Columban Sisters in Chile
Columban Sisters in Chile,1974
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Almost forty years since a letter of invitation came from Bishop Fernando Ariztia in Santiago, Chile, the Columban Sisters are still inserted among the poor and marginalized, engaging in Pastoral Ministry to prisoners and families with addiction problems. And, for many years now, they have been participating in Inter-congregational missions and Biblical missions in the South of the country. The Sisters write “We try to proclaim Gospel values through an evangelical lifestyle as we accompany and affirm the dignity of the people to whom we have been sent and empower them to continue the Mission of Jesus in today’s world.”
Bishop Fernando’s letter contained these lines: “…a small community of Sisters …that would be involved, not in educational or social work, but in direct work in the fundamental mission of the church – evangelization and education on the faith.” Later he indicated as follows: “The presence of Sisters in the populous areas of Santiago has been extremely valuable for us. For many, it has signified a new way of being church, very fraternal and warm. It makes the proclamation of the Gospel more sincere and more alive…” In short, he was intent on drawing on the ‘Columban missionary charism.’
These sentiments have characterized the Columban Sisters mission in Chile over the years, the key of which is being inserted close to the people, to incarnate oneself into the way of life of another people.
The early years of the mission were heavily influenced by the events of 1973. A military coup had taken place on the 11 September and there was much fear around. Armed guards were everywhere and there was curfew from 1am to 6am. While Public meetings were banned, meetings in churches continued. Given the prevailing atmosphere of fear and suspicion, these meetings provided the people with a precious opportunity to cope with the atmosphere of insecurity and isolation. So mission was done under such a cloud for up to 1988 when a plebiscite made way for a democratic government. Despite such conditions, the missionary call to be with and stay with the people was lived out in full. That being with the people continues today through the various vicissitudes of life in Chile.
The main work done over many years in Chile was Pastoral and within parishes. Adult Education in the Faith was the thrust: Training Catechists and Animators for the work of instructing married couples, couples preparing for marriage, and young people and children for receiving First Communion and Confirmation. A key phase was the building up of Basic Christian Communities. The abiding goal was to have parents take responsibility for handing on the Faith on to their children, especially during preparation for the sacraments.
A ministry towards working with Alcoholics was initiated in the mid-70’s and continues today from working directly with alcoholics to running workshops on Addiction in parishes, universities and schools across the country.
Today the following are the key areas of involvement:
- Pastoral Ministry to prisoners and families with addiction problems,
- Parish ministry
- Inter-congregational missions and Biblical missions in the South
- Proclaiming Gospel values through an evangelical lifestyle, accompanying and affirming the dignity of the people to whom we have been sent and hopefully empower them to continue the Mission of Jesus in today’s world
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