Transportation for the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in Argentina
Project Code: 209-05-29
"I would once more like to express my gratitude to ACN and its generous benefactors for their priceless support for our work in this region. I include you all in my prayers and ask God to bless you." These were the words of Bishop Hugo Nicolás Barb during a visit to the international headquarters of ACN, thanking ACN for the its support of the indispensable work religious Sisters do in his diocese in Argentina. Now they once more have called on ACN and its benefactors for aid.
Sáenz Peña is situated in the so-called Chaco region of northern Argentina, remote and poorly developed, a region of dry woodland and savannah. The diocese covers an area of some 27,400 mi². It is an area where the descendants of various Indian tribes now live, marginalized for years and in political conditions. Their "houses" are often no more than simple tarpaulins stretched between two trees. Their beds are simple frames of wooden sticks tied together. Many of the children suffer from nutritional deficiencies; some are little more than skin and bones, their food merely a little flour softened in water.
Prior to the middle of the 20th century, when the first missionaries arrived in the Chaco region, these native peoples lived a nomadic lifestyle, and today they are still essentially hunter gatherers. But the continuing incursions of large agri-businesses and small peasant farmers are increasingly restricting their way of life. The cattle and goats of the peasant farmers eat the forest bare, while the agricultural companies simply grab up the land in order to lay out vast soya plantations.
Nor are these threats to the lifestyle of the indigenous peoples likely to change in the immediate future, since in recent years the climate in the Chaco has become more humid and the soil more fertile as a result. And to this day there has been no clear legal ruling on land rights. The Argentinian government has indeed ratified an agreement granting them protected rights to their land; however this convention is largely ignored by the provincial government and the agricultural concerns. In consequence, until things change, they will be forced to roam ever further in search of the basic necessities, including such things as firewood. Many face the potential risk of starvation.
For many years now, ACN has been supporting the work of the various different congregations of religious Sisters working in this region, which is "probably the poorest in the country," as the bishop's delegate Marcelo Madero describes it. The diocese has a total of 23 parishes, plus some 300 smaller communities with their own small chapels, and many others that have no adequate infrastructure. For the 34 priests of the diocese, the work of the 85 or so active religious Sisters is a vital and precious help to them in their ministry.
Given that in many of the parishes there is no resident priest, it is the Sisters who take on numerous important pastoral, social and charitable duties there, including leading Liturgies of the Word, giving catechetical instruction, organizing preparation courses for the sacraments, working as unpaid teachers, visiting needy families and also the sick and elderly in their often remote and inaccessible villages in the Chaco. At the same time they help provide essential food and medicines for the local people. In short, they do everything they can for the extremely poor natives of the region.
Among these Sisters are three members of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity, who moved a year ago from Colombia to Cozuela, here in the Chaco. They work as primary school teachers and catechists and also regularly moderate the religious program on the local radio station. In order to do so they have to travel many miles every day, since the various individual places where they work lie across an area of some 45 miles.
They urgently need a car, and so ACN is planning to give a contribution of $7,700 in order to help them purchase a suitable small vehicle. Will you help these Sisters of Our Lady of Charity reach those in need in Argentina?