© Aid to the Church in Need
JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week: Argentina
Support for 91 religious Sisters in Añatuya
Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the diocese of Añatuya for many years now. Covering an area the size of Ireland, this diocese has approximately 120,000 inhabitants, 85% of whom are Catholic. It is an extremely arid and unproductive region and the absence of infrastructure makes it difficult, if not, impossible, to get around quickly. As a result, for the 33 priests working in the dioceses, the help of the more than 100 religious Sisters and lay pastoral workers is of a priceless value.
Bishop Adolfo, the bishop of Añatuya, has written to ACN for support. His is one of the poorest dioceses in Argentina, where the average salary is just 300 pesos (around $75) a month – the Sisters and catechists do not earn much more than this. “They get less than $75 a month, and from this they must pay their board, lodging and transportation costs,” explains Bishop Adolfo. They also share in the same kind of living conditions as everyone else. “We have no electric power. When it rains, the roads are impassable and we cannot even transport medicines or food,” reads a letter from three Dominican Sisters, who run a parish some 60 km (38 miles) from Añatuya.
The priest can only visit once a month; the rest of the time, the Sisters are the ones available for the Catholic faithful. Those who do have work here consider themselves lucky – despite the meagre salary – for the unemployment rate in Añatuya is around 65%.
Many of the local people live in simple mud huts with roofs of branches and grass. The general lack of hygiene and good order leads to all kinds of ailments, including outbreaks of tuberculosis and gastro-intestinal disorders, as well as syphilis. Many children suffer from malnutrition, and there is a lack of doctors, therefore the people are all the more happy to have Sister Asunción, a trained nurse, present among them. This Dominican Sister works in a health centre and “does everything” as her fellow religious testify. “The patients come from miles away, since they have more confidence in her than in the doctors,” they tell us.
Water is a veritable blessing in Añatuya where it normally rains for only four months of the year and where the soil is full of saltpetre and contaminated with arsenic. The only water is supplied by a very salty river – appropriately named – Rio Salado (or “Salty River”). This river also poses a very real threat during the rainy season to all the surrounding villages, when the roads and entire villages are inundated. “We had 24 evacuees living in our convent for almost 3 weeks,” recalls Sister Loucia, the superior of her community of six “Jesús Verbo y Víctima”. At the time, the Sisters were completely cut off from their surroundings and forced to suspend their pastoral work. Nevertheless, they continued to visit everyone they could reach, and prayed with them – a help which was of “great consolation” for all the people concerned.
Aid to the Church in Need wants to help support the life and apostolate of the 91 religious sisters in the diocese, with a total of $51,000.