Fr. Pedro Kühlcke, Paraguay •
A few days ago I received a letter in Italian, supposedly from some Trappist nuns in the United States, offering me financial help for social projects at the service of the poorest, and wanting to know what we do in this field. —
I answered them in English, since I don’t know enough Italian, and told them about our prison ministry “Visitation of Mary”, and our post-prison program “House Mother of Tupãrenda”. I also wrote that we need support specifically to pay for the scholarships of our young beneficiaries.
A fraud in the style of the “Nigeria Scam” or “Nigeria connection”
It seemed that these nuns liked my letter a lot, as they promised me a good sum of money! We were very happy with this wonderful surprise! But…
But they also asked us for help to get a sum of money to a very sick widow in the DR Congo. That seemed a bit strange to me, and at the suggestion of our General Treasurer, Fr. Pablo Pol, I called the monastery in question directly.
A very kind nun answered me, and told me that unfortunately this letter is a fraud, and that unscrupulous people have been using the good name of the Monastery and the Mother Abbess for months for their attempts at fraud.
Another variant of the so-called “Nigeria connection “fraud system, a type of advance fee fraud via mail (meanwhile also WhatsApp and Social Media) known since the 90ties of the last century. Initially, the senders pretended to be from Nigeria (therefore the name). The victim is first made to believe that he or she can earn an enormous fortune, or receive a huge donation, and only needs to advance a certain sum in order to facilitate the transfer or do some charity. The person making the advance payment will never again hear anything…
But maybe there is another reason behind
So I asked myself why Our Lady, the “Mother of Tupãrenda”, wanted me to write this letter in English about our apostolate. Is She surprising us again? Could it be that perhaps some of you, kind readers, are the true recipients of this letter? Will you feel motivated to support these young people who fight every day against their environment, their history, and for a more dignified and happy life?
If so, don’t hesitate to contact us: [email protected]
We thank you in advance for your attention and generosity, may God reward you abundantly!
The letter that describes the social projects of “Visitation of Mary” and “House Mother of Tuparenda”
Dear Mother Abbess,
I received your letter, and I want to thank you in advance for the generosity you show with it.
Let me introduce myself: I am Fr Pedro Kühlcke, a priest for 27 years, member of the Schoenstatt Fathers, born in Germany, raised in Argentina, and living in Paraguay since 2006.
Many young people open to faith
Since 2014 I am the catholic chaplain of the largest juvenile prison in Paraguay, near the capital city of Asunción. There are about 100 to 140 young boys between the ages of 14 and 18, all from the most poor social classes, most from dysfunctional families, with drug addiction problems, with very difficult life stories of poverty, abandonment, street life, and in prison because of various crimes, often due to poverty or addiction.
Since the beginning of my visits I have met many young people very open to faith, with great interest in prayer, in the sacraments, and in a sincere change of life. From the beginning we were able to put together a very committed team of lay people from the Schoenstatt Movement, with whom we visit the prison every Saturday. We bring a good snack for everyone, songs, sharing, and often also hygiene items, clothing, footwear, etc. For those interested we offer a brief catechesis of preparation for baptism, first communion and confirmation, with the requirement that those interested participate regularly on their own and free initiative.
With joy I can say that in these years we were able to celebrate more than 200 Baptisms, almost 200 First Communions and about 150 Confirmations. I visit the prison during the week as well, and there are always many young people eager to talk to me, confess, and participate in Sunday Mass.
How to start a better life
The biggest challenge we find is that when these boys finally get out of prison, they do not find support to start a different and better life. That is why the recidivism rate is very high – it is estimated that more than 60% of inmates return to jail after leaving it. There was no post-prison socio-labor insertion program in Paraguay. Therefore we decided to create one from scratch, in order to give an effective response to many young people who asked us for help, work, the opportunity to get ahead and not relapse. We, that means “Fundaprova”, a non-profit foundation created with members of the Schoenstatt Movement for this purpose.
Thanks to God and many benefactors, and with the support of the government, in 2016 we were able to set up a house on the grounds of our Schoenstatt Shrine in Tupãrenda, Itauguá, located only few kilometers from the prison. In this “House Mother of Tupãrenda”, the young people are offered a complete program of social and work insertion, with psychological, medical, legal, social work and addiction treatment support, and with the possibility of learning soft skills, work skills, and the horticultural trades, textile manufacturing and bakery and confectionery.
The program lasts 9 months, during which the boys attend from Monday to Friday during day time. They receive the corresponding meals, and also a financial scholarship for participation and compliance with the program. This point is very important, since they all come from situations of great poverty, with responsibilities for younger siblings, or in many cases for their own children. Without the money they recieve here, they would not be able to participate in our program.
It is a very individualized program, each participant begins when they are accepted. We have 20 places, which are almost always full, even with a waiting list for young people who, upon leaving prison, apply to enter the program.
In these years with satisfaction we can say that we already have 39 graduates of the program. Many of them work, most as professional bakers. Some have already been able to build their own houses, and form beautiful families, completely leaving behind the nightmare of living on the street, between abandonment, poverty, drugs and crime.
After graduation, we do a personal follow-up for a whole year. Out of 30 who completed that year, only two were in jail again – our goal of lowering the recidivism rate is being fully achieved!
The time of the Covid-19 pandemic affected us a lot: our prison ministry is extremely restricted, and the “House Mother of Tupãrenda” no longer had financial support from the government for more than a year. We only survived and continued to function and serve our young people by the grace of God and the support of many benefactors.
Only since this last month of May we are once again receiving partial financial support from the government, but it does not cover the most important thing: the scholarships for our participants! Each one receives Gs. 1,100,000 per month, which adds up to Gs. 22 million every month, approximately $us 3,250. We have to cover that sum every month, and many times we don’t know how.
If you are interested, we have many articles in English about our program: https://www.schoenstatt.org/en/category/reaching-out/projects/mother-of-tuparenda-house/
There are also many about prison ministry, most about our work here in the youth prison in Paraguay: https://www.schoenstatt.org/en/category/reaching-out/projects/prison/
All articles include photos, to better understand our apostolate. I also attach some photos.
Since you, dear Mother Abbess, wrote that beautiful letter with such a generous offer, I want to ask you for two favors:
First, and most importantly, that you pray for us – for the Prison Ministry and for the “House Mother of Tupãrenda”, and for each one of those young people who fight for that beautiful life that God has prepared for them.
And secondly, if possible, that you help us finance the scholarships of our young beneficiaries.
I thank you in advance on behalf of each of these young people for your interest and generosity. We know that you pray a lot, and we are counting on you! And we promise you our prayers for your community and your intentions.
United in Christ and Mary,
Fr Pedro Kühlcke