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You are here:Home / Family News / NEF 2014 / Family News - 2014 February 14th / The eleven vicariates of the congregation (2)
Feb 14, 2014

The eleven vicariates of the congregation (2)

The Vicariate of Argentina-Uruguay

Its roots

The Betharramite mission in south Argentina was one of the most courageous and most important choices made by St Michael. Everybody knows the whole story. Countless Basques had immigrated to the New World in search of work and a better life, but most of them were living like pagans according to Father Guimon, without any care for their religious formation. The Bishop of Buenos Aires had written to the Bishop of Bayonne asking him to send him some Basque priests. Mgr Lacroix spoke to Betharram about the problem. During the general assembly of the Congregation on 16 October 1864 our Founder included in the programme the following question: “Will our Society accept the mission which is offered to it to go and minister in the diocese of Buenos Aires?” The response was unanimous and the adventure in America had begun.


After two years of preparation, on 31 August 1856 the first missionaries left Bayonne on board the “Etincelle”. It is a good idea to recall their names once more: Fathers Didace Barbe, Simon Guimon, Louis Larrouy, Pierre Sardoy and Jean-Baptiste Harbustan, the seminarian Jean Magendie and Brothers Joannes Arosteguy and Fabian Lhopital.

After countless ups and downs the community took up residence in the parish of San Juan Buenos Aires from 1862. A few years previously, on 19 March 1856, feast of St Joseph, the San Jose College was officially opened in the Capital and on 1st March 1861 the arrival of the first community in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. In 1867 it was the opening of a school which was to become the Lycee Immaculada Conception. From the end of the 19th century the number of communities grew corresponding to the expulsion of the Betharramites from France: the scholasticate at Almagro (1898), Rosario College (1900), La Plata College (1903), the community at Barracas (1908), and later on the seminary at San Jose de Cuyo (1936) and Rosario (1939), the scholasticate Adrogue (1937). In Uruguay two small communities were opened at Atlantida (1950) and Sauce (1987), both closed today.

The General Chapter of 1947 decided to divide the congregation into Provinces. The first project joined Argentina with Spain and Uruguay with Paraguay and then Brazil. In 1951 it was the birth of the Province of Rio de la Plata with the communities of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. This organisation was maintained until the end of the 1980s when Paraguay became autonomous as a vice-province and Uruguay a delegation directly attached to the Superior General. Actually as an autonomous vice-province Uruguay didn’t last long. In the 1990s it was once more joined with Argentina and today they form the Vicariate Argentina –Uruguay which was approved at the General Chapter of 2005.

Roberto Cornara


Its Present AND ITS FUTURE...with Fr. Daniel González scj

Our Vicariate comes with a long history and looks at the present with enthusiasm to prepare the future. This is the reason why it is actually en recherche. In this last period, the 18 religious in the Vicariate have been strenghtening this convinction: discernment is a community exercise; it is the meeting point for inter generations; it is the place where decisions are taken which direct our lives in conformity with the call received.

During the Assembly of October 2012 we made 4 choices:

1. Restructure and reorganise our communities according to what we are called to live together as Betharramite religious today.
This led us to examine how we see ourselves as religious, to look at where we are and our life style, and to undertake the difficult task of intergenerational dialogue.
From that point of view, 2013 has been a difficult year for dialogue, discernment and choices; at the beginning of 2014 we find ourselves in a new situation and with new projects which are the result of these elements:
- Awareness of our reality, both fragile and rich; - The desire to remain faithful to our vocation; - The creativity of the religious to generate and transmit life; - The commitment and sense of membership of the laity.

We decided to live in four communities: Adrogue, Barracas, San Juan and Montevideo; so we have moved from a few communities organised for a specific mission, as was the case formerly – a community for a rural mission, the community for the mission in the schools, the formation community – to the formation of communities giving us the best conditions to live out our vocation and our mission as Betharramite religious.

We decided to fix our service on three projects:

  • popular missions in the city;
  • mission in the 9 schools;
  • On-Going Formation.

These Vicariate projects are meant to promote a new style of mission: a style which is less personal and more fraternal, encouraging dialogue, community discernment, group work, exploiting the gifts of each one for the service of all, exchanges between communities, opportunities to celebrate the work performed together.

2. The mission shared with the laity; reorganisation of property for the service of the mission.
For years we have known that every baptised Christian is called to the mission, in line with the charism and ministries. In 2013, the Council of Vicariate and the lay representatives of the Pastoral Teams (Youth, Mission, Laity, and Education) worked side by side to construct the Pastoral Project of the Vicariate. Here is its main plan:
“Faithful to the charism of the Incarnation and to the call of the Church in Latin America, we propose “to facilitate the meeting of the individual with Jesus Christ, to encourage and form disciples and missionaries, so that responding generously and with joy to their vocation, they may bear witness to the gift received and thus change the present situation by constructing the Kingdom of God.”

Specific objectives:
a. Create zones of formation which will be a help in discovering and living one’s vocation. / b. Choose the preferential option for the young people. / c. Promote on-going formation which must by dynamic and be found in the community. / d. Preferential option for the poor, not only those lacking bare necessities materially, but also those in need of God and neighbour. / e. Promote and accompany educational communities from the point of view pastoral and missionary.

3. Create and pursue a pastoral to cultivate vocations.
- In the Vicariate there are 3 young candidates in initial formation, 2 professed and 1 novice.
- We understand vocation in the deepest sense as an invitation to follow Christ, consequently all pastoral is vocation inspired. Today we are carrying on the fine tradition of work amongst the young and with the young. However I notice that we are lacking the courage and joy in our vocation, which wants to be an invitation to lead the same style of life. Unless of course we don’t know how to set about it.

4. The future of Montevideo.
In Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, we have a college and a parish but only one religious. The regional chapter of 2010 suggested examining this situation. As a result of our discernment we opted for a regional missionary choice, by strengthening the presence of Betharram in Uruguay. As a result, in February 2014, a community was opened in Montevideo, made up of 4 members – a religious priest from our vicariate, a deacon from Brazil, a religious priest and another brother from Paraguay. They will be responsible for pursuing a mission in the north of the country, 400 km from the community, in the diocese of Tacuarembo-Rivera; as well as all this they will look after the pastoral animation of the College in the city of Montevideo.

In 2014 at the height of an unsettled economical situation, hostile to the formation given by public institutions to private ones like ours, we want to maintain the following options:
The missionary dimension acquired little by little by our Colleges as well as the new sectors which are opening up to help with “personal evangelisation and accompaniment “for our managing staff, our teaching staff and other members of the educational team.
A greater closeness and awareness on the part of the religious and laity to the poor (in towns and villages) as in 2013.
On-going Formation meetings and assemblies which are appreciated by the religious, so as to transform them into places of fraternity and community discernment.
Advance armed with decisions the result of community discernment, in which we feel that we have been closely involved.

2014 is offering us countless challenges which could easily open up new occasions for action. I pray to the Lord that we may let ourselves be guided by the light of his Spirit. Amen.

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