VIATORIAN FOUNDATION IN BOLIVIA
The General Chapter of 1994 had insisted on the insertion of our Viatorian charism in other countries, especially in aid to the most needy churches. That is how the Region of Chile, aware of this call, on June 15, 2001, began this new journey. Your destination, Bolivia. The first Clerics of St. Viator were Father Luis Trigueros Ortega and Brother José Antonio Izaga and Aranegui. The chosen place, or field of mission, was the town of Popoy, located 250 kms to the Northwest of the Capital, La Paz.
The families of Popoy and its surroundings are settlers from desolate places in the Bolivian Altiplano, such as Apolo, Oruro, Potosí, once rich in silver and gold. Simple people, hardworking, who have had to fight against the jungle to grow their crops in the heat and tropical humidity. Thirty years after being displaced from their native place, they maintain their Quechua or Aymara culture and share their spirituality of a worldview of universal harmony in relation to the supernatural with nature (Pachamama – God). That is why the ministry is developing slowly. Nevertheless, achievements are being made towards neighborhood and parochial unity, taking advantage of this time of evangelization.
Ecclesiastically, Popoy belongs to the Apostolic Vicariate of Kings, administered since 1942 by the Redemptorists The current bishop is D. Carlos Bürgler, Swiss Redemptorist. It is a Church with a shortage of clergy, that’s why this place was chosen. We have been entrusted with the Holy Spirit Parish, with its headquarters in Popoy itself and seven chapels, scattered on both sides of the Great River. We live in a rural area, in the style of Fr. Querbes and carrying out his charisma.
They also gave us an internship, dependent on the Vicariate, which currently has 190 young people, girls and boys, coming from nearby towns. The parents, through sacrifice, want their children to receive a serious education and to obtain a bachelor’s degree. We have already begun to reap fruit. This year a doctor has graduated and many more in different professions.
Until 2003, Luis and José Antonio were alone. In this year Fr. Txema Martínez, diocesan priest and associate, arrived to make his novitiate. In 2004, a new reinforcement arrived, Br Hugo Arias, Chilean, and later Fr. Eduardo Millán. In 2005, Fr. Pedro Plaza (Kepa) arrived, and Fr. Javier Ortuondo two years ago.
In 2004, the Community accepted the invitation made by the Bishop to attend “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Covendo,” a parish of indigenous people of the “Mosetén” ethnic group, where a diocesan priest lived alone. The Community sent Fr. Txema as parish priest and later Fr. Kepa replaced him. It has eight communities and a dynamic team of catechists. In Covendo, the town does not allow the sects to enter.
The Lord has blessed us with the ordinations to the Presbyterate of Eduardo and Kepa, the permanent Diaconate of José Antonio and the perpetual Vows of Txema.
Tests? The boarding school burned, but in a short time it became a more modern place, thanks to the cooperation of generous benefactors. In 2007, Br. Ramón Arizón died, after serving for just one year. And the hardest test was the unforeseen death of Father Luis Trigueros in an automobile accident on Feb. 20, 2010. His passing away to the Father will be a spiritual blessing for the Foundation and the Boarding School, which he loved so much.
In 2007 we founded a house in Cochabamba (the third most important city in Bolivia) and opened the Postulancy House, as it is a more accessible place for our aspirants to receive their training. Father Txema who studied in the Catholic Normal and the Catechetical Institute was the animator of postulants. As a companion, Br. Ramón Arizón came to us. Gustavo Cala who last year was helping in the boarding school, currently lives with us near Popoy at our Chapel of Remolinos.
The first two years, the Bishop asked Fr. Txema to help at the Chapel of Pacata Alta and in 2009, the Archbishop of Cochabamba entrusted us with the parish of ”Our Lady of Grace and Blessed Edmundo Bojanowski.” It has a population of 40,000 inhabitants. Little by little, the teams of lay animators are being formed. It is difficult to go from being a chapel to a parish, until these animators settle in. We serve four chapels and we are now expanding through the mountain populations, in order to form small communities.
In this time of evangelization we Viatorians are committed to the particular churches in the Vicariate and in the Archbishopric of Cochabamba: helping and encouraging at the priests retreats; with seminarians; the formation of catechists, readers and animators of liturgical song; groups of prayer and groups of young people; in the pastoral care of the sick, and as volunteers of Cáritas.
To all the Viatorians, greetings from Bolivia from Kepa, Txema, Javier and José Antonio.