Santiago (Chile) On 7 March 2020, waiting for Sister Silvia Boullosa, Visiting Councilor, at the airport for the start of the Canonical Visit to the Communities of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Chilean Province of St. Gabriel the Archangel (CIL), were the Provincial, Sister Ximena Oyarzo Mansilla, the Provincial Vicar, Sister Rosa Suazo, and the Councilors Sister Lucia Rosada, Sister Viviana Donoso, and Sister Paola Aspelgreen. Upon arrival at the Provincial House, Sister Susana Díaz, animator of the community, together with some FMA representatives of the communities of Santiago and neighboring cities, placed the meeting of the Visiting Councilor under Mary’s protection, together with each FMA and the Educating Communities of Chile. Starting from the biblical text of the Visitation (Lk 1: 39 – 56), she recalled the spirit of the visits of the origins:
“Mother Mazzarello, through the suggestions and example of Don Bosco, knew that visits can promote communion between sisters and in the communities. Thus, as a pilgrim continually traveling, she sought to promote communities in constant conversion, where charity was lived, in which the love of God, perceived and nourished daily, became the regenerating force of fraternal and apostolic life. These moments were experienced as a time of communion, meeting, and joy. She made the visit with love and was able to grasp small gestures and needs, reaching each one personally. She considered it an opportunity for direct communication with the sisters with whom she had no daily contact.”
On the morning of March 8, in the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Fr. Julio Orrego, Salesian of Don Bosco, Sister Silvia Boullosa presented the medal to María Ignacia Garcés Martínez, a former student of the José Miguel Infante High School in Santiago, who began the Period of Assessment and Guidance (PVO) in the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. She then ended the day by meeting with the Provincial, the Provincial Councilors, and the Community Animators. On 9 March the synergy meeting continued with the enlarged Council and the Animators. In the evening, she met the representatives of the Salesian Family, who gathered despite the difficulties and fears due to the civil unrest taking place in Santiago. The Eucharist was presided over by Fr. José Toledo, Provincial Bursar of the Salesians of Don Bosco and concelebrated by the Salesian confreres of the communities of Santiago. At the end of the celebration, Sister Silvia addressed the audience with a song of blessing for the Chilean reality. In the evening and on the morning of March 10, Sister Silvia met the FMA Temporary Professed.
After the first animation meetings with some groups, the visit to the communities began in the uncertainty due to the Coronavirus health epidemic that reached the country. For this reason, due to the various preventive restrictions given by the civil and ecclesial authorities, it was decided that Sr. Silvia Bullosa should avoid travel and that she would personally visit only the FMA Communities of Santiago. Thus, she was able to meet the communities of: Renca, Bl. Maria Troncatti (10 and 11 March) and Bl. Laura Vicuña (15 and 16 March), El Bosque Health House St. Mary D. Mazzarello (12-14 March), Lo Prado Bl. Laura Vicuña (March 17), Santiago Maria Ausiliatrice and Josè Miguel Infante (March 22 and 23), and San Michele di San Miguel (March 26). Meanwhile, security measures have continued to increase, not only in Chile, but across the country, with quarantines, curfews, border closings, and other security measures.
In this context, to continue the Canonical Visitation it became necessary to prepare and adapt the means of communication available, in order to carry out community and personal videoconferences. While in Santiago, Sister Silvia held virtual meetings with the communities of Iquique (March 18 and 19), Santa Cruz (March 21), and Maipú (March 24).
The itinerary of the Canonical Visitation, originally scheduled from March 7 to May 25, had to be adapted to the contingent reality, until on March 27 Sister Silvia was called, through the Uruguayan consulate, to return to Montevideo (Uruguay), the city where she was before arriving in Chile. Faced with this situation, the Provincial, Sister Ximena Oyarzo, in her circular number 21, thanked each sister of the Chilean Province for their availability, for the spirit of faith, and for having adapted to the unexpected: “We thank the Lord, together with Sister Silvia, for the opportunity to continue communicating and meeting through the technological resources available to us as a Province. We continue to live this visit with the same intensity, welcoming the passage of this sister, like the passage of Mary in our home.” During the quarantine days, Sister Silvia Boullosa continued her visit to the communities through video conferences from Uruguay.
The modalities of the final meetings and the transmission of the provincial report will be established at the end of all the visits to the FMA Communities, in the hope that, in each visit, it will be possible to continue with the environment, relationships, and religious spirit of the first community of Mornese, the cradle of the Congregation, to continue to be signs of communion, hope, and joy for children and young people, even in the midst of the difficulties that humanity is facing.