Go to home page

 

  Central and South America 
  

Brazil

The Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - live the charism given by the Holy Spirit to the Founder, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, and live the Scalabrinian spirituality and mission which is ministry to migrant peoples where they are found. In this way the Sisters participate in keeping the migrants' faith and hopes alive, while taking care of the life of each person.

Brazil is the biggest country of South America and is ranked the eighth economic power in the world. A large social-economic contrast in the country persists in keeping an economic gap between the rich and the poor. The rich have become richer at the expense of the poor who have become poorer; thus we see the dynamic of human mobility in action and its increase as people move from the countryside to the city. The big cities "promise" of transforming ones life proves, for the most part, to be elusive for the majority. The following data illustrates this reality of Brazilian migration: between 1991 and 1996, 2.6 million Brazilians migrated within the country, from one region to another in search of better living conditions. The north-east region is considered as the main source for migration movement (43.8%). The south-east region is the main destination for most migrants, especially San Paolo, because of the strong presence of industry. In recent years it has been possible to see an increase in migrants returning to the north-east due to various factors, such as, on the one hand, increasing unemployment in the metropolitan region of San Paolo, and on the other, and increase in development in both tourism and industry in the north-east itself.

The Church, through the charism given by the Lord to the Founder, entrusts the Scalabrinian Sisters with the mission of accompanying migrants. The Scalabrinian Missionary Sister lives her mission of ministry to migrants in the different fields in which the Congregation works: such as education, health care, pastoral social work, Sheltersfor migrants, documentation and research/study centers, pastoral tourism care, apostolate of the sea, parochial work, and catechesis. The sisters are actively present among the various categories of migrants in Brazil: the sem-terra, the assentados, the bóias-frais, the lorry drivers, sugar cane cutters/workers, seasonal workers, etc. The 580 Sisters of the order are organized into 4 Provinces, with a total of 105 communities present in the 14 States of the Federation. Most of them are Brazilian nationals. In the last few years, due to missionary and migration movement/mobility, there are also MSCS Sisters of other nationalities, coming from: Argentina, Haiti, Columbia, Paraguay and Bolivia. Each Province has its own houses of formation, where young women prepare themselves for the Scalabrinian missionary religious life. At present there are 20 postulants and 30 novices.

The Scalabrinian Missionary Sister joins her people by sharing in their joys and sufferings. She searches for alternatives and commits herself to working for a dignified life for each person. The great spread of missionary work in Brazil is due to the fact that it was precisely there where the Congregation first planted its roots at the end of the 19th century. The Congregation has received and continues to receive abundant blessings, as far as vocations are concerned. Today, moved by the changing realities of human mobility and the needs of the Church, many Sisters from Brazil, are prepared by the Congregation to become migrants with the migrants, courageously leaving their homeland behind to be with the migrants, and so become a living sign of hope, as they head together toward new opportunities.
  


Argentina

We, the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - are consecrated women who, on hearing a special calling and attracted to a specific way of life, in continuing the activity and mission of Jesus Christ, freely respond to the vocation of being migrants with the migrants. We live a life of simplicity, guided by the light of the Gospel. In Argentina we have two communities, situated in the working-class neighbourhoods of the greater Buenos Aires: González Catan e Ramos Mejía. Out of the 8 MSCS Sisters, 4 are Brazilian and 4 are Argentinian.

Our mission is carried out completely and exclusively in the field of ministry to migrants in various sectors and in various ways, such as:

  • Family catechesis

  • Human promotion, above all by courses of formation of and care for the elderly

  • Counselling to the Scalabrinian Lay Missionaries

  • Leading youth groups and involvement in Migration Youth Pastoral care

  • Liturgical service

  • Social and pastoral work among woman, with particular attention to femininity and to the use of inclusive language

  • Professional formation

  • Family pastoral care

  • Pastoral care for migrants

The migration reality in Argentina varies widely. There is a significant amount of internal migration, caused by poverty, which has been increasing in recent years, due to the slow progress of development and to increasing unemployment. Besides this internal migration, large numbers of migrants from abroad, who are mainly poor and without documentation, enter the country and go to fill-out the large cities of Argentina.

