After overcoming the pandemic and having the opportunity to share in person with the communities, we shared this Lent and Holy Week with some communities in the Province of Esmeraldas.
But let’s see the images that say more than words.
During Lent and Holy Week the CLM and accompanied by a candidate and friends of the mission; we were once again present in the community of San Lorenzo in Esmeraldas north of Ecuador visiting and encouraging several rural communities in that region of the country, during that period of time we carried out activities such as:
Tour through the communities, accompanied by groups of young people:
Visit to families of the visited populations.
Talks and prayer of the Stations of the Cross during Lent.
Palm Sunday Procession
With the accompaniment of local Afro music groups.
Holy Way of the Cross personified on Holy Friday
Additionally, I attach a video that was prepared by the youth group, with the graphics obtained during the tour with them during the liturgical time mentioned above.
Meanwhile, other CLM in Guayaquil participated actively in the parishes, in which they do apostolate or accompaniment, in the activities that took place during the days of Holy Week.
We thank God for these moments in which we could once again live the experience of personal contact and walk together with the people of the peripheral areas of our country.
Our Christmas missionary service took place in San Lorenzo in the Province of Esmeraldas located in the northeast of Ecuador, very close to the border with Colombia. The group was composed of John, a member of CLM Ecuador, Maria Piedad, a CLM candidate, and Benedicta Cevallos and Jovita Castro, lay friends of the CLM. (See photo)
THE ENVOYS and the VISITED COMMUNITIES
The period we were there was from December 13 to 26, 2021; the communities visited were: San Javier de Cachavi, Chillavi del agua, Nueva Esperanza and Urbina; populations that are part of the mission of the Comboni Province in Ecuador.
Missionary team that visited communities of San Lorenzo, here with local people.
Regarding the economic activity, now many of the inhabitants work in the oil palm plantations, which is not a traditional crop in our country, but has displaced the crops on which the agricultural activity of the province of Esmeraldas was traditionally focused. The labor activity of the people is mainly related to the agro-industry for the elaboration of derivatives and the export of oil.
However, these oil palm crops are one of the deforesting agents of the Ecuadorian forests, in addition to severely affecting biodiversity not only in the area of the aforementioned communities, but throughout the region of this Ecuadorian province. In addition, river contamination caused by both legal and illegal mining has resulted in the use of wells for water supply, as well as the purchase of 20-liter jerry cans for human consumption.
Cachaví River in San Javier. Canton San Lorenzo, Province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
San Javier is a picturesque town, its people are very cheerful, pleasant, and in the midst of their limitations and difficulties they try to continue their daily walk, without interruptions that stagnate them.
Street of San Javier de Cachavi
Youth Group in San Javier de Cachavi.
MUSIC, DANCE AND POPULAR RELIGIOSITY
The Afro musical culture, dances, lullaby singing and the execution of their own musical instruments, are a source of energy for the people; and their execution are displays of popular religiosity on behalf of the people, particularly in the days of Advent and Christmas, as the villagers took to the streets to show their dances and music with motifs of the posadas in particular the communities of Chillavi del agua and Nueva Esperanza.
In the communities of San Javier and Urbina, we gathered with the people night after night around the celebration of the novena of the Child, in which we reflected on the Word of God through the reading of life experiences that allow the participants to concretize the Scriptures with the daily life of each one.
Musical and dancing group in Chillavi del Agua
Community of Chillavi del Agua – Catechists and community leaders.
Chillavi del Agua, children’s group at the foot of the river.
The other community visited was Urbina:
Group of children in Urbina – San Lorenzo.
VISIT TO THE HOMES
One of the activities that took place in these communities, is the visit to each of the houses of these villages, a very warm activity by the reception of its inhabitants, even received by those who are not Catholics, showing our hosts joy, attention to our presence. In the talks that took place, they told us their life experiences, anecdotes of other missionary visits, as well as the difficulties both at the family level and in the life of their communities. God and his Word were always present in each visit, but not before emphasizing to them that God the man has come to this world for all and not only for a few.
THANK YOU ……………….
In spite of the difficulties arising from the poverty in which they live, all these communities are places of effort and work on the part of their inhabitants, who received us with much warmth and desire that Christmas does not go unnoticed and/or hidden by mundane social events, but that the arrival of the Son of God is transcendent for each one of their lives.
The CLM in Ecuador thank God for having allowed us to participate in this missionary service, which we lived with great joy and responsibility on the part of all the missionaries who were sent to these Afro-Ecuadorian communities, a sending that had its origin in Fr. Otorino Poletto Provincial in Ecuador MCCJ.
Monte Sinai is a marginal urban settlement located in the northwest of the city of Guayaquil, whose origin and expansion was through the invasion of land in the 90’s of the last century, it is estimated that in this area are living about 133,000 inhabitants in an area of 9,325 ha. on land formerly used for agriculture. Located one hour from the commercial center of the city, “it is the most rural part of Guayaquil” according to one of the city’s newspapers. Its growth has been halted in part because it was declared a reserve and security zone by presidential decree in December 2010, due to its proximity to a water transfer to the neighboring province of Santa Elena.
