On Saturday, September 29, the Holy Cross Family in Chile gathered to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of the Congregation to the country. Even an unseasonal cold front and rainstorm could not dampen the spirits of the generations of Holy Cross students, parishioners, collaborators, and religious who came both to give thanks to God for what has been and to pray for his grace for the mission that lies ahead.
“Throughout these 75 years the Congregation has been present in various dioceses of the country, serving in parishes, in missions, and in the formation of lay people,” said Fr. Jose Ahumada, C.S.C., Superior of the District of Chile. “The Congregation seeks to respond to the challenges of the times, and collaborates in the ecclesial renewal and Religious Life in Latin America.”
Over 700 people came from the Congregation’s two colleges, three parishes, and various social apostolates to St. George’s College for a Mass and picnic, both of which were held inside due to the inclement weather. The Most Rev. Jorge Izaguirre, C.S.C., Bishop Prelate of the Territorial Prelature of Chuquibamba, Peru, presided and preached at the Mass.
The Mass was a moving experience of the Body of Christ, as well as the diversity of Congregation’s apostolates and outreach in Chilean society, as those in attendance spanned all conceivable socio-economic classes, political affiliations, and generations.
It is this ministry of bringing together people from different neighborhoods and walks of life in the hope of deepening the bonds of solidarity and building a more just society that has defined the work of the Congregation in Chile.
The liturgy and celebratory picnic themselves were sacraments of this, as the planning committee that organized them included people from all of the Congregation’s apostolates in Chile.
“It was an extraordinary celebration of Holy Cross’ work in Chile over the past 75 years,” said Fr. David Halm, C.S.C., who chaired the Organizing Committee. “So many people from all our apostolates in Chile worked hard to make this Mass and picnic possible. I was particularly moved as a 'new' member of the District to celebrate with religious who have served here for decades. We had a beautiful diversity of people present, old and young - so many experiences of how God has worked through the Congregation in Chile."
On this day, the bonds of solidarity extended far beyond the borders of Chile. A special delegation came from the Congregation’s Our Lord of Hope Parish in Canto Grande, Lima, with their pastor, Fr. José Luis Tineo, C.S.C. Also in attendance were the Superiors of the District of Peru, Fr. John Phalen, C.S.C., and the District of Brazil, Br. Ronaldo Almeida, C.S.C., as well as other Holy Cross sisters, brothers, and priests from Latin America.
While the Mass and picnic at St. George’s College on September 29 were the central celebration of the anniversary, each apostolate in the District of Chile has sponsored events to celebrate the 75 years and take a look to the future.
For example, San Roque Parish, which was the first apostolate founded by the Congregation in Chile, dedicated the week of festivities surrounding its patronal feast to reflect on the history of the people and the Congregation. A special Vespers and social were held on Sunday, August 19, to commemorate the anniversary. Similar events were also held at Nuestra Señora de Andacollo College, as well as Nuestra Señor de Andacollo Parish in Santiago and Nuestra Señora de la Merced Parish in Calle Larga.
The first Holy Cross missionaries arrived from the United States to Chile to take over administration of Saint George’s College on March 1, 1943. Within three years of arriving, the Congregation had expanded its work in Chile to include parish ministry in the poor neighborhood of Peñalolen, as well as outreach to abandoned children.
While much has changed in Chilean society, the Church, and even the wider world, those initial three areas of pastoral work—education, parish ministry, and outreach to poor families—have continued to mark the mission of Holy Cross in Chile until today.
“I believe that the ‘mística’ of Holy Cross in Chile during these 75 years has been its adaption to new situations in the country, in the Church, and in the Congregation,” said Fr. Daniel Panchot, C.S.C., Pastor of San Roque Parish. “In all this time with these challenges and opportunities, a number of people and characters have tried to discover and live the Will of God for us, as people, as a Congregation, and as a Church.”
“As educators in faith, we have gone to serve in the places where the local Church needs us, and we especially have wanted to encourage commitment to social justice and care for creation,” added Fr. Ahumada. “The Congregation has stood out for its innovative role in education, and for its missionary nature. The story undoubtedly reflects what the Constitutions of the Congregation say, ‘Often we must make ourselves at home among more than one people or culture, reminding us again that the farther we go in giving the more we stand to receive’ (17).”