Bolivia has 7 million inhabitants, and the Bolivian community present in Argentina today, has reached a total of 1.5 million, which is primarily composed of a migrant people who suffer from xenophobia, rigid laws, discrimination and clandestine living. The so-called agents of the "migration business" act among these Bolivian migrants, taking advantage of them, by helping them with entering illegally into Argentine.

Roughly 700 thousand immigrants have arrived from Paraguay. Of these, at least 350 thousand are illegally residing in the country and are employed in undocumented labor, and frequently underpaid.

Peruvian immigrants have reached a total of 500 thousand. The number of refugees accepted in the last 10 years has been 11,380, and come from 74 countries throughout the world. Today, the ACNUR protects 3 thousand refugees in Argentina. Finally, as a result of international accords, Argentina has accepted 4,200 Ukrainians and 2,100 Russians, with temporary migration visas. Of these immigrants, 80% still await the regularization of their documents, which would allow them access to a dignified social and economic life.
  


Colombia

We are present in Columbia with a group of nine Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - who are consecrated to God in our ministry to migrants and to the desplazados. Our community is multicultural, consisting of: 7 Brazilians, an Ecuadorian, and a Columbian. Encouraged and upheld by God's love, we live among these people on the move, giving them our undivided attention, as we tirelessly and enthusiastically attend to their needs.

In our mission, we witness, above all, to love of neighbor, seen concretely in: our assisting the desplazados of the Casa del Migrante and of the Bogotà station; by helping a number of foreign students present in our community; by welcoming with special love those young women in search of a vocation who wish to live a period of time with us; by welcoming and accompanying young women who already are in preparation for religious life, in various stages of formation; by dedicating ourselves to promoting vocations at the national level; by serving on the Latin American Bishops' Council - CELAM; by coordinating and organizing pastoral care in the Archdiocese of Bogotá through pastoral care of migrants, tourists and the apostleship of the sea. Finally, we are involved with the office for translations, thereby providing an important service to the Church in Brazil.

All our work is situated in the present reality of Columbia. Since the 1950's, Columbians have lived in a continuous environment of violence within the country. The various political powers in Colombia are unable to find common accord in order to agree to a long lasting peace treaty. For this reason, the people suffer aggression and violence from many different fronts: from the army, which intervenes to maintain order; from guerrilla warfare, which wants to unify the country; and from paramilitary groups, which defend the interests of the economically powerful of the country. Besides these competing powers, one notices the swell of violence created by cocaine production and trafficking.

Such a situation forces farmers to be in a constant state of movement. It is estimated that at present there are 1 million of desplazados Columbians, without a single law to protect them. Only the Church, and the NGOs, which operate to alleviate the drama of families obliged to leave their homeland and all that they possess, in order to protect their life and the lives of their loved ones, are present in trying to make a difference. In short, Columbia produces emigrants, but never attracts imigrants, only tourists!
  


Dominican Republic

The Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - began their mission in the Dominican Republic, in the town of San Pedro de Macorìs, in September 1991, with the arrival of three Sisters from Brazil. Since the beginning, the sisters have been migrants among the migrants, sharing the life of Haitian migrants working under inhuman conditions in the sugar cane fields. By sharing with the migrants, their struggle to find a home, to come to grips with the local language, culture and social conditions, the Sisters have relived with the Haitians, the history of the People of Israel in the land of Egypt.

Today, with the development of their missionary work and with the arrival of new vocations, the MSCS Sisters' presence has grown. There are, at present, two communities in the Dominican Republic, one in San Pedro de Macorìs and the other in Santo Domingo, with seven sisters: 5 Brazilian, 1 Argentinean and 1 Haitian. In addition, there are some young women in formation for religious life who live with the Scalabrinian Missionary community.

The MSCS Sisters are dedicated to the service of migrants in the local Church, above all to those who are poor and most in need. They coordinate and organize the pastoral care of migrants on a national level, on behalf of the Bishops' Conference, which includes documenting the different categories of people on the move, such as migrants, tourists, and seafarers. Besides this, their missionary service extends to the formation of young women to religious life, and to the coordination and organization of pastoral care for immigrants in local parishes and in the dioceses in which they live.

