San Lorenzo, Paraguay, June 30 to July 4, 2017

On June 30, 2017, at the Holy Spirit retreat house in San Lorenzo, Paraguay, the Fifth PANAM Assembly of Mission Animation and Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) began at 6:00 pm with a stirring Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese, Monsignor Joaquín Robledo. The motto of the Assembly was “Widening Circles of Communion” and was attended by representatives of eleven religious provinces, including sisters, a priest, an SVD brother and several mission partners. Also present were Sr. Carmen Elisa Bandeo, Mission Secretary, and Sr. Helen Saldanha, Executive Director of VIVAT International.

After a very dynamic opening, the participants engaged in a work program in line with the motto. Over the course of the day they reflected, first and foremost, on the commitment to people who are marginalized and excluded from society today, helped by insights given by Father Nilo Zárate, OSB. Five missionary experiences were also presented: alternative medicine (Bolivia); palliative care (Argentina North); indigenous mission (Argentina Misiones); work with migrants (Brazil North) and work with women in different areas (United States).

All these and other issues prepared the participants for the big day – “excursion to a place of the marginalized and excluded,” specifically the Barrio Tacumbú on the banks of the Paraguay River, which borders the country’s capital – Asuncion. Here ten thousand families have suffered flooding by the river throughout its history. This, of course, has been the greatest problem that has faced so many families and will continue to be so. We were guided by Father Pedro Velazco, OP, and his team, who shared with us the history of the people who, each time the river floods, lose most of their precious belongings and face the diseases brought by this scourge. Through the social initiatives to promote the families, they are, according to the priest himself, “born again”.

Liz Valdez, SSpS