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Salesian women’s institute celebrates 100th anniversary of arrival in Cuba

Inauguration of the plaque for the centenary at St. Ann parish in Camaguey, Cuba, Dec. 6, 2021. / Enrique Cabrera

Camagüey, Cuba, Dec 9, 2021 / 16:20 pm (CNA).

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Institute dedicated a commemorative plaque Dec. 6 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of their Salesian congregation to Cuba.

The congregation said in a statement that they first arrived on the island Dec. 7, 1921, where the Mercedarian friar and then bishop, Valentín Zubizarreta y Unamunzaga, encouraged them to “begin their mission in Saint Ann parish,” where the commemorative plaque was unveiled Dec. 6.

During the ceremony, the congregation’s delegate in Cuba, Sister Anna, said that, although there were few religious who were present during the unveiling of the plaque, they are just a representation of the “great Institute spread over the ends of the earth.” 

“There are almost 12,000 of us throughout the world, in 90 countries, filled with God and ready to announce salvation through Jesus Christ,” she said.

Sister Alba said that the essence of the vocation of the congregation is “to be catechists, which means: to believe, to live the faith, praying and bearing witness to the works of God’s love.”

“That is why we are gathered here, to bear witness to this and that each child, each young person, each adult, who wants to open their hearts to Jesus is for us a very close and dear person,” she added.

Sr. Alba said they are convinced that “catechesis, well prepared and carried out with great patience and love, opens everyone’s hearts to Jesus, and gives us happiness and people live much better than without faith and without Jesus.”

She said that 100 years ago the first nuns who arrived in Camagüey, Sister Catalina Ferrando and Sister María Bailo, began the first catechism class with four or six children in Saint Ann church “and little by little they opened the way for other children, adolescents, young people, adults; they were preparing people to receive the sacraments.”

“Today on behalf of the Institute we acknowledge this generous work and together with the former students here present, the faithful of this parish who pray here in this church every day, we are going to present a commemorative plaque in memory of these sisters who began this journey here,” she added.

The religious thanked and asked for prayers for “the parents, for the catechists, for the children who come here to learn about God, for the adults who can also be catechists at home like the first two sisters.”

“You see that now there is no Salesian who works here, not because we don’t want to, but because we can’t provide for it. Pray a lot for vocations and send us all your granddaughters and great-granddaughters, we are going to prepare them to be good, holy nuns and they can work here day and night, caring for everyone,” she said.

Sr. Alba remarked that the commemorative plaque will help all who enter the church to remember “all the Salesians, they left their hearts here and left their presence in all hearts.”

“We are grateful to Father Bastián, because he was attentive to all the details so that this celebration would be very beautiful; it doesn’t matter that there are few of us, but that it takes place and stays forever in this place. We thank the former students who also collaborated and ‘pushed’ Fr. Bastián,” she concluded.

Fr. José Gabriel Bastián Cadalzo, the pastor of Saint Ann parish, unveiled the plaque to music and applause. Then those in attendance entered the church for the celebration of the Mass of Thanksgiving for the presence of the Salesians on the island.