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50TH ANNIVERSARY of the ICM Sisters’ Presence in Guatemala

(Translation from the Spanish of the Introduction given by Sr. Evie on March 16, 2014)

guat1Good morning, friends, from the three parishes of Nueva Santa Rosa, Chapas and Jumaytepeque and  all its communities.  And a very warm welcome to Monsignor Bernabé, and Father Carlitos, and Sister Laura Marina, Cooperating Franciscan Sisters of Parishes, originally from Nueva Santa Rosa. 

It is a joy to have you here sharing with us ICM Sisters our 50th anniversary of presence here in Guatemala.

It is only right and just to remember the first sisters who came to Nueva Santa Rosa the 25th of October 1964, invited by Fr. Guillermo Jageneau, kindly called Papa Yemo, whose remains are resting  in this temple.  We dearly remember Sister Monique, who is in Belgium, Sister Lourdes, who rests in peace, and  Sister Cecilia, who lives in New York, and who is now 88 years old.  Fr. Carlitos has visited her twice already.   

Other sisters who passed by Nueva Santa Rosa to first open the doors were Sisters Sabine and Paula (who also rests in the peace of the Lord), and after the first sisters, Sr.

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 Maria Claesen  followed and who returned to Belgium last year for health reasons, and who visited here to bid all of you goodbye.  Also, Sister María Geerts, the nurse, here present, and who now works in the Department of  Peten.  To distinguish from both Marias when people  came to knock on the  door and ask for one or the other, to people would ask for them as:  María who sings, or Maria who cures.

Then in 1970 your humble servant arrived here. Then Sister Adela, from the Philippines, who worked with the youth groups and specifically the project of the hanging bridge over the river in the village of Ojo de Agua.  Adela returned to her guat3country and after a few years went to the USA and now works in New York.  The three of us worked together for 15 years before we separated when Maria, the nurse, and I went to Xalbal, Ixcan, Quiche in 1990.  Then Sister Marilou, from the Philippines, accompanied Maria and for a while Sr. Blanqui Peña before leaving to work in Brazil, now Sr. Blanqui also rests in peace.  Then came Sister Florencia from India and who later returned to India and died in a motorcycle accident.

 

The 31 years of ICM missionary presence here in Nueva Santa Rosa were years of many different commitments and much work.  Together with you, the people,  a parish dispensary was opened in 1965, since no health facilities existed at that time, and little by little the attention to the people to help reduce and prevent undernourishment with education and theguat4 distribution of food supplies for the 710 poorest families.  Sisters Cecilia and Lourdes traveled on horseback to the various communities with the medicine boxes on mules to attend to the people and with time managed to introduce INCAPARINA, a protein powdered product with iron, etc..  With the people, better planting techniques were learned, chickens and hens were raised for eggs, rabbits and pig projects were introduced, and the first vegetable gardens were initiated with young women.

 

With the first catechists, Sister Monique started the formation, and with a mimeograph machine at that time, produced the first learning guat5materials for children.  Wi h the young girls, sewing lessons were started in 1965 and with Sr. María’s talent, followed knitting and embroidery.  Together with Don Salva, who played the organ (and who already rests in peace), the choirs were formed in the 24 communities.

 

In the mid 70’s the small ecclesial communities were started, which we named “The Family of God” and little by little with the material of José Marins from Brazil and the booklets of themes by Fr. Cirilo Santa María, people grew in consciousguat6 awareness of their value and human dignity and their own possibilities as they struggle for the common good.  The motto that at that time motivated many people was “The Greatness of Man,” and of course including the woman, thus vigorously encouraging humble and simple people to commit themselves in their communities in the different pastorals.

 

With the 1976 earthquake many adobe houses and church buildings were destroyed.   Thanks be to God no human casualties were reported.  With the economic support of Belgium and the U.S. and the generous labor of the people, the church building of Jumaytepeque was restored and others totally demolished were re-built, with the supervision of Mr. Fredy Taracena, the architect.  At the same time many communal meeting rooms were also constructed in some communities.

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In the late 1970’s leaders of the community in the center of town organized themselves, and with  Fr. Gaby Demeulenaere, as their assessor,  the “Savings and Credit Cooperative Tonantel”  was founded.  It still exists today.  Shortly after, the Water Committee was organized in the center of town, and with the economic help of Belgium and the labor of the people a mechanical well was dug and we had water for the whole urban area of Nueva Santa Rosa, also with the supervision of Mr. Fredy Taracena.  In a few other communities water projects were also started.

 

In 1983 in the compound of what is now CEFAS,  a formation center, the first Delegates of the Word were formed and empowered by Fr. Juan Blanes, who rests in peace, inspired by the Delegates of the Word in Honduras, who were the first in Central America, and if I remember well they were accompanied by the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

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We also remember the CICM priests with whom we worked as a parish team:  Fathers Dick, David, who rests in peace, Crisóstomo, and Hilario, lay collaborator of the CICM, and the diocesan priests Tino and Raúl. 

 

All that we proposed in the parish team, together with you, made everything possible, because of your own gift of self.  And here I must say that a missionary is formed by the people.  You have made us aware in conscience, you have formed us.  Your hurtful realities and your moments of joy have opened our eyes and together we have thought, dialogued, and acted. It was all possible because we worked together, hand in hand, with joys and sorrows, but the perseverance of all made possible great changes in the lives of the people in this town. 

 

And as our Mother Foundress, Marie Louise De Meester has said and continues to tell us:  “MAY YOUR HEART BE AS BIG AND AS GENEROUS AS HIS, JESUS, THAT THE WHOLE WORLD MIGHT FIND ROOM IN IT.”

 

In the name of our six sisters here present, we want to thank you for having received us and having permitted us to live and work here with you.  Thank you from the bottom of my hearts.

 

 

- by Sr. Evie Vazquez, icm

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