. Pedro, and Ani Souberlich…but the surprise came afterwards. Two youths from the Mother of Tupãrenda House asked to speak. They spoke simply and emotionally about their dreams, their gratitude… On Saturdays, Martín takes a computer repair course. How do you pay for a course that is not free? “With what I receive for my work in Mother of Tupãrenda House.” Which of the two faces is prouder, Martín’s or Fr. Pedro’s? Rafael explained that he wants to work as a barber “and then to study to be a lawyer to help youths like me,” he added. Later after lunch and while Fr. Pedro and Ani Souberlich showed the Bishop the bakery, and the house’s quarters. Martín explained to Maria why all the walls of the house are painted white. “It is the first time that I have been in a house with white walls. Before everything was dark. White is a color of peace and tranquility; it is what helps me to do very well. I want peace and tranquility, and Mother of Tupãrenda House gives it to me.” Later he explained what the green color and the yellow color of the grapefruits of the large tree in front of house mean: joy, future, and hope. The grapefruit he gave with the shy smile of a friend is the most precious gift of my entire life.
The two speakers with Ana Maria Acha, President of Fundaprova (Photo caption)
Sons of God
Finally everyone went to the Shrine, some went by car, but the majority walked. Parents, siblings, girlfriends and several babies attended. Yes, many of these youths are already fathers…assuming their responsibility.
Everything for the Mass and the sacraments was prepared in the pavilion. The Mass was celebrated accompanied with guitar and songs, like the ones sung at the Mission Masses, the Movement Masses. But this was not a Mass like others. It was a Mass with twenty-three youths who, as Fr. Pedro explained, felt like a ball thrown in an open field without belonging to anyone, the object of being hit, thrown… left to the mere struggle of survival and knowing only the language of weapons, violence, and stealing. It was here that they learned to sing, to speak instead of shouting, to live instead of surviving…Now seven of them are one step from being more of God’s sons. More… because they are already God’s sons, Jesus died and rose for them as for me.
Everyone renewed the Baptismal promises, along with the two boys who asked for Baptism. We did not want to leave them alone to pronounce their yes, their no. While the long ceremony took place, something was changed. They, the marginalized, the excluded, did not exclude us at this unique moment of grace. That is how it is. We were the privileged participants in God’s greatest celebration, the celebration of mercy.
We celebrated the Year of Mercy – now what?
We celebrated the Year of Mercy – now what? Works of mercy…Release the prisoners. No, it is to visit the prisoners. However it is also to release them. Release them from their addictions that help them forget hunger and abandonment, their habits acquired in the street, in jail…to take them to a place where they feel loved, welcomed, worthy, and to feel what they are: sons of God, loved, called.
I thought about taking them a little gift, besides my presence, my articles, and my call to support them with prayer and donations. I took a little bag with Pope Francis’ crosses from Rome; these he blessed these Good Shepherd crosses. I thought: I hope there are seven – for the seven who would receive the sacraments. Or for all of them? I could not resist counting the crosses, while I recorded the homily. I got goose bumps. There were exactly 23 – the exact number of the participants in Mother of Tupãrenda House’s program.
After the Year of Mercy, what? What remains is Mother of Tupãrenda House.
Reality and the miracle
After the Mass, everyone went on pilgrimage to the Shrine for the final blessing to give these young men to the Blessed Mother. The Holy Mass is celebrated here once a week. Now they sang, prayed and joyfully received their gifts… It was a covenant celebration, of solidarity, hope and trust.
Mother of Tupãrenda receives, welcomes, transforms and sends forth….
The celebration ended with refreshments for all the relatives who attended; there was cake, chocolate, and the inevitable photos of everyone with everyone, with brief speeches of gratitude, interviews, words of recognition for the Justice Ministry for their support and for all the volunteers, collaborators, and benefactors…
And it is a time to return to reality for a few seconds – it is a hard moment at the end of the celebration – that serves to always remember, that what was experienced this day is a miracle and reality, where it comes and where it goes is another thing, it is very different, and it is worthwhile to know it in order to understand that we are living witnesses to miracles… and agents of miracles.
Everyone can be a witness and agent of miracles in prayer and through donations for Mother of Tupãrenda House, every one of its users. Sometimes it is a guitar, a shoe or white shirt that makes the difference between hopelessness and a miracle.
Account in Paraguay:
Sudameris Bank SAECA, BIC BSUDPYPXXXX
Account in Europe (transfers within SEPA zone are free)
Schönstatt-Patres International e. V.
IBAN: DE91 4006 0265 0003 1616 26
Intended Use: Casa Madre de Tuparenda, P. Pedro Kuehlcke
Our hope is not a concept, it is not a sentiment, it is not a mobile phone, and it is not a heap of riches! Our hope is a Person, it is the Lord Jesus who we recognize living and present in us and in our brothers because Christ is risen.”
Pope Francis, 5.4.2017
Original: Spanish. 7 April 2017. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA