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 published: 2004-08-13

The Pilgrim Mother visits the victims of the fire at Ycuá Bolaños

Solidarity and confidence during the greatest tragedy in the modern history of Paraguay


Con la Virgen Peregrina a las familias de las victimas del incendio en Asunción

With the Pilgrim Mother to the families of the victims of the fire tragedy in Asunción

Mit der Pilgernden Gottesmutter zu den Familien der Opfer der Brandkatastrophe in Paraguay


El consuelo que solo ella puede dar...

The comfort that only she can give ...

Trost, den nur sie geben kann...


La madre visita a sus hijos

The Mother visits her children

Die Mutter kommt zu ihren Kindern

Fotos: Luzardi (18 de octubre de 2003) © 2003


La Cruz de la Unidad in Tuparenda

The Unity Cross in Tuparenda

Kreuz der Einheit in Tuparenda

Foto: Cabral © 2004


Paraguay, Ani Pangrazio/mkf. "It is a moment of deep sadness and pain. Almost everyone without exception is in mourning because of this enormous tragedy. It is logical that it would be this way in a small country such as ours. But few times in the world has one seen signs of solidarity of such magnitude: schools, youths, financial entities, profit and non-profit organizations, private individuals, neighboring countries, doctors, nurses, and volunteer firemen (they do not have a salary and they buy their own equipment). Our country grows poorer by the day but solidarity increases when a brother suffers. It is the nature of the Paraguayan which today makes me feel very proud, more than ever, and lessens in part my pain." Thus wrote Teresita Bittar from Asunción a few hours after the fire of August 1st. "The greatest tragedy in the modern history of Paraguay" writes Fr. Antonio Cosp, Direstor of the Schoenstatt Movement in Paraguay.

"Please pray without ceasing for today begins the wake for lost loved ones and the physical pain of the survivors. Some are literally burned. 35 bodies of children were found in the toy store. May they be with God in glory and may their families be consoled! Entire families, or parts of families, youths, all children of God…"so continues Teresita’s email. "The Paraguayan people are devastated. People cry in the streets. Others continue looking for their dead and others have wakes…please do not stop praying even for a moment. The family exists throughout the world and we will feel the prayers from wherever they come. Let us make a great chain. Paraguay needs today from the entire Schoenstatt Family from throughout the world." In the Covenant of Love there are no places or persons far from us and especially when it deals with a place where there is a Shrine, a Schoenstatt Family, a place which appears 60 or 70 times when one searches for news on .It is a given that in each place where the MTA is the Family is there and each time that a member of the Family suffers, prayers and contributions to the Treasury of Grace come from throughout the world. In these moments of pain, the Schoenstatt Family from the whole world was united in prayer and contributions to the Treasury of Grace with the Family of Paraguay. At 5:00 PM (Germany time) on August 2nd, Schoenstatters from Ecuador, Argentina, Spain, Germany, and Mexico prayed the rosary in the Original Shrine for those affected by the fire in Paraguay.

Hardly anyone from the movement has been spared from losing a loved one, a friend, or someone close

"The supermarket is about 3 kilometers from the young Shrine and along the way several Schoenstatters have their homes. Some of them usually shop there or eat lunch there on Sundays," wrote Fr. Antonio Cosp on the 2nd of August after receiving the first expressions of solidarity from the international family. Among the information which we have today, we learned that within the building was the Villamayor family, leaders of the Yrenda group. Also with them was their little son, Tiago, and the baby girl which was expected in three months. I just came from the wake of the mother, Leticia, and from visiting the husband, José, in the hospital. He and Tiago were saved. But hardly anyone from the Movement has been spared from losing a loved one, a friend, or someone close. This afternoon the city of Asunción was at funeral homes or cemeteries. Solidarity is great. So is sadness. The desires to continue building the Nation of God are increased. Thank you for your prayers and closeness. Thank you to Sr. Kornelia for making our pain known to the Schoenstatt world. May God and the Blessed Mother bless everyone".

Mother Mary visits her children

Under the motto "Mother Mary visits her children" the project of visiting the homes of the victims of the fire of Ycuá Bolaños began with constancy. Guided by Fr. Gerardo, all of the young missionaries, urged on by the desire to take a little consolation (the consolation which only Mary can give us) and accompanied by one or two adults who transport them to the neighborhoods, visit each home of those affected by the fire.

They have the Pilgrim Mother in their hands. When the people come out to greet them they do not even look at them. They run to the door and they take her in their hands and ask her: "Why?" They embrace her firmly…they place her on their chest…they lean their heads on her…then they embrace her again. It is a really moving scene…tender…children weeping in the arms of their mnother…many families do not know the MTA but upon seeing the image they know it is the Virgin Mary who is visiting them to give them an embrace…to tell them…"I also suffered with you!"---"I am here to ease your pain!"

After the initial emotion, they invite the youths to sit down in their humble abodes. A conversation begins with the family. Each person speaks of their loved ones who died. They show their photographs; they cry; they scream; they despair because they have lost the source of their livelihood. How difficult it is to see so much desolation! How difficult it is not to cry with them, to maintain calmness when they radiate so much pain! Then the youths invite them to pray for their loved ones, for those who are in the hospitals, for each one of them…Sincere prayer begins…many know how to pray the rosary and want to pray the entire rosary…one decade is not enough. If it were for them they would pray the whole day…it is the only moment in which they feel a frank communion with Mary…that they feel her near…

After the visit, the family wholeheartedly thanks them for this sign of love…of solidarity…and they say good bye even with a little smile, with a : "Thank you for coming to visit us!" That is the consolation of Mary! Words cannot describe what each youth feels after this experience of the Love of Jesus, of the contact with those most in need, with giving their time to visit the families…This is building Church, true heartshrines…This is building a new community where we are capable of "giving and receiving love".

They are the small signs which make us family

The Schoenstatt Family received the news via the internet…there are no distances. There is solidarity and closeness. In Córdoba, Sofía Barbosa along with a Paraguayan student who is a good friend to the Schoenstatt youth from Asunción, organized a collection of medicines. On August 3rd, Hannelore Spannagel, the diocesan leader for mothers in Friburg, Germany, took the news of the fire in Asunción to her group meeting. That evening they had their traditional "Summer Festival" along with the family groups in Friburg. Spontaneously they decided to make a pilgrimage from wayside shrine to wayside shrine, praying the rosary for all the deceased and especially for Leticia and her baby. They prayed for all who died amidst the despair, for the survivors, and for those in despair. They also prayed for the youths who died and their families. The pilgrimage lasted two hours. It was tremendously hot and imagine the summer heat in Germany. Among those making the pilgrimage were two 80 year old ladies…As usual, they went to the ice cream parlor and each person contributed the price of their ice cream for "the Family of Paraguay". Magdi Cosp de Flecha from Asunción who was in Schoenstatt during those days received 110 Euros which she was able to bring back to her country. On Sunday, August 8th, at the Masses celebrated in the Pilgrims’ Church in Schoenstatt, they mentioned in the homilies the pain of the Schoenstatt Family of Paraguay and they asked for donations. The baskets at the doors of the Church accumulated 1.150,11 Euros.

"I gazed for a long time at the Unity Cross…"

In his message to the Family of Paraguay, Fr. Antonio Cosp, Director of the Movement, writes: The greatest tragedy in the modern history of Paraguay has shaken our country, the world, and has most certainly moved all Schoenstatters. We have received and continue to receive from all parts of the world signs of closeness and solidarity. As was forseen, some members and associates of are Family are wounded or have died. Leticia Villamayor and her expectant child died. Her husband and son are in the San Roque Hospital. They are leaders of a family group. Elba de Ramírez from the mothers’ branch lost a sister. The parents-in-law (Urbieta Family) of Emilia de Carpinelli, leader of the mothers’ branch, and two children of the Urbieta Family perished. Celia González, a young lady who belongs to the Apostles group, is hospitalized. Almost everyone has lost a friend, a dear one. Before happenings of such magnitude, only solidarity counts. To try to give an explanation or consolation are almost impossible tasks. For those who have suffered terrible losses only closeness and an embrace are what counts.

