Father Alberto GNEMMI, Provincial of the Mediterranean Province, and the Vicar Provincial, Fr. Ismael GARCIA, recently visited the Delegation of Uruguay, which in a short time will become part of a new province in Latin America. Here are some excerpts from the letter which Fr. Alberto wrote to the Oblates and Lay Associates.
First of all, I mention something that can, in a way, illustrate the historical moment that the Oblate Mission is living: probably, this visit will be the last of a Provincial to the Delegation, since as of next February (except for unexpected last minute changes) the Provincial Unit of Uruguay, with a long canonical history, exactly forty years, will become part of a new province, which in the documents bears the name of “Provincia Cruz del Sur” [Southern Cross Province]. In effect, the Delegation will be part of this new Unit of the Congregation, together with the two provinces of Argentina-Chile and Paraguay.
The new Province, which could count on as many as eighty Oblates, already has its first “Provincial-elect”, named by Father General in Council on September 22, namely, Father Jorge ALBERGATI, 54 years old, and superior of the Uruguayan Delegation since 2013. …
I think it is important to highlight that the mission in Uruguay has its historical roots and its own development in what is now the Mediterranean Province. Indeed, in August 1930, the first Oblates who entered the country were the Spanish Frs. Emiliano DÍEZ and Jesús CALLEJA and the Italian Pietro CENTURIONI, whom Spanish Frs. Álvaro VEGA and Daniel FRANCO, and Brothers Alvino GARCÍA and Santiago MARTÍNEZ joined shortly thereafter. This formidable team, linked to the Province of Texas [ed. Former Southern Province, USA], on which the Spanish territory depended, after having started the first mission in the region of Salto, will give life, first to a missionary experience in Paso de los Toros and in San Gregorio of Polanco in the Tacuarembó region, located in the center of the country; and successively, in 1939, in the Cerro area, on the periphery of Montevideo, where the San Rafael mission will be born.
Other Spanish Oblates joined these first Oblates and, at the beginning of the fifties, the Italian, Fr. Donato CELLIE. In March 1972, when the Spanish Oblates were fewer than ten, four Italian Oblates arrived in Uruguay, attached to the Province of Argentina: Fr. Giuseppe BORGHESE (who had been in Argentina since the 1950’s), Fr. Carlo MATTIUSSI, Fr. Antonio ALBERTI and Bro. Carmine SCOGNAMIGLIO. In December 1976, while the Spanish Oblates, Frs. Florencio DOMINGUEZ and Jesús ISASO continued their ministry, there arrived in Uruguayan territory four Italian Oblates returning from Laos: Frs. Bramante MARCHIOL, Luigi SION, Angelo PELIS and Mario BIFFI, who were joined, in March 1977, by Frs. Rino MARTIGNAGO and Mario GAZZOLA, also from the Laotian mission. In that same year, when the last Spanish Oblates left the Uruguayan territory (Fr. Dominguez would go to Argentina and Fr. Isaso would return to Spain), after some negotiations between the Province of Argentina and the Province of Italy, on February 8, 1978, the Delegation of Uruguay of the Province of Italy was born.
If in February of next year the Cruz del Sur Province is born, the Delegation will cease to exist canonically when it is exactly forty years old. In any case, whether considered many or few years, these four decades, as well as those that preceded with the presence of numerous Spanish Oblates, will remain as the precious leaven fermenting the always new bread of the Gospel that, surely, the Oblates of the new Province will continue to knead so as to nourish the Christian faith of those who experience hunger for love and reconciliation, fraternity and sharing, values that give meaning to life and truths that show the eternal dimension as the fullness of human existence. As the Gospel tells us, “the seed that dies in the ground bears fruit”: the Spanish Oblate presence on Uruguayan soil since 1930 and the history of the Delegation of Uruguay, which has continued from 1978 until today, have carried out a missionary journey, characterized by a fruitful apostolate, full of evangelical words and gestures, which can only but flourish in the furrow of the history of our Congregation, through the new reality of the Provincia Cruz del Sur.
This awareness “of the old that leaves space for the new”, that is, of the transformation that will happen in the Oblate mission with the birth of the “Provincia Cruz del Sur” in the Latin American continent, was the subject of dialogue and sharing of the Oblates of the Delegation during a day of spiritual retreat, held on Monday, October 9, at the Religious Institute “Familia Myriam Bethlehem” in the small town of Villa Rodríguez, about eighty kilometers from Montevideo. In the discussion on the specific theme of unification, the advantages that the Oblate reality will enjoy were especially evident: a greater possibility for the exchange of personnel; sharing of resources and proposals in the various apostolic activities; a new impulse, especially in Uruguay, of youth ministry; an improvement in the quality of government initiatives and formation, in particular, of lifelong formation. …
Someone jokingly but correctly said: “One provincial leaves, but another stays.” Anyway, the congratulations to the Provincial (still only “elect”) to the new Provincia Cruz del Sur and its members, expressed by the two European visitors from the Mediterranean Province, is sincere and made in the name of the entire Oblate Family: “Ad Multos Annos, Provincia Cruz del Sur!” May Mary Immaculate protect you and accompany you in this new gospel venture. Always at the service of the Church and of the Kingdom of God.