According to Hogar de Cristo Corporation’s socioeconomic research (2012), 99% have incomes below the basic salary, 54% are poor. The family group is composed of 5 people, of which 48% of families, only one of its members works; 52% have completed primary education and 48% of the houses are made of bamboo (see attached images).
The website “International Alliance of Inhabitans” in December 2017 writes:
“Monte Sinai has 133 000 inhabitants corresponding to 26 000 families that present a housing deficit of 62.65%. This means that more than 83 000 people lack a house that allows a dignified life. This means that more than 83,000 people do not enjoy the fundamental right to have a home that provides shelter, a roof, security and, above all, dignity”.
Monte Sinai does not have basic services, only electricity service to the houses, public lighting is scarce; and the streets are mostly dirt, some streets are covered with asphalt.
Walking along other streets in the sector. On the left is Fr. Joseph MCCJ, originally from Kenya.
The pastoral work of CLM has been located in the parish of the Transfiguration of the Lord, our walk is in the Chapel of St. Francis.
At the present date we are traveling around the place that is quite extensive, introducing ourselves to the villagers, letting them know of the presence of the CLM in the place.
Walking through the streets of Monte Sinai. This graphic shows the following statement: “Monte Sinai is the most rural part of Guayaquil”.
Another of the difficulties that the inhabitants of Monte Sinai have to live with is the lack of road and sanitary infrastructure works that allow them to have a dignified life for them and their families, the images that are presented are eloquent. This is what can be appreciated from the tour of knowledge of the place.
Cine Foro, the first activity with Afro youth, inside the central church.
This year 2021, brought many graces and gifts from Divine Providence to the Comboni Lay Missionaries in Ecuador. It is a reality that the pandemic in 2020, changed our life and the plans we had set took another direction and were put on hold; and among them the call for new lay people to increase our small community of Guayaquil.
In July 2021, we received in our community Fr. Joseph Ng’ang’a from Kenya, who became the local referent of the CLM in Ecuador and together with him and his teachings, we were able to make the call for new members, who would become CLM Candidates, a reality.
Thus, on August 17, 2021, a first call was made; and, it was in the mass of October 10, 2021, that after the celebration, we gathered the candidates and we presented them with the formation project for lay people based on five meetings, which is considered the “Stage of Knowledge and First Contacts” in our Statutes, in the same way the dates and place of meetings were presented to them.
The meetings went smoothly as scheduled, sometimes by zoom and others in person, so as not to lose continuity and to get to know our house of the Afro Ecuadorian Cultural Center. In addition, as CLM and to feel part of the Comboni Family in Guayaquil, it was agreed that the last Tuesday of the month we will have a mass and share as a family, in good time, some of the candidates were able to live this experience, along with the priests and brothers CLM.
Our last meeting was this Thursday, December 09, 2021, at 15h30, reviewing the last topic of formation of the Stage, leaving them the concern of their decision to belong to the CLM for next year. Joseph’s first anniversary of priesthood; for the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations; and, the mission departure of John Villarroel and a candidate to our future national CLM mission site in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas.
We thank the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Daniel Comboni for all the joys and experiences we have lived this year and for the future ones we will receive, with full knowledge that everything depends on our trust and detachment to the mission, either locally in Monte Sinai – Guayaquil; or, in the national one in San Lorenzo – Esmeraldas.
On September 25, 2021, the American CLM Committee: MCCJ Fr. Ottorino Poletto, Beatriz Maldonado and Mireya Soto, with the accompaniment of Alberto de la Portilla, were pleased to meet with the CLM of America and some of Europe, to have a formative conference, given by Father Dario Bossi, with the theme “the vocation of the laity in the socio-political and ecclesial context of America“.
Father Dario Bossi is a Comboni Missionary, currently provincial coordinator of the Comboni Missionaries in Brazil. The theme was developed in three important points: Colorful spots (to understand the situation where we are), Christian lights (lights that from the faith and the Church help us to understand the reality and provide ideas) and CLM Mission (some ideas that as missionaries, in our case Comboni Missionaries, we can develop).
He explained that America is a continent with cultural richness, natural resources, and in the face of the storm that humanity is going through, we CLM have the commitment to dialogue and act in favor of the poor and the needy, hence the hope and the lights that we have such as the Encyclicals of Pope Francis in which he speaks of the commitment to nature and the need for a Church to go out; The mission ad gentes and our relationship as Comboni family.
The conference has been recorded and you can listen to it and analyze it (here below in Spanish) for further enrichment of our groups.
Our meeting ended with the prayer that Christ taught us, giving thanks for having gathered and shared.
“Divine works are born and grow at the foot of the cross“. St. Daniel Comboni.
Mireya Soto, CLM American Committee
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