What did the meeting mean for the missionaries?
I have to thank God for the meeting of Dominican Amazonian Missions held in Puerto Maldonado, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazonfrom the 2nd to the 8th of July of this year. The gathering was the fruit of the commitment made by the Chapter of Tueltenango (nos. 139-143) and a fabulous event.
The presence of the assistants of the Master of the Order and members of all the branches of the Dominican family confirmed for us as Dominican missionaries that the Order has the firm desire to respond to the mandate received from the Church to create a local church in the Peruvian Amazon, in which the people are able to contribute their colour, spiritual richness and their particular way of understanding the event of the Risen Christ, who also calls the Amazon to join the work of the Kingdom.
These days have helped us to rethink together our Dominican Amazonian Missions. It is always interesting to contrast the way we look at things with the perspective of those who come from outside, and to become aware of the richness of this mission as we share it with others. We were very proud to see the religious and lay people of our communities presenting the problems of the Amazon, and the indigenous people of the missions presenting their difficulties, dreams and hopes. The young girls from the residence of Santa Cruz gave a singular flavour to the meeting, allowing us to travel in spirit to the nearly two hundred native communities present in this region entrusted to the Order as a vicariate.
But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the meeting is the hope that it generates in us as Dominican missionaries. The decline of the presence of religious life in Amazonia is particularly striking. More and more congregations, facing a decrease in vocations, are choosing to prioritise their presence in the big cities, to the detriment of their presence among the native peoples. Our Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado is no stranger to this situation, with the number of missionaries in Amazonian territory decreasing and the average age of those who remain increasing. The efforts that the Province of St. John the Baptist of Peru is making to continue to maintain the missions are not enough. We trust that this meeting will make this important mission more visible and increase awareness in the Order as a whole, awakening in the friars, sisters and laity the apostolic zeal which St. Dominic had for the Cumans. We are convinced that the Amazon and its peoples have much to contribute to the future of the planet and of humanity, as well as to the synodal journey undertaken by the Church. We believe that the participation of the whole Order in the Dominican Amazon Missions will not only be a blessing for the Amazon and its peoples, but also for the religious or lay missionaries themselves, and for the province or lay brotherhood that sends them.
As has been the case for many years with the friars of the province of Hispania, we hope that now the whole Dominican family will feel a part of these Amazonian Dominican Missions even though many of us are not able to be physically present there. Our prayer for the missions, our concern and interest in what is happening, our efforts to obtain financial resources to support the mission (both by our own contributions and by organising collections for our faithful, too, to show their solidarity), will be a great contribution. We are convinced that “the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit.” (Francis, EG 279)
From this little corner of heaven where God has placed us, we encourage the whole Order to “Amazonise” our hearts by participating in this important mission that the Church has entrusted to us. We are waiting for you!
David Martínez de Aguirre Guinea, OP
Bishop Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Maldonado