News from Paraguay

As Xavier tells us, the Fraternity has been in Paraguay since 1970, and Xavier himself as been there from the beginning. The closeness to the Brothers of Mary is the consequence of the fact that both groups draw their inspiration from Father de Foucauld and their vocations are very similar. So why not be closer to one another, and support and help each other?

XavierXavierI could not resist the temptation to begin this newsletter with good news: after a good forty years here in Paraguay (we arrived in 1970), we have our first candidate for the Fraternity, who comes from this country. He is Carlos, a man from the countryside in the interior of the country. He is 30 and began his novitiate with Rodrigo, an Argentinean, and Carlo, an Italian, who are the same age.

Our fraternity in Paraguay is quite original because it is made up of four brothers who belong to two different groups in the spiritual family of Brother Charles. Alexis and Gilberto, originally from Costa Rica (Central America), are part of the movement of lay people called "Brothers of Mary" and they have adopted the Feast of the Visitation as their own feast day. Juancito and I, Little Brothers of Jesus, have formed a larger fraternity with them for the last six years.
Juancito, who has lived in Argentina for several years, expressed his desire to return to Paraguay. He came back in 2005 at the time when we wished to reinforce the links between us (LBJ) and the brothers of Mary. We had already begun a degree of drawing closer together ten years earlier, with Alexis, Gilberto and myself. On returning to Paraguay, Juancito agreed to join in this fraternal experience.Juancito, Xavier -at Puerto Viejo (Argentina)Juancito, Xavier -at Puerto Viejo (Argentina)

Let us get back to our wider fraternity. In terms of our wish to strengthen our ties, we looked for a place which could meet all our needs. Luckily it was then that we found the "Saint Monica Home", in the country, on the outskirts of the capital Asunción. This Home had two hectares of grounds which nobody was using, which gave Alexis the possibility of working the land. As for Gilberto, our proximity to public transport routes allowed him to move about easily, as his job as an electrician and plumber required. Juancito would have enough to do with looking after the Home, and me, who was 80 years old - by the grace of God!

This Home was an institution for the care of young single mothers with their babies. Generally, there were about ten young people in the home, aged from 12 to 18 years. The children were between 1 and 6. It was very special environment then, which justified our presence. The founder and director of the Home was the wife of a General and she too was gifted with an unquestionable authority.
Unfortunately, this Home did not function for long, for many reasons, but particularly because of the extreme authority of the director, a lack of teaching and unqualified staff. The young mums could not cope with the atmosphere and began to leave, first one by one, then in small groups, sometimes with the children. So the Home was closed when there was nobody left.
This new situation no longer justified our presence, and we were also experiencing a lack of openness and communication with our neighbours. We put up with this situation for a time, not being able to deal with everything at the same time.

Alexis then decided that he would leave the place this year, once the harvest was over. The one who was affected most by these changes was undoubtedly Juancito. He had invested a lot in the buildings as well as in the garden, the fruit trees, and in general, everything which could give the place a more pleasant and welcoming aspect. Then too, during the five years that the Home had been open, he also formed friendships with some of the young mothers.a friend with Gilberto, Alexis and Xaviera friend with Gilberto, Alexis and Xavier
For Gilberto the closing of the Home did not mean any great changes, since his professional work and his commitments in the Brothers of Mary, which meant quite a few journeys to the country’s interior, kept him away from the Home. As for me, I had already left the Home four years earlier and returned to the life I had been living before as a semi- hermit in an abandoned place which belongs to the Franciscan Third Order, where I was happy.Xavier's houseXavier's house

The failure of the Home should not be confused with our efforts at community life together, and the closing of the Home did not affect that. On the contrary, for us, the experience seemed quite positive and allowed us to live in a true fraternal friendship.
We do not live together now. Alexis and Gilberto live in a house in the middle of the Thompson area. Alexis, who still works in the garden of the Home, spends whole days with Juancito who continues to live at the Home. At midday they have lunch together.
And I go join them for one or two days roughly once a fortnight. It is true that we like each other a lot and that we support each other in various ways. We do not wait for important things to happen in order to talk on our mobile phones. We could perhaps make an effort to pray together more, but our way of life, which is very individual, does not help with this. We are happy with our fraternal life and are not jealous of other ways of living in fraternity

To end with, I would say that our way of living in fraternity is genuine and that it is not necessary to enclose it in quite specific categories. In all fraternal and community life the brothers themselves should be the primary beneficiaries. We need to find the common denominator that unites us. In our case, there is no doubt that this is our vocation of Nazareth as our Brother Charles understood it. And we try to build our fraternity from that, centred on this Gospel mystery.