From the jail of Guayaramerin, Bolivia
From Guayaramerín: “… because I was imprisoned and they came to see me…”. to see me…” Mt 25:36 b
P. Vicente Chuvirù Román cmf
Chaplain of the Carceleta, Guayaramerin. Bolivia
Our Parish of Guayaramerín is located in the border area between Bolivia and Brazil. The Mamoré River is the one that separates the cities with the same name, but in different countries: Guayara-merín (Spanish-Bolivia) and Guajara-mirim (Portuguese-Brazil). The people here understand and speak both languages since most live from trade and exchange of marketable products.
Our community arrived in February and March 2020 together with the new foundation of the Claretian Missionary Sisters, with whom we work in shared mission as a Congregational family. In 2022 we find the cmf community formed by Father Vicente Chuvirú, Father Marianus Kolectus, and Father Armand Prósper Helona. The rmi community of the Claretian Sisters was formed by: Lucia Galichio, Judith Vicentin, and Josiane De Freitas Santos.
Because of the COVID 19 pandemic, our integration into the great variety of pastoral and apostolic services in urban and rural areas has been developing slowly and gradually because many evangelization agents and very active lay people in the church died in the ‘first wave’ of the epidemic. So much has been the pain that had to be accompanied and remedied from the Gospel of New Life.
As for the Las Palmas prison, our Claretian brothers left a mark. They made the way easy for us with everything they started and implemented there to promote the detainees. The carpentry shop that Father Antonio Chocarro promoted during his time of mission here (approximately ten years ago) is still in force.
Currently, in the Las Palmas prison, 181 inmates, 175 men and six women serve sentences or are in preventive detention. There are six cells with approximately 30 detainees in each cell, and one of these cells is separated for women. The number of inmates has varied, with significant increases and decreases. The fact is that there is a high rate of prison overcrowding in the country, which in August of last year reached 170% overpopulation. Our city of Guayaramerín has not been the exception….
Since we arrived here, we have been accompanying the group of ladies called “Las Carmelitas”, who is so named because of their great devotion to the Virgin of Carmen. Every month they faithfully go to the jail with food and supplies for each cell. They gather in the intermediate inner courtyard, praying there and sharing lunch or dinner with the inmates. The first time we went, there was “patasca”, a typical meal in our area, which requires a long time to prepare. On other occasions, we have brought them plates and glasses; what they ask for the most is meat for their daily food; they make their communal meal in mini-columns of bricks placed in parallel and with firewood in the middle of them.
There is another group from our parish that systematically visits them every month. It is the group of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. They also bring them food that they manage to acquire with their voluntary contributions. When they go, they especially gather the leaders of each dungeon to make their prayers and praises before delivering the supplies.
On some occasions, we have brought them clothes when we have received donations from the people of our town. As we mentioned at the beginning, the carpentry workshop that Father Antonio cmf enabled them is still active. What is happening nowadays is that we no longer receive donations from abroad as in the past. What we manage to get is with the effort of the same people here. Last year, we collaborated so that they could make handicrafts such as rugs and hammocks that could then be sold at a fair.
Our schools also have this awareness of solidarity with our most disadvantaged brothers and sisters. For example, the high school students collect merchandise during Holy Week, and a group of student delegates, accompanied by their Religion teacher and the Claretian Sisters, take it to the Carceleta. They usually ask to share a mass with the prisoners, but when this is not possible, they celebrate the Word with the Sisters.
The deficiencies here are many, but the main one is the affective one, the heart’s helplessness… not experiencing the infinite Merciful Love of God. There are many young people who have committed crimes and fallen into the scourge of drugs. There are no rehabilitation centers here. We know that it costs a lot to maintain these centers, not only in the monetary sense but also in maintaining the Work with fidelity and charity towards our brothers and sisters. It is impressive to hear from some people phrases like: “nobody ever taught me to be good” … They deserve our presence and accompaniment.
Therefore, following the words of Jesus: “what we have received freely, we try to give freely”. Jesus, his Gospel of New Life is what we try to share.
Blessings and cordial greetings from the Claretian community of Guayaramerín.
P. Vicente Chuvirù Román cmf