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(ANS - San Benito) – On Sunday 17 June there was the official opening of the new Salesian foundation in San Benito, in Petén, Guatemala. It is a parish of 60,000 people most of them young in a vey poor social setting.
Bishop Mario Fiandri SDB, Vicar Apostolic of El Petén presided at Mass during which it was formally entrusted to the Salesians. Among the concelebrants was the new parish priest Fr Michele Giorgio and the Provincial of Central America Fr Alejandro Hernandez. In the congregation were many parishioners.
The sixty thousand in the parish are divided into eight groups with chapels in various centres and three villages 25 km away. In spite of the poor state of the property – the church needs rebuilding and there is a shortage of furnishings and vestments – the parish community gives good signs of its Christian spirit. Present during the ceremony were a large number of servers and candidates for the sacrament of confirmation and a high proportion of the faithful and young people.
In simple terms the Vicar Apostolic and the Provincial encouraged the local people mentioning the special commitment of the Salesians to the poorest young people and those most in need among the ordinary people. Fr Hernandez announced that soon the parish priest would be joined by two other Salesians: Fr Giampiero De Nardi, an Italian missionary and Fr James Shiju, an Indian missionary both recently ordained and both newly arrived in Guatemala the previous year.
Writing to ANS, Fr De Nardi says: “This is a good place to be involved. The Province has been making admirable efforts because there are many young people here and it is necessary to be with them so that they are not lost. In this period of preparation for the bicentenary of his birth, Don Bosco has planted a new tree in the garden of Guatemala”.
The Vicariate Apostolic, in which the new foundation lies is in the north of Guatemala; a large rural area. There are also some very important cultural heritage sites of the Maya such as El Tikal and El Mirador. The Vicariate Apostolic was entrusted to the care of the Salesians in 1996.