Focus 2005

Guatemala - CAM15-02-2005

Project: Salesian Mission in Alta Varapaz, Guatemala
Date of foundation: 1935
Place: Carchá , Campur, Chisec, Raxrha
Province: CAM: America Central

Carchá and Chisec are small towns operating as reference points for a population calculated to be around 270 000, the majority of whom are q’eqchì, spread over 433 farming communities.

In 1935 the Salesians arrived to work in what was then just a small incipient mission.

Currently there are 2410 volunteer catechists.

The current pastoral fruitfulness is explained by the two pastoral options chosen by the Salesians: a clear priority for the Word of God and the use of sacred song. The local people are attracted by the Word of God. First of all in family groups, then in communities, they have adopted the Word of God as the horizon of their life. The acceptance and practical carrying out of God's Word has given them a fresh and enthusiastic vision of of life and their own dignity.

And from here they have derived a strong impetus for growth in all directions of human dignity: education, health, leadership, community life …

Religious music has found good ground in the innate capacity that locals have for it. Today each community has its own music group, in general focused around the “marimba”, a xylophone-like instrument. In some communities some excellent levels of musical creation and execution have been achieved.

In recent years educational institutions have been strengthened: Talita Kumi, for girls, and Don Bosco Centre, for the boys.

In both centres an educational project is under development which is so original that it has been taken up by the national government. The same for health and water projects set up at Talita Kumi.

The Don Bosco Centre has up till now educated 2000 teachers, which allows for a fresh input worth 6 million dollars annually for families who till this point had lived at the limits of economic misery.

Talita Kumi is the motivating centre for an extensive movement for promoting indigenous women in a geographical area much larger than the Salesian mission itself.

One of the secrets of this pastoral success is the faith that the Salesians have put in the people. For this reason, they have led them to become the initiators, as much in their religious development as in their human development. Since they are not paid, the catechists have developed a strong autonomy and sense of responsibility.

The Salesian community, though quite small (10 Salesians), is concerned about working in a common project. Besides, the fact that the Salesians come from various cultures and nationalities has brought a richness of pastoral vision and working style.

Besides the Salesians, the Daughters of the Divine Saviour and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have gradually become involved in this mission territory. Groups of the Salesian Family have grown up there, such as the Cooperators, ADMA and Damas Salesianas.

The Sisters of the Resurrection are an independent Religious Congregation which has come from the mission. These are the ones who gave birth to the Talita Kumi project for indigenous women. This year they were admitted to the Salesian Family.

The Missionaries of Christ the Good Shepherd are another indigenous group with aspirations to becoming a form of consecrated life - they are in the process of consolidation. They are the animating nucleus of the Don Bosco Centre for formation of rural teachers.

The Salesians have made a clear option for youth ministry over some time now. And for this reason the majority of catechists discover their vocation as young people.

The Salesians have kept up an attitude of constant review of their pastoral work, they have opted for a method based on experience, evaluating it constantly for its results amongst the people. This constant evaluation has enabled them to be flexible in their options and working strategies.

Address: Salesianos Carcha, Guatemala.
Direzione: Salesianos Don Bosco,
San Pedro Carcha,
Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
Tel: (502) 9515062
Fax: (502) 9515161
Web site: