Fr. Cristóbal ACOSTA tells of a beautiful celebration that took place in St. Eugene de Mazenod parish in the town of Tenente 1° Manuel Irala Fernández, on November 6-8: the 20th Oblate Youth Congress, together with the celebration of 90 years of Oblate presence in Paraguay.
It began on November 6 with the welcoming of the more than 350 youth coming from various parts of the country, along with 16 Oblate and diocesan priests to celebrate this great event. I must also mention the faithful presence of the Lay Associates who always support us and collaborate with us in our missionary work. On this day, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After adoration, we had the official opening of the event with music and dancing organized by the youth of the parish, following words of welcome from the parish administrator, Fr. Cristóbal Acosta. Afterwards, there was a presentation of a “history tour” with pictures of the Chaco taken from the province archives, explained and prepared by Fr. Marcos GARCIA. The day finally came to a close with the presentation of the goal of the Congress and the celebration of the 90 years of Oblate presence in Paraguay.
On Saturday, after Holy Mass, Fr. Marcos Garcia introduced the topic and them theme to be used in this congress under the motto: “90 years – dedicated to the service of the mission in the Chaco.”
The first presentation was given by Bishop Guillermo STECKLING on the theme of Consecrated Life, to introduce the witness of the different expressions of Consecrated Life: missionary experience in the Chaco – as shown by the different Congregations working in the Apostolic Vicariate of Pilcomayo (VAP). First Bishop Lucio ALFERT, a religious who devotes his missionary life in the VAP, shared his testimony with the young people. Other Congregations as well told of their missionary experiences (Holy Family, the Blue Nuns, Franciscan Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, diocesan priests, a consecrated lay woman, and others). To close this beautiful morning reflection, there was group work to answer the question: What drew you to the mission of the Oblates in the Chaco? Did you ever think of being a religious? Has anyone invited you? The answers were shared in the plenary session.
On Saturday afternoon, we had a touching pilgrimage to the cemetery located six kilometers from the parish, to visit the tomb of the great missionary, Fr. Roger BULAMBA (†2014), a missionary who greatly loved the people of the Chaco, a real spiritual father who came to be a friend of all the Chaqueños.
In the evening, we enjoyed an artistic festival where the youth showed their best talents in song, dance, poetry and many other ways. Despite the weariness from the program and activities of the day, the youth wanted to continue dancing, singing and praising God with the music group Cristo Rey. How lovely to see the young people living in very festive and youthful atmosphere. This was the deepest sharing and getting to know one another of the Congress.
On Sunday, November 8, as a finishing touch, we had the emotional Eucharistic celebration of thanksgiving in the parish church of St. Eugene de Mazenod. We are grateful to all the youth and the faithful who came to share and celebrate together this Oblate feast. It is the best way to give thanks to God together for the gifts received and by the grace of participating in His missionary work. (in Comunicaciones, Navidad 2015)