Once the religious were installed they went to introduce themselves to his Excellency the Archbishop, who promised them the world… which little by little disappeared as they had to find their feet regarding how to subsist and carry out the task that they had in mind.
The two priests divided between themselves what was the parish territory, which later on, because split by the construction of a highspeed freeway, became two separate parishes, the parish of Our Lord’s Nativity on one side and the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes on the other; the two priests took charge of each of these as the parish priests. The two professed religious for their part soon found work as teachers to support everyone in the community, whereas the two priests were working hard as best they could in serving the faithful whom God had entrusted to them.
Gradually they got to know the area and their community while building two parish centres. In the neighbourhood El Rodeo, the parish of Our Lord’s Nativity: the Church, presbytery, school with solidarity centre, centre for Technical–Industrial formation, evening classes for illiterate adults, centre for nutritional improvement, a programme for improving living conditions and obtaining building materials at low costs, while at the same time taking care of worship and evangelization at every level. In the neighbourhoods of Atanasio Girardot/Santa Fe, in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes: besides the building of the parish church, various parish halls were constructed, while a model programme for catechetical work and Youth work was set up.
Here we cannot express enough gratitude to the German Catholic and Lutheran Churches, particularly to Fr Friedrich Wuwolt and the Lutheran Pastor Ulrich Honeker, as well as to the Hispanic American College for the help given in several ways to the community. All this work was not realised as if it were plain sailing.
The community had to undergo serious problems, such as the infiltration of the subversive movement M-19 within the youth groups. This led to certain authorities closing the youth groups that we supported; misunderstandings by some members of the clergy that lead to the Auxiliary Bishop of Cali questioning our stay in the city in these terms: “The SSS religious are supported, tolerated, or opposed.” The religious responded: “We are either fully supported, or we will leave the Archdiocese.” At this point the matter passed into the hands of the Archbishop, who stated: “To touch the Blessed Sacrament Religious is to touch the Archbishop.” The religious requested the Archbishop for permission to invite the Auxiliary Bishop to visit the El Rodeo neighbourhood in order to give a talk about the Catholic Church in Latin America, which the Auxiliary Bishop agreed to do.
This was at a time very near the famous Episcopal Conference of Medellín that was entirely focused on the option for the poor.
To be continued…
Father Lucinio Martin Herrero, sss
Colombia-Peru, NOTIBIP No. 90 - April 2023