It was the afternoon of May 27, 2022, when, with a Eucharist in the Church of El Carmen, we began the Year of the 170th Anniversary of the arrival of María Antonia París and her companions in Santiago de Cuba. The Eucharist was presided by Juventino Rodríguez, concelebrated by Kelvin Adames and Jusùs Marìs Amatraia, Claretians, and Fr. Martin Chavarria, rector of the Diocesan Seminary of San Basilo and Jordi, guest professor of the faculty of San Damaso, Madrid. In addition, the Claretians Xavier Thipousius and Manolo Pliego accompanied us in the celebration.
The sisters had been invited by Archbishop Claret to come to his Archdiocese. In her Autobiography, Maria Antonia tells us: “I received this letter as an express call from God… so I had no doubt that this New World was the place where God our Lord had determined to begin his work”.
The question arose for many: why in the Church of Carmel? Simply because, on the arrival of the sisters, on 26 May 1852, Archbishop Claret had prepared a house for them, in the Callejón del Carmen, and this was the first house, the first home, the first school of the Congregation… That is why celebrating the Eucharist in this church had a special meaning and helped us to celebrate the “memory” of so much good received! throughout these 170 years…
We experienced the Eucharist as a “family celebration”. The claretian Sisters of Santiago and Guantánamo, the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also from Santiago, Guantánamo and Songo La Maya; the Claretian Lay Family, former students of our schools in Cuba, members of the parish of Trinidad, of the Claret Centre… We were accompanied by the Seminary of San Basilio, and many others with whom, working in different pastoral areas, we make our way as a diocesan Ecclesial Family,
There was a great deal of participation in the organisation and immediate preparation, which is why we experienced it as a “synodal” celebration.
We wanted to highlight the solemn “enthronisation” of the Word, since the Ministry of the Word must be the centre of the pastoral action of this “family”.
Like every Eucharist, it was a celebration of thanksgiving. First of all to God, for his close and strengthening presence in those five young women who abandoned everything they knew and set out “into the deep” with the certainty that God had a plan for them, a mission, and that he wanted to carry it out in this “new world”, distant, unknown, strange, different… Nothing frightened the sisters. In the face of fear, insecurity, the risk of failure… God the Father was “carrying them in the palm of his hand”. We were also grateful for how God “has led us” over so many years and we asked for the grace to, understand like our Foundress: “certain and very sure that God never lacks the means, neither at sea nor on land, to help the needs of his children, even in that immense expanse of water, where we had no other refuge than the rough waves…. The memory of the dangers from which God had delivered us, increased more and more our hope in my God…”.
In the Eucharist, we prayed that the Lord would grant us all the same courage, readiness for missionary going forth, trust in his fatherly providence and capacity for risk with which he blessed Mother Paris and her companions….