Ministry in Las Termas, Argentina

Fr. Jim Weeks, M.S. above a view of exterior of
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church in Las Termas
de Rio Hondo, Argentina.

I am presently retired in our La Salette House in Hartford, CT. However several years ago I was involved for several years in active ministry with three other La Salettes in Las Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina.

Our parish ministry takes in a whole county and in some ways it’s like a whole diocese. There are two different realities to the parish: the city and the campo or countryside. In the campo we serve 127 chapels and 76 schools. In the city we have the main, central parish, with 11 chapels or faith communities attached.

Our most recent addition in Las Termas was the new school of Our Lady of La Salette. Well, the first part of the project was finished, which consisted of the kindergarten and grades 1 through 4. The land was donated by a parishioner. When finished, it will go from kindergarten through high school. So far most of the funds have come from the weekly cake sales put on by the Parent-Teacher Association, a car and motorcycle raffle also done by the PTA, and a state government grant of $150,000.00.

Forming Grass Roots Christian Communities

Logo for Basic Christian Communities

How can we care for all these realities? Thank God we have many active lay parishioners who collaborate with us. Basically our Pastoral Plan focuses on Family Catechetics, where both parents and their children walk together in a two-year preparation of Sacraments – First Communion, Confirmation – and on the formation of Grass Roots Christian Communities. These two aspects go hand-in-hand so that each group of parents and children – usually 8 to 10 families – are educated in their faith and later are formed in a Grass Roots Christian Community (“Comunidades Eclesiales de Base” or “Basic Christian Communities”). That way the whole parish becomes a “community of communities.”

The Oxford English Dictionary describes these “Comunidades de Base” as: “Led by lay men and women, their formation was encouraged by the Catholic hierarchy… to mitigate the shortage of priests in the second half of the 20th century; they were formally recognized by the Latin American bishops at Medellín in 1968 and in Paul VI's apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), sections 58 ff. They were involved in social issues and, inspired by Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (English translation, 1970), increased literacy and awareness of human rights, as well as fostering basic developmental programs.”

Celebration of Sacraments

Fr. Jim Weeks, M.S., with some parishioners

In about 40 of the campo schools, the teachers prepare the people for these Sacraments. They were very busy with over 300 children, preparing them for their First Communion and 120 for the Sacrament Confirmation. And, of course, in addition, preparing all of them for their first celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – probably about 1,000 confessions.

In our city parish we had many Baptisms every week. On any given Saturday, we could have 25, and as the time for First Communion approached, one day Fr. Alfredo Velarde, M.S., and myself celebrated 71 Baptisms.

For over 2,000 years, the world has been hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Actually our parish in Las Termas first heard it in 1589 from the mouth of Saint Francisco Solano who captivated our native people with his music and his violin, as we saw in the movie “The Mission.” For the last 72 years – what youngsters we North Americans are – the Missionaries of La Salette have been here preaching that same message of hope and love to the descendents of those people and to the immigrants here from European and Near East Christians – from Spain, Germany, Poland, Syria and Lebanon.

What a wonderful ministry the Lord has confided to us. Thank you for your help in accomplishing this mission.


Interior of Church of Our Lady of Prompt Succor