I think of Mary next to the cross.

I think of the Unity Cross which I contemplated for a long time. "Do not be afraid, it is I", said Jesus to the apostles when He came to accompany them amidst the waves and the storm which are a sign of the difficulties of life. On the other hand, with His moment of struggle on the cross, there is only solitude and darkness in His soul: "My God, why have you abandoned me?" God gives us many things. They are all good. We hold fast to them and we are pained by their losses. These are many since all we possess is fragile. But they always have a meaning. Since we know that Jesus dies "abandoned" on his cross and that He then resurrects full of power, of love and light, we know that there is a Gift that is not fragile. It is He Himself. His love is always faithful. The appearance of abandonment is nothing else other than the power of darkness and sadness which does not permit us to see the one who is always there for me and in my favor. That is what the word Yahweh means. How wonderful are the words of St. Augustin!: "I do not call you Lord because you took it from me. I say: Thank you for having lent it to me".

The whole Movement has been motivated in one way or another. Bati leads the PC in the House of the Father which channels the many donations. Beginning today at 8:00 P.M. and on all days following, begins the great mission of visiting the mourning families in order to accompany them with our warmth and prayer. I am very proud of all our Family is doing, young and old.

The day they closed the doors…

Words of Luis Celma, member of the Family Work, helps us to be conscious of how tremendous the situation is.

"How different everything is. The streets of Asunción are gloomy and solitary. It seems as if everything stood still for a moment. It is deafening. The air which one breathes is an air of agonies. The burning faces took over the winds and let us see in part the pain of their death. In the dense silence, you can hear the screams of our friends, of our neighbors, of the grandmother with her gifts, of the child with the little car, of the vegetable vendor, of our people, of our community begging for one more moment, only one moment more to try to save their lives from the furious flame of death.

There were entire families on a Sunday at the supermarket preparing the intimate family dinner. There were festivities. There were mothers and fathers who were with love taking the sacrifice of a whole month to their homes. There were children choosing colored pencils for their school tasks. There were mothers choosing the best vegetables for their children. There were children desiring toys. There were dreams, projects, lives.

I think one can still hear them:

  • Mother, why did they close the doors?
  • Sir, we do not want to steal from you. We are having trouble breathing. The fire is
  • hurting us!
  • Be careful, do not step on the little girl!
  • Please, Sir, open up, my children are waiting!
  • Please, Sir, open up, my family is inside!
  • Father?-- Mother, what is happening?
  • Lady, please keep walking!
  • Grandfather, don’t die!

--Please open up!, screams which resound in our ears and which will never let us forget the day in which the doors to their lives were closed. More than 400 bodies imprisoned in a luxurious and modern trap of death. A trap of many colors with the aroma of fresh bread. A caldron with air conditioned tubing. A mean temple full of naïve faithful. We were with them. We tried to defend them. We tried to help them breathe. We threw rocks against the trap and we broke its windows. We opened holes in the walls of the trap but the trap was too strong and the fire was treacherous and in its favor. Today there are empty spaces at work. Today there are empty chairs at the childcare centers. Today the embraces of mothers are lacking. Today the guidance of grandparents is missing. Today we need someone to push the hammock. Today there is an extra plate at the table. Today a song is needed. Today one is missing on the football team. Today we are missing those who fell in the trap. Whole families locked in an embrace faced the fire. Other persons faced it alone, elderly, youths, children, but all were united in one scream which shook the earth and which went beyond it giving witness to the pain, the desperation, the impotence. OPEN THE DOORS!!!!!!

And the doors of eternity were opened*


In the plan of God, His last word is not death but new life coming from one resurrection

Thus says Father Antonio Cosp in LIFE IS A PARTY.

August 22nd is the renewal of the crowning of the Blessed Mother in Tuparenda. In the Shrine is the earthen vessel for the contributions to the Treasury of Grace for the Shrine in Rome. In the midst of great pain, Ani Pangrazio can write: "What a beautiful Schoenstatt Family we have!!! Surely Father Kentenich smiles from heaven…THANK YOU!!!"

Translation: Carlos Cantú, LaFeria, Texas, USA

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