The massive presence of foreign immigrants in the Dominican Republic can be explained by various reasons. The majority of them come from Haiti in search of better living conditions, in order to escape the poverty in which they live; there are also immigrants who arrive from Cuba as a result of the local political situation there. Many Europeans are also present in the country for business and trade. In contrast to this inflow of arrivals, a consistent number of Dominicans emigrate to the U.S.A. every year; and, in the last decade, especially in the case of women, towards Europe. In recent years, the number of those forcibly repatriated by deportation also has increased. The sisters live among this diversity of people, as consecrated women, as migrants, as one who has the world as one's homeland.

 


Paraguay

We, the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - , have been present in Paraguay offering service to migrants for 25 years. Our community here is made-up of 18 Sisters, all Brazilians. The six local communities into which we have been divided, are located in the departamentos Alto Paranà and Central. Two of these communities, are present where most of the Brazilian migrants live, and are especially dedicated to the formation of future Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters. Both of these communities, together with the other three which are in Alto Paranà, work in social-pastoral service among migrants with by offering: pastoral care for migrants at both the local parish and diocesan level; solidarity and service in favor of irregulars; instruction and services in sanitary pastoral care; and above all aid with alternative medicine. In addition to these activities, we organize other personal services based on the need of the community or individual migrant. Our community situated in the Central departamento coordinates national pastoral care for migrants, and directs the Center for Evangelization and Human Promotion "Santa Librada", in Asuncion, where migrant women receive hospitality, professional formation, and counselling.

Our pastoral work favors migrants in Paraguay and is guided by the following main objectives:

  • To create relations among and mediate between irregular migrants and local authorities.

  • To form pastoral workers in service of migrants.

  • To promote organization among migrants themselves.

  • To organize a week of awareness for the cause of migrants.

  • To participate in the Church's mission locally and nationally.

Our missionary presence is lived out in a local area in which migrants play a significant role. Among the almost 5,200,000 habitants of Paraguay, over 213,000 are foreigners. Out of these, almost 116,000 are from Brazil, others come from Argentina, Korea, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Among the migrant population, it is thought that two out of three are indocumentados.

From the 1980's to today, internal migration continues to grow. The largest movements of migrants are of country people towards the cities. We underline, in a particular way, the strong presence of women in these trends. We, additionally, have noticed an increase in emigration from Paraguay, especially towards Buenos Aires in Argentina.

 


Ecuador

The poverty in Ecuador forms a significant problem which hits more than half of the national population. Especially after 1982, social conditions worsened due to the economic crisis in the country and to political decisions made by the government. This situation has served to increase poverty, unemployment and the national debt, which has had serious consequences for the population. This kind of situation is the source for the emigration of thousands of Ecuadorians to foreign countries, others in Latin America, but especially North America, and to some European countries, namely Italy, Spain, and England. The context also determines the internal migration, already favored by environmental and climatic phenomena. Connected to the reality of migration in Ecuador is the presence of Columbian refugees and desplazados, forced to emigrate due to the internal situations of nostro hermano pais Colombia.

It is in this context that the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - are present through evangelical and missionary service to the migrants in the coordination and organization of assistants and of pastoral care on a national and diocesan level. Their action is directed towards the various categories of migrants present in the country: refugees, internal migrants, emigrants and frontier migrants. In their mission, the MSCS Sisters, using the fullness offered by their femininity, competence and vocation, dedicate their energy and time and all of their resources to: the service of the life of migrants; to the proclamation of and witness to Jesus Christ; and to the building of a more fraternal and just society, where every person and family is respected and their rights are protected. Such tasks are carried out by the Sisters in cooperation, and by networking, with local and international bodies with which they have an established synergy in order to reach common objectives.

The five MSCS Sisters, all Brazilian, have become migrants with the migrants in Ecuador. They live in Quito, in two small houses, where their life is lived as a reciprocal gift, as a constant movement of openness towards others, above all towards the diverse peoples found in the population by accepting, recognizing, rejoicing and suffering with them in their different identities and in the concrete situation in which they live.
 


