A group of five confreres: Bishop Alberto Rozo, Emeritus of Puerto Gaitan, Fathers Santino, Gonzalo, José Luis and Rafael had the grace to travel to the Apostolic Vicariate of Mitú, Vaupés, to participate in the celebrations of the centenary of evangelization in this territory with indigenous people of the region. The first evangelization was begun by the French and Dutch Montfort missionaries who worked for 36 years (1914-1950) with passion, sacrifice, enthusiasm—and many of them giving-up their lives. The Fathers Pierre Baron and Humberto Damoiseaux came here where the Cupin River enters into the Papurí River, arriving on August 14, 1914 and celebrated the first Mass on August 15, Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
For all of us it was a great thrill to arrive exactly one hundred years later, on August 14, at Montfort-Papuri. This was the first village founded by the Montfort Missionaries with the Tucanos indigenous people. And we are received by all indigenous communities from Papurí with placards on which appeