Maria Corredentora Seminary in Argentina
Following his visit to Ridgefield and Long Island in early November, Archbishop Lefebvre travelled to Argentina. William Welsh, a seminarian from Louisiana, has sent the following report of His Grace's activities there.
APPROXIMATELY ONE-HALF of the world's Roman Catholics live in Latin America. For twenty years now, since the Second Vatican Council, these people have been suffering with progressive innovations, Modernist clergy, liberation theology, and even out-and-out Marxist bishops. The tragic result has been that the vast majority of the people in the Spanish-speaking world no longer practice their Catholic Faith. It was with true missionary zeal in the midst of so great a crisis that His Grace, Archbishop Lefebvre decided to locate a seminary in Buenos Aires four years ago. Still in the process of construction, this seminary of the Society at the moment represents the only hope of restoring traditional Catholicism throughout Latin America.
On various occasions, His Grace has made reference to the future of the Catholic Church in Latin America. If these countries are to survive the scourge of Communism, there must be, in each region, a strong nucleus of traditional Catholics who are waging a spiritual warfare by means of the True Mass, the Sacraments, the Rosary, and a life of penance. Thus, the need for traditional Catholic priests is critical. In order to meet this challenge, young men have come from various countries: Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, the United States and Spain. All told, there are thirty-six seminarians currently enrolled. When the seminary construction is completed in the next three years, the priests hope to maintain a capacity of one hundred and twenty seminarians engaged in the full six-year program of spiritual and academic preparation for the priesthood.
Msgr. Lefebvre's visit this past November saw the subdiaconate conferred here for the first time. The six new subdeacons are Gavin Bitzer of Louisville, Kentucky; Albert Gonzales of San Antonio, Texas; Victor Camacho of Bucaramanga, Colombia; and three Mexicans from Guadalajara: Sergio Ruiz, Alejandro Jimenez, and Jose Carlos Ramirez. In the impressive, age-old ceremony of ordination, these young men receive the first of the major orders, thus assuming the obligations of perpetual chastity and recitation of the Divine Office. Before their ordination, the ordinandi made the Profession of Faith and the Oath against Modernism, prescribed by Pope St. Pius X. They also made a special pledge of loyalty to the principles of the Society. For all of the seminarians, it was a tremendous spiritual boost to have six of their confreres elevated to major Orders. God willing, within two years Maria Corredentora Seminary will witness the ordination of her first priests.
The highlight of the visit was no doubt seeing the now Superior General, Father Franz Schmidberger, who accompanied Msgr. Lefebvre to South America for the first time. Always at the Archbishop's side, Father Schmidberger displayed the zeal and energy which keep him on top of his many duties both at home and abroad. During the first day of their visit to the Seminary, Father Schmidberger gave an inspiring conference on the role the Priestly Society of St. Pius X must play in restoring all things in Christ, especially by upholding the principles upon which Christian civilization is founded. Father spoke in French, while Padre Andres Morello, the Rector of the Seminary, translated into Spanish. Later on, for the purpose of giving directives in the academic and spiritual programs, Father Schmidberger met with Padre Morello and the other Seminary professors—Padre Alfonso de Galeretta, Padre Luis Maria Canale, and Padre Juan Carlos Ceriani. These four priests, together with the District Superior, Padre Jean-Michel Faure, work overtime, guiding, counseling, and educating the future priests of Latin America.
Ordination Day at Maria Corredentora Seminary, La Reja (near Buenos Aires), Argentina
On Friday night, November 18th, His Grace returned to downtown Buenos Airea for a public lecture and news conference with the Argentine press. About 300 people were packed into the hotel ballroom to hear His Grace review the tragic story of conspiracy and betrayal within the ranks of the Church's hierarchy since the death of Pope Pius XII. Amazingly enough, the press treatment of Monseigneur's visit was less biased than in former years. Because His Grace spoke with such simplicity and truthfulness, the journalists had a difficult time twisting the meaning of his statements.
The following morning, the Archbishop and Fr. Schmidberger visited the primary school and blessed it. Later on, there were 350 Confirmations, the ceremony being conducted in the priory chapel in Buenos Aires. There was also a special luncheon that afternoon, in which the various lay leaders among the Argentine traditionalists had an opportunity to converse in person with His Grace and Father Schmidberger.
Sunday, the 20th, was the day set aside for the ordinations to the subdiaconate, as well as first tonsure; and several hundred people came out to the Seminary in La Reja, some twenty-five miles west of downtown Buenos Aires. The Seminary grounds include 150 acres of farmland, part of which is under cultivation, but most of which is grazing for a hundred head of cattle. So the setting was just right for the afternoon asado, or "barbeque Argentine-style." Families came from great distances, and there was a strong feeling of unity, which the bonds of a common faith, and charity bring with them.
The conferring of Minor Orders was reserved for Monday, the 21st, the last day of the visit, in order to give His Grace a break in the lengthy ceremonies. Father Schmidberger gave the seminarians a final talk on the Rosary and the spirit of contemplation. After the evening meal, the seminarians gathered around His Grace for an opportunity to converse and to ask questions in their own language. Although he has never lived for any length of time in a Spanish-speaking country, His Grace surprised everyone with a quick comprehension of the questions posed and a clear communication of his ideas in Spanish. With his usual wit and geniality, Monseigneur displayed a better command of the Spanish language than some Americans who have been living down here close to two years! Evidently, some successors of the Apostles are born missionaries!
And so, despite the many factors which have made Spanish America a breeding ground for revolution and apostasy, there is still a ray of hope remaining. And with Monseigneur's visit each year, that hope becomes stronger. Please pray for the Society's Latin American apostolate.
The six subdeacons lay prostrate as the Litany of Saints is chanted.
The six new subdeacons with Sister Bernardita during the asado. Sister recently left her novus ordo congregation (Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden) to assist the work of the Archbishop.