Columban Mission History - Chile

 

 

 

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Columbans went to Chile in 1954 and began their work in Santiago. Since then about 100 have worked in Chile.

Parish and Pastoral Responsibilities
At present there are 23 priests in the region, nine Associate priests, and three lay missionaries. In general the work of the Columbans and Associates has been to staff parishes and follow the Pastoral Orientations of the Chilean Bishops' Conference. The Pastoral Orientations 1996-2000 draws attention to the growing gap between rich and poor and is critical of the neo-liberal economic system which creates "an insensitivity to the poor and an ignorance about the world in which we live." In 1979 the first move to work outside Santiago was made by accepting responsibility for a pastoral area in the city of Arica on the border with Peru, working with rural communities and migrants. A later undertaking in southern Chile in is in Puerto Saavedra among the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group in Chile.

Associate Priests' Contribution to Mission
Noteworthy in the history of Columban mission in Chile is the contribution made by Associate priests. The first arrived in 1963 and to date 52 have come from 22 dioceses in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, volunteering for periods of six to ten years.

Specialist Contributions to the Chilean Church
Four Columbans have had national posts in the areas of Youth Work and the Charismatic Renewal. In Santiago one Columban is Episcopal Zonal Vicar and another is the first Archdiocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Involvement with Justice and Peace Issues
There was keen involvement in many social issues during the years of Pinochet's dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 - parish soup kitchens, participation in protest marches and the Sebastian Acevedo anti-torture movement. Many Columbans were harassed and held overnight in jail during those years and one Columban and two Associates were expelled from Chile. The arrest of Dr Sheila Cassidy from the Columban House in Santiago, resulted in the building being raked by machine gun fire killing the housekeeper and the imprisonment and torture/expulsion of Dr Cassidy.

Lay Missionary Programme
The programme has been in place for receiving and sending lay missionaries for a few years now. 15 members have been received under Columban auspices: three from Australia and 12 from Ireland. Their work to date has been principally with Youth and Women's' groups. In 1993 a team of four Chileans left for mission in the Republic of the Philippines. Four went to a Spanish-speaking area of southern USA. A group of five was sent on mission to Fiji in October 1995.

Local Vocations
There are five seminarians in the programme at present and two of these are on overseas training in Pakistan. Since the programme began in 1987 15 students have participated in it. Two Columban priests are involved in this work.