From March 11th to March 14th, Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM visited the International Mission in Beni, one of the newer missions that was undertaken in 2016 (the Daughters of Charity, however, have been present in this area for more than sixty-eight years).
Father Julio Cesar Villalobos, CM (Province of Peru) and Father Andreas Medi Wijaya, CM (Province of Indonesia) are ministering in this region. From the mission center at the educational institute in Kateri, these missionaries visit and accompany the people who reside along the river banks of the Isiboro and Securé Rivers (tributaries of the Mamoré River which is a tributary of the Amazon River).
Father Tomaž was accompanied by Father Aarón Gutiérrez, CM (assistant general). The purpose of their visit was to attain first-hand experience of the reality of this region … at the same time, they wanted to animate and encourage the missionaries in their commitment of service on behalf of the indigenous people who live in this part of Bolivia.
From the time of his arrival, Father Tomaž was open to the program that had been prepared and so he began with a visit to the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Nursing Home (administered by the Daughters of Charity and a group of lay professionals). This provided a wonderful opportunity to meet with and celebrate the Eucharist with the members of the Vincentian Family ministering in the city of Beni.
In the same way, Fathers Tomaž and Aarón, making use of the most common means of transport and after an eight-hour journey, arrived at Kateri, a formation center that is composed of a secondary school, an agricultural institute (Kateri Tekawita) and dormitories for young men and women). There was a dialogue with Bishop Julio María Elías, the Franciscan bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Beni at which time the presence of the Congregation of the Mission in that particular church was affirmed. During that dialogue Father Tomaž was requested to consider taking on responsibility for “Kateri”, which is part of a larger project known as EPARU (Rural Pastoral Team). The Daughters of Charity had administered that project for some thirty years and presently it is led by a “Council of teachers” who have taken responsibility for forming Christian leaders who serve the indigenous communities of the Vicariate.
During his visit, Father Tomaž dialogued with the members of the Congregation in order to understand their experience and to listen to their dreams and hopes. He also spoke with the Daughters of Charity and finally, his visit to the educational center was concluded with a festive celebration of the Eucharist in the chapel at the center.
The last day of their visit to the mission involved participating in the celebration of the Eucharist that was presided by Bishop Julio María Elías, (Apostolic Vicar), participating in morning prayer with the diocesan clergy and then sharing a breakfast with them.
The visit concluded with a dialogue with Bishop Julio during which time both parties spoke about continuing the presence of the Congregation in this region and about sending new personnel in order to strengthen the ministry there. At that time the Bishop thanked Father Tomaž for the services of the Congregation in ministering in that local church.
Julio Cesar Villalobos Laos, C.M.
Andreas Medi Wijaya, C.M.
Charles T. Plock, CM
Eastern Province, USA