By Becky Sindelar
July 8, 2013 — A Jesuit heritage tour of Argentina and Paraguay will follow the footsteps of Jesuits from the early 1600s through the present day — including the first Jesuit pope in his hometown. Sponsored by the California Province Jesuits, participants have the chance to immerse themselves in South America’s rich Jesuit history.
Jesuit Father John Mossi, from the California Province, and Argentinian Jesuit Father Michael Petty will lead pilgrims on the cultural and spiritual journey from February 17 to March 2, 2014. The tour will begin in Córdoba, Argentina, where a group of Jesuits missioned from Spain arrived in 1599 and created a center of learning.
From there, the journey continues to the Jesuit Reductions in Posadas, on the border of Paraguay. The Jesuits in the 17th century built the famous Jesuit Reductions, indigenous cities of culture, education, food production and religious evangelization in the jungle areas of today’s Argentina, Paraguay, southern Brazil and Uruguay. These thriving cities were one of the most ambitious creations of Catholic missionary activity, according to Fr. Mossi.
“They were renowned for their architecture, systems of government and flourishing community life that empowered the indigenous peoples,” explains Fr. Mossi. “As European governments saw the slave trade as a means of profit and commerce, the Reductions became sources of exploitations. The Jesuits kept moving the Reductions deeper into the jungles in order to protect them. Eventually, the creation of the Reductions and protection of native people was interpreted as subversive action instigated by the Jesuits and became another element of the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773.”
The tour will end in Buenos Aires, and while it was planned before Pope Francis was elected, the schedule is being updated to explore his connections to his native city.
“Fr. Petty, our local Jesuit guide, is an Argentinian who knows Pope Francis. He’s working to include sites and churches Pope Francis frequented in Buenos Aires,” says Fr. Mossi.
Fr. Mossi believes participants will come away with a sense of Jesuit missionary spirituality, history and culture in South America. He expects a group of about 25 people, including many who have participated in previous Jesuit pilgrimages sponsored by the California Province.Joe Naylor, assistant for advancement and communications for the California Province, has been on Jesuit pilgrimages to Europe and China and says that the groups bond from their Jesuit connections. He’s already looking forward to next year’s trip.
“A highlight of the pilgrimage will be visiting the religious sites where our new Jesuit pope celebrated the Mass. These pilgrimages provide not only an insight to the rich legacy of St. Ignatius and the traditions of the Jesuits, but also a more global view of our Jesuit ministries,” Naylor said.
To learn more about the Jesuit Reductions Tour, visit www.jesuitscalifornia.org/argentina.