Honduras

The Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters - MSCS - live the Scalabrinian charism among the migrants also in Honduras since 1991. We are a community composed of three MSCS Sisters, two Brazilian and one Columbian. In our missionary-apostolic work we co-ordinate at a national and archdiocesan level the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility in the Church, in society and in public and international institutions.

We also work in the Centro de Atención a Mirgrantes Deportados - CAM and in Tegucigalpa airport. The Pastoral Care for Human Mobility also works in San Pedro Sula airport and in the Casa del Migrante un Ocotepeque, at the frontier with Guatemala. In these centres we promote a dignified reception of migrants, helping them to defend their rights, and assist in their social and occupational process of reintegration. Our activity also involves the coordination and organisation of migrants' pastoral care in parishes and in other diocese of the country.

We practise our pastoral work in Honduras in various sectors and ways: inform on the national and international migration reality; organise various activities about migration and similar themes, in particular on migrants' rights; allow the Church and society to become aware of the situation in which the migrants live. Besides this, we promote the formation of human mobility pastoral workers and we are concerned with the counselling and guidance of the Scalabrinian Lay Missionary Moviment in order to widen the initiatives of solidarity and cooperation, because all our work is carrried out in network with the other pastoral sectors.

As far as the migration reality in Honduras is concerned, one may assert that the main causes of population movement are economical ones, natural disasters and political reasons. The first two causes are origin for the significant internal migration, both temporary and permanent. However, the international migrations of the (onduregni), especially for those who have left their country in the 1980's, have political causes. During the last years, Honduras has seen a significant movement of return for the thousands of migrants forcedly repatriated from the United States. For 1999 alone, statistics show 4,105 forced repatriates.
 


Bolivia

 The Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters have started since 2002 in the city Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, a mission, in offering their evangelical and missionary service for the migrants. Corresponding to their program to pay attention to the defence of migrants ‘rights and of the “dislocados”, displaced people’s rights, overall referring to health, to education and to the human and Christian promotion, the Scalabrinian Sisters, in this mission, they are principally dedicated to the internal migration because it is a considerable number.

The start of this mission has been preceded by a long contact with the Bishops and with the pastoral action of the Church with the aim to make the Church responsible also in comparison to the Brazilian migrants.

The land exodus and the moving to the cities are becoming more and more evident and more and more difficult to control. The poverty, in which the people live that work on the field forces them to abandon their land and to look for surviving in some way in the city. The reasons of the progressive impoverishment of the population are various and some of them are well known. The reasons are in the main part without further ado the high index of corruption of the political class, the concentration of land and of natural resources in the power of a few people, the unjust distribution of state property and the privatisation of companies and resources of income. All this causes a bad economical situation that determines the abandonee of the place of origin in order to look for a possible life somewhere else.

The related migration is a phenomenon that proves already this situation for some years. We, the Scalabrinian Sisters, are in search of ways of collaboration with the citizens in order to build with them a great force of defence of migrants’ and their families’ rights and also helped by the entities, which can have a positive influence.

 In Santa Cruz de la Sierra we are working in the most marginalized districts, where we try to follow and to give training overall to the operators of the Migration Pastoral, that is giving support to the population of the related countries, they intend to build a bridge between the country of origin and that of destination.

But, it is known, that the Pastoral of Human Mobility is difficult, because they look like being out of any kind of scheme and it is required the radical change of our ways of thinking and of our ordinary pedagogical approaches, therefore we are moved to look for or to create constantly a new way of being Church. It is more and more evident, in fact, that as ‘consecrated women’ we are called, to the imitation of Mary, present in the wedding of Cana of Galilee, to work with any kind of mean so that also we reach to transform the water to vine. Our Blessed Founder, Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, incentives us to be bold, that we may be ‘salt’ and ‘light’, being constructers of evangelical hope, of truthful solidarity, where we have been sent to proclaim that God Father loves all his sons and daughters, giving us courage to trace that way of fraternity and of solidarity, where also justice finds place.

 
©2001 MSCS. All rights reserved.