The apostolic vicariate of Chaco Paraguayo is situated in western Paraguay. There are 11 different indigenous ethnic groups living within the vicariate, each speaking its own language. The region covers an area of some 96,000 km2 - almost the size of Austria - and is only sparsely populated. The 30,000 or so inhabitants of the vicariate are thinly scattered and lived mainly from whatever the saline and often boggy soil will produce. Many young people see little future for themselves here and many fail to complete their schooling, instead emigrating to other parts of the country in search of work or, in some cases get caught up in urban street gangs. There is widespread breakdown of traditional family structures and many parents seem incapable of giving guidance and direction to their children.
The Church has a great deal of work to do here, but she also faces major challenges. The roads are poor and many are impassable in the rainy season, so that many of the villages are all but cut off at times. Floods are also a frequent occurrence. There are just six priests ministering to the Catholic faithful of the vicariate. Hence the service given by the religious sisters is all the more important. There are twelve sisters of the congregation of the Hijas de Maria Auxiliadora working in the diocese, three in each of four mission stations from where they also minister to the outlying communities. Braving all weathers, they go out to visit the people in the remote and inaccessible villages, care for the children, the young people, the womenfolk, give religious instruction, visit families and the sick, provide medical care for those in need and teach young people to read and write.
(A religious sister at a nursery in the vicariate Chaco Paraguayo © Aid to the Church in Need)
In a letter to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need Sister Blanca writes, "We are trying to nurture the seed of the Kingdom of God in this mission field." Without the commitment and hard work of the sisters, many people in the outlying communities would have no one to care for them. The vicariate of Chaco Paraguayo is also very poor and can scarcely support the sisters. ACN is helping with a grant of $6,800 - $565 per sister - to support them in their life and apostolate.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929