|(L to R) Rev. James M. Weeks, M.S., Rev.
John P. Bradford, M.S., Rev. Stephen
J. Krisanda, M.S., preparing to leave
for their new mission in Argentina.
Editor: In the Spring of 1965, Fr. Jack Toner, M.S., Director of the La Salette Mission Office in Hartford, CT, announced in his monthly newsletter about the La Salettes from North America formally taking their place in the mission of Argentina. North American La Salettes had already volunteered in the missions of
Burma (Myanmar), Magadascar, the Philippines and assisted informally in Argentina. In his article we see the first steps made by our first three La Salettes from North America in embracing their new mission in “the Argentine,” as he described it.
New Mission Challenge for
La Salettes from North America
Before them lay one of the greatest challenges yet to be faced by the sons of the Weeping Madonna of La Salette; the winning back to the Catholic faith of some of the countless thousands who have strayed into the paths of indifference as the result of the combination of unfortunate circumstances that have been at work over the years in Latin America.As arms were raised and hands waved a fond farewell at Kennedy Airport, a fast-flying jet of Panagra Airlines lifted its wheels from the ground and thundered away into the darkness on the night of March 23, 1965, and with it the newest of American La Salette Missions was born. On board were three zealous young Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, Rev. John P. Bradford, M.S. of Fonda, Iowa; Rev. Stephen J. Krisanda, M.S., of Jessup, Pa., and Rev. James M. Weeks, M.S., of Clinton, Mass.
The School of Know-How
First stop on the route of the three trailblazers was Lima, Peru, where at the invitation of His Eminence, Richard Cardinal Cushing, and the Superior of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, Father Joseph Havey, they are currently enrolled in a four months' course of intensive training at the Latin-American center of missionary formation.
|(from left) Time Magazine’s 1964 Man of the Year,
Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston; members of
the Missionary Society of St. James in Lima, Peru in 2007.
Founded by His Eminence in 1962, the center is known as "Cruzpatambo (Place of the Cross)”, and is located high in the Andes Mountains in a natural setting most conducive to the heavy schedule undertaken by the students. The facilities for language study are unsurpassed and are said to be the finest in all of South America.
Cruzpatambo exists to help Missionaries to South America to adjust from the environment of their homeland to that of the Latin American scene. This change demands the study of the elements that are a part of the Latin American reality of today. Accordingly, the courses of study undertaken by the missionaries will include thirty-two hours of Spanish weekly, as well as those which will provide workable knowledge of the cultural, religious, social and economic life of South America.
The Latin-American mentality is studied; its approach to religion as well as the most effective techniques of teaching in South America. The three pioneering Missionaries are the first Americans destined for the Argentine Missions to use the facilities of Cruzpatambo.
And then… to the New Mission
|Frs. Krisanda, Bradford and Weeks
are greeted by the previous
diocesan pastor of Las Termas de
Rio Hondo, Argentina.
Following the completion of the courses in July, Fathers Bradford, Krisanda and Weeks will move on to their first base of operations in the Argentine. In most cases of the urban centers of South America, prosperity, such as it is, ends at the city line, and one quickly encounters the masses living in abject poverty. South America is a land of impressive, startling contrasts – wealth flanked on all sides by poverty; modern buildings, and within eyesight, jungle hovels where the poor barely exist; on the same road modern cars and cycles ("motos") together with dozens of old fashioned, high wheeled wagons drawn by scraggly, underfed horses.
The Challenge is Great and Severe
While the economic plight of thousands of the people will present a challenge to the young missionaries, their greatest problem will be that of facing a situation wherein 95% of the population is Catholic, but only 5% practice their faith. The causes of the tragic situation are manifold and complex, but surely not the least, by any means is the scarcity of priests over the past several generations. In many places there is but one priest for every 20,000 to 30,000 Catholics. In their initial assignment, our missionaries will have in their district, over 15,000 Catholics by Baptism.
|Frs. Krisanda, Bradford and Weeks
stand in front of their first official
a parish in Las Termas.
Different forms of Spiritism, Communism, gross superstition and indifference have all taken their costly toll. Churches are empty in many places, untidy – all of which contributes to a poor image of the Church. Worst of all, with minimal Catholic family life, there are no native vocations, so that the threat now exists that unless the challenge is met quickly and successfully, not only will the existing Churches be without people, but without priests.
And so the "Challenge in Argentina" has many facets – the endless hours of instruction and patient understanding of and solution to the spiritual ills that beset the people and keep them from God and the Church; the alleviation of the economic distress and poverty of the masses; the development of strong Catholic leadership; and especially the fostering of native Argentine vocations.
Prayers and Parting Tributes
However, our pioneering missionaries left their native land well fortified by the inspiring memories of the tribute paid them at an impressive Departure Ceremony at Our Lady of Sorrows' Church, Hartford, where on February 28, a Solemn High Mass was celebrated by the three missionaries with the Most Rev. John F. Hackett, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford, presiding, and the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph M. Griffin, Archdiocesan Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith preaching an eloquent sermon.
On the Sunday preceding, an equally significant Ceremony was held at the La Salette Shrine Church, Ipswich, Mass. Among those honoring the event by their presence were Rev. Joseph E. Havey, Superior of the Missionary Society of St. James and his assistant, Rev. Daniel J. Sheehan. Over five hundred people attended each of the Ceremonies.
We rely upon the host of wonderfully loyal, generous friends of the La Salette Missions to rally their Spiritual and material support to our newest grave and certainly highly important responsibility in the Argentine Missions.
On the back cover of the La Salette publication, Our Lady’s Missionary in 1970, Fr. Weeks
is seen visiting a family in the “campos (fields)” in the poor district of Pellegrini, Argentina.