The Activities of Good Shepherd Partners in Mission in Northwest Argentina
Article by the Province of Argentina/Uruguay.
On August 13, 1885, during a period in Argentina of notable growth in religious orders, a group of eight sisters from Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd arrived in Buenos Aires. After a short stay at the Monastery of the Visitation of Saint Mary, the sisters - five from Chile and three from Uruguay - founded their first house in the city. Like many of the religious orders that arrived towards the end of the 19th century, they came to the country to provide welfare and education, filling a gap in the social provisions of the conservative republic.
Their first ministry for vulnerable girls opened from new larger premises in January 1886. They later transferred to other new premises which had been temporarily loaned to them by a laywoman. In fact, from the very earliest of days, numerous laypeople helped the mission of the Good Shepherd to take root in the country. To achieve the objectives of Saint Mary Euphrasia's primary charism, the sisters - supported by these laity - provided education and training to young girls and adolescents. From this third house in Buenos Aires, the sisters ventured out to establish many of the foundations throughout Argentina, including in Tucumán and Cafayate. These neighboring cities are in the Calchaquí Valley, an area in the northwestern region of Argentina best known for its contrasting colors and unique geography that ranges from the mountain desert to the subtropical forest.
As throughout the province, the presence of lay partners in these two cities continues to play a vital role in the mission of the Good Shepherd. In Tucumán, officially known as San Miguel de Tucumán, the mission of the lay partners is to offer accompaniment and bring the Word of God to families living in the mountainous areas of Río Grande and La Tomad, where they participate in their religious celebrations and offer organizational support throughout the year. They also assist with the catechesis programs for the children in the two areas. In addition, the partners in mission collaborate with Caritas of the Archdiocese to offer social welfare to the two communities and help at the soup kitchen in La Toma.
The Oratory of Nuestra Señora del Rosario del Milagro built by the Good Shepherd partners in mission.
In the nearby area of El Siambón, the sisters and partners in mission have been building the Nuestra Señora del Rosario del Milagro Oratory that includes a multi-use ‘St. Mary Euphrasia’ room with kitchen and bathroom. Awareness-raising campaigns on human trafficking, child violence, and the Care of Creation are held here and shared to other locations.
In the city of Cafayate, some three and a half hours away, grassroots devotion is a popular form of religious expression. Among other activities, the partners in mission offer support during the pilgrimages and novenas, and take part in the religious processions of the most popular saints. They also help the sisters to bring communion to the housebound sick and elderly. In addition, family catechesis programs are run here, and every Saturday afternoon parents, children, and catechists participate in the celebration of the Word of God.
Laypeople with their families participating at Mass in Cafayate.
Like all the partners in mission in the Province of Argentina/Uruguay, the laity in Tucumán and Cafayate – together with the sisters – participate in formation meetings, training workshops, and the province and congregational chapters. Each layperson plays their role to spread the Good Shepherd mission and attract more religious and lay vocations committed to this noble service. By doing so, the partners in mission in Tucumán and Cafayate continue the service of making present the Good Shepherd's tenderness, compassion, and mercy in the world today.