Buenos Aires (Fides Service/Aica) – “We are going to stay a while with our brothers and sisters who have no faith, or only a little faith and little chance to celebrate it ” said Father Justo Juan Cariz, parish priest at Our Lady of Carmel in Nueve de Julio diocese, Buenos Aires Province Argentina, soon to go on mission with a five lay parishioners to Saint Antonio Pacaya parish in Escuintla diocese, Guatemala.
According to the Church’s Annual Book 2003, Escuintla diocese has an area of 4.384 sq. km, and a population of 1 million of whom 700.000 are Catholics. But to look after them there are only 16 priests, 1 Brother and 43 Sisters. “Saint Antonio Pacaya parish, which lies about 60 km from Guatemala City, has a population of about 20.000 and for 18 years they have been without a priest” Father Justo said.
Asked how Nueve de Julio diocese which is not rich in vocations, can afford to send a priest and committed lay persons away on mission, Father Justo recalled the teaching of Vatican II with regard to priests who should be concerned for the universal Church: ‘The spiritual gift which priests receive at their ordination prepared them not for a sort of limited and narrow mission but for the widest possible and universal mission of salvation "even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), for every priestly ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles. The priesthood of Christ, in which all priests really share, is necessarily intended for all peoples and all times, and it knows no limits of blood, nationality or time, since it is already mysteriously prefigured in the person of Melchisedech.(59) Let priests remember, therefore, that the care of all churches must be their intimate concern. Hence, priests of such dioceses as are rich in vocations should show themselves willing and ready, with the permission of their own ordinaries (bishops), to volunteer for work in other regions, missions or endeavours which are poor in numbers of clergy. (P O 10).
“Although the decree regards in particular dioceses rich in vocations – Father Justo affirms- our Bishop Martín de Elizalde OSB and the diocesan clergy realise that we must give of our poverty. We are not just a group of people who have decided to go on mission, we are being sent on mission by Nueve de Julio diocese to work with another Diocese in another country”. The priest said he and the lay group of parishioners were in Guatemala for the 2nd American Mission Congress and on that occasion the Bishops of Escuintla took them to see the parish where they will be working. (R.Z.) (Fides Service 16/1/2004; lines 29; words 400)