Bañado Norte... this is the name of the district where the Jesuit parish Sagrada Familia and its various chapels are located. Why a name that evokes bathing? It is not a beach or resort area. Unfortunately, the reason is because, every year, for months at a time, the district is flooded by the overflow of the Paraguay River. That was what members of the pastoral team and other members of the community of the Chapel of Saint Vincent de Paul explained to Fr. Arturo Sosa during his visit to their area on 10 November.
Solutions exist but they involve difficult struggles, with a political dimension, to ensure that the rights of families who have lived there for a long time are respected. As elsewhere in the world, commercial real estate development projects - which include possibly draining the area - are attracting the municipality’s interest. It is only a matter of moving people somewhere else! We can understand that this is not the option that safeguards the dignity of the poor people who live in this barrio.
After hearing the members of the community express their joys and sorrows, and talk about the pastoral and educational activities that are being carried out despite many obstacles, Father General took the time to walk around the neighbourhood up to a recycling site, a source of income for many people in Bañado Norte.
He spent the rest of his first intensive day in Paraguay at the mother church of the parish Sagrada Familia. During the merienda-meeting in which he participated, Father Sosa gave the floor at the outset to the parish leaders present, people of various generations, strongly committed at all levels of parish services. A surprise: the people insisted strongly that the Jesuits should contribute to more stability in pastoral animation by missioning the parish priests there for a longer period. Father Sosa took note of their request - which is more a matter for the Provincial than for the General, of course - but he took the opportunity to stress that continuity could be ensured first and foremost by the lay people involved. These have a key role; the priest contributes but does not necessarily need to be the leader of every project.
Father General presided at the Sunday mass. His homily, based on the biblical texts of the day, focused on fidelity. He noted that we face situations in our lives that test our faith and our fidelity in faith: economic hardship, violence, a sense of powerlessness in the face of injustice. Other episodes can herald wonders, promise the whole world, or financial gains that are not necessarily honest; but deep down, they take us away from the best in ourselves. In all this, our objective must be to be faithful to ourselves, to our history, to our identity, to our values. It is ultimately about being faithful to God and to the commitment of our baptism.
In fact, he added, if we can be faithful, it is because God has been faithful to us. He gave us his Son Jesus who was faithful to his mission and knew how to face the worst trials... Then, his life - his death and resurrection - bore much fruit.