Something is Stirring in Central America
The Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign of the Pilgrim Mother paved the way for the development of Schoenstatt in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
CENTRAL AMERICA, Fr.Francisco José Cox. In the Central American countries where there are neither Schoenstatt Shrines, nor Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, nor Schoenstatt Fathers, the Rosary Campaign of the Pilgrim Virgin grows and is paving the way for the coming forth of the first Schoenstatt groups. She is the Great Missionary! She will work miracles!
It has been a decade since the Blessed Mother broke ground in Central America. Through the hands of her indefatigable apostle, Fr. Esteban Uriburu, she opened the way as "The Great Missionary". In 1984, many missionary images were sent out in the context of the International Rosary Campaign; a moment of aggressive and inspired expansion of the campaign which since 1950 Don Joao Pozzobon had silently promoted through the South of Brazil. Thus through different means, pilgrim images arrived in Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, and little by little El Salvador and Costa Rica were added; at this moment, only she knows where her images are traveling.
The Initiative of Fr.Esteban Uriburu
During this phase Fr. Esteban supported, motivated, and coordinated, especially from Miami, all of the apostolic work which this implies. The central and high point was the General Meeting of the Campaign in Panama city in 1995 where almost 200 coordinators from all of Central America and Panama gathered. The illness and death of Fr. Esteban in 1998 produced a certain "apostolic dispersion" in this area.
Due to the active presence of the Schoenstatt Family from Guayaquil in those countries and through the responsibility of the Pentecost Province of the Schoenstatt Fathers, Fr. Jose Luis Nieto began to travel to this area. His task consisted partly in giving pastoral assistance to the campaign and to also slowly support the beginning of the organized movement through the founding of groups of families, mothers, and youth, especially in Costa Rica. The latter has meant a new foundation phase in Central America and Panama which translates into new challenges for them and for us.
Fr. Cox told us: "Since September of 2000, it has been my task to continue this work entrusted to the province. On three opportunities I have already visited Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama. I want to share with you what is happening and at the same time I want to invite you to share with us this foundation history".
A Complex Reality
Central America is often seen as a uniform reality; what the central European mentality calls "banana republics", beaches with palm trees and sunshine galore, blue and crystal-clear water, rhythm, fiestas and unrestraint, united with poverty, political anarchy, corruption and low educational levels. The reality is richer, more complex and more differentiated than this stereotype.
Panama: Renovation of Missionary Commitment
Panama is a country with almost three million inhabitants, with more than one million in Panama City. It is marked by a cosmopolitan culture as well as a gravitating presence of the United States and by the amount of Black, Asian, and Latino immigrants thus being descendants of those who worked on the epic construction of the canal. It is said today that there are more than one thousand images scattered throughout the territory along with the association of the Pilgrim Virgin which was founded by Fr. Esteban. The pillar of this task is Fr. Romulo Aguilar, a Panamanian diocesan priest who had a very close association with Fr. Esteban. He is a priest with great human and religious qualities whose functions include being secretary to the Panamanian Episcopal Conference. He is a great guarantee for the actual and future development of the Family in this country and has furthermore made possible contact with a group of families which has accompanied him for many years. This group may be the foundation for the beginning of the Families Branch.
The central point of Fr. Cox’s last visit was the General Meeting of the Campaign this past 5th of September 2001. The objective of the meeting was to motivate the coordinators in their task. Almost 150 persons from six regions of Panama renewed their commitment as coordinators in the Rosary Campaign.
He told us that they want to have this meeting each year until each coordinator can grasp, revitalize, and renew in depth their own individual task.
Costa Rica: Organic Growth
It is the most stable country of the region. It has almost four million inhabitants with a strong Hispanic impression. It is marked from birth with the culture of the ranches and plantations which in these latter times has been modified due to the strong emigration of people from Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia who arrive searching for a place of peace and security instead of the difficulties of their own countries.
Here, Schoenstatt came forth thanks to a group of couples and mothers among which are people from Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile. From there, during the last few years, three groups of families, one group of mothers, one group of girls’ youth and the Campaign of the Pilgrim Virgin have come about. It is an organic and strong growth, lived in the Covenant of Love. They have a good group of leaders with plans to create more new groups. This is also evident in the campaign. A providential support has been Pablo and Francisca Brunner from the Family Institute. Due to professional reasons, he has had to travel to Costa Rica and he is able to take advantage of his visits to work especially with the groups of families.
Guatemala: Multi-faceted Beginnings
This country has more inhabitants than one would realize: 11 million. It has a strong indigeneous and mixed component. It is similar to Southeast Mexico—Chiapas/Yucatan. There Blessed Mother has had a "many-sided focus" beginning.
A very interesting focus is Esquipulas: the "faith capital of Central America"(John
Paul II). It is a city located close to the border with Honduras and El Salvador where the most famous place of pilgrimage in the region exists. Since 1599, every year close to 1.5 million Central Americans go on pilgrimage to venerate a marvelous Black Christ image which they have there. There all feel as brothers. They feel they are together in a common place, in a country for all.
The life in connection with the Campaign came about thanks to a Puerto Rican Benedictine monk (Fr. Miguel Rodriguez) who learned of Schoenstatt in the shrine at Hatillo, Puerto Rico. Slowly and through contacts he made, groups of families, mothers, and young professional female youth came about in 1998. The engineer, head of the most important cooperative for consumers and savings in the area, placed his home as the center for the Family and thus was born the homeshrine "Mantle of Mary" where the members of this small Family gather.
The other focuses are three beginnings of the campaign, independent of each other, in Guatemala City. One is in zone 11 and came about in 1990 thanks to the efforts promoted by the International Rosary Campaign from Argentina. Another in zone 18 came about through efforts from Madison, Wisconsin in 1996, and the third focus came about thanks to Fr. Esteban from Buenos Aires, when he entrusted a pilgrim image to friends, an Argentine/Guatemalan couple. Until this trip, there had been no contact among them. Thanks to a meeting held on September 15, 2001 the work of revitilization and reorganization in Guatemala City could begin.
Support for all tasks of founding Schoenstatt is based on the two pillars of Schoenstatt: "NOTHING WITHOUT YOU, NOTHING WITHOUT US". Therefore, I invite you to participate in two "campaigns". First, to urge our Blessed Mother to dwell among us through our Treasury of Grace; each of us knows what, how and when we can give her our acts of love. Secondly, and also very important, support through emails, letters, visits to the families if we travel to the area and above all assist in missionary services during vacation time in support of a special task. "This can be done in coordination with me," said Fr. Cox.
"The initiative to go on pilgrimage to Bellavista to assume the mission and to have time for leaders’ training in the shadow of the shrine is awakening in them. As you can see, it deals with a significant history of beginnings where the Blessed Mother, the Great Missionary, is entering this area and invites us to accompany her and to work with her in the task of renewing the church and society in these countries which are in great need especially to enter with strength and character into the new millennium.
SHE IS THE GREAT MISSIONARY! SHE WILL WORK MIRACLES’!
with permission from : VINCULO, Translation: Carlos Cantú, LaFeria, Texas, USA
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