PARAGUAY, Prison pastorate, Visitación de María (Mary’s Visitation), by Abrahán Martínez and Rafael Medina •
The 8th December is when Paraguay’s love for Mary comes to a climax – thousands of pilgrims walk the long road to the shrine of the Mother of God at Caacupé. There our Mother welcomes her children with the same love with which she accompanied her Son, Jesus, in his mission – to the cross. From this cross he gave a great gift to us through the beloved disciple. That gift is Mary.
A pilgrimage in prison
This year we experienced a great pilgrimage during which the distance of many kilometres shrank to a few meters. The path led not between fields and villages, but between bars and passages filled with so many stories silenced by a society in which righteousness is more a privilege than a right.
We are talking about a pilgrimage of the “Visitación de María” prison pastorate at the youth correctional centre of Itaguá. After a very beautiful Mass Fr Pedro Kühlcke began a pilgrimage with a statue of our Lady of Caacupé, which we accompanied with prayer, devotion, faith and hope – and many other images that were set up along the way. A simple guitar stopped playing in front of each block of cells in order to greet Tupãsy Caacupé with a Hail Mary. We moved from one block of cells to the next until we returned to her shrine, because her home here is a little cell, a multi-purpose room within the prison. So once again Mary was more present in the simplicity of many hearts that hope in her to conquer true freedom.
Experiencing the love of Christ
For our team engaged in the prison chaplaincy our pilgrimage did not come to an end with this celebration. Since the beginning of the year each Saturday sees a new miracle and a new pilgrimage – either in the catechetical group, in the bountiful refreshments for constantly hungry young people, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation which these young people seek with so much longing, or in the sad stories each of them tells one of us in confidence.
We never imagined making a pilgrimage in a prison, much less that we would experience Christ’s love so tangibly and in such simple things at such a poor place: in the stories of each of the young people, in each “Thank you, Brother” that we hear, and through each vigorous embrace … And to know that the only thing we need is to place ourselves at her disposal as her instrument – and to leave everything else to God’s Providence. We sow and plough, and the Holy Spirit gives the growth and a wonderful harvest.
Called to be witnesses of the faith
This pilgrimage knows no pause or rest, because Christ calls us to witness to the faith – without looking at our limitations. He calls us into his truth, just as he calls each one of the imprisoned youth. It is a road that is only just starting. This pilgrimage is meant to reach the hearts of the most forgotten. With our hope and Christ’s mercy we simply continue and bring each one of our Blessed Mother’s favourite children a little bit of real hope.
How can I donate?
Bank account in Paraguay
Account No. 001-065259-003
Congregación Padres de Schoenstatt
Bank account in Europe
Schönstatt-Patres International e. V.
IBAN DE91 4006 0265 0003 1616 26
Reference: P. Pedro Kuehlcke, Casa Madre de Tuparenda
We do it for them.
Original: German. Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, England