Popular Mission of CLAPVI in Cuba: One hundred years of the presence of the Congregation in the Parish of San Joaquín

The island of Cuba has experienced extreme changes in weather as a result of the movement of hurricane Irma across our country … we have all received news of flooding and tragedy. Today, however, we have gotten some good news. Father Héctor Manuel Farfán, CM (Province of Colombia) who had ministered for some years in Cuba, shares with us some details about the popular mission which included so many members from CLAPVI.

Pope John Paul II began his 1998 visit to the Island of Cuba with the following words: May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba (Welcoming Ceremony in Cuba, January 21st, 1998). Those words have had transcendental significance in the history of these people who have deep Christian roots. Indeed, the Vincentian Family has just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Congregation in the large parish of San Joaquín (located in the municipality of San Luis, some 30 kilometers from the city of Santiago) … and at the same time the Congregation celebrated the 150th anniversary of its arrival to the Greater Antilles.

Missionaries came from ten different Latin American Provinces (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela) … this group included fourteen priests, fifteen lay members, one brother, two Daughters of Charity, four seminarists, and six aspirants from the Province of Cuba. In other words, some forty-two individuals joined together with some fifty parishioners for this mission. The heat of the Antillean sun was easily ignored as the members of CLAPVI joined together to celebrate two important events: the 400th anniversary of the origin of the Vincentian charism and the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Congregation in the parish of San Joaquín. In other words, this celebration united the events that took place in 1617 in Folleville and Chatillon with the events that were occurring in 2017 in a place where for some more than 50 years people had ceased to invoke God as their providential Father. But, as has occurred throughout the whole history of salvation, there will always be a “remnant of Israel”.

From July 31st-August 16th a popular mission was preached in the parish … there was no one defining theme. Each morning the mission team (composed of religious and laity) gathered together for prayer and then moved out to the twenty-five mission centers (the parish is approximately 1,200 square kilometers with a population of about 135,000 persons). In each center the creativity and the experience of the Vincentian missionaries inspired them during the time of their home visitations, their encounters with children and adolescents and the sick and the most poor.

As the night began to fall, the weariness from the heat of the day gave rise to hope and joy that resulted from having reached out to people who were hungry and thirsty thirsting for God.

There were many experiences like the elderly woman who told us that she hoped that she would not have to wait another hundred years for the preachimng of a popular mission or like Bishop Dionisio who told us that he had known the Vincentians during the time of the 1950’s when they were preaching popular missions. Children, adolescents and young adults expressed their faith in the merciful God that was proclaimed by Jesus Christ.

This mission was not undertaken with any grand designs but was intended to be a sign of God’s presence, a seed that is planted in the earth and that will hopefully produce fruit.

Here we should also mention that Father Jesús María Lusarreta has died … he had much to do with the planning of this mission and wanted to participate in it. We are confident that from his place in heaven he interceded before God and asked God to bless the people of Cuba.

At the same time we want to thank the members of CLAPVI (the confreres and the laity) for their sacrifice as they participated in this popular mission … they shared their joy and their hope with the people of this land and we are hopeful that people will open their hearts to the message of Jesus Christ. We also want to thank the faithful of San Luis and Mella for the manner in which they welcomed each missionary.

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM Eastern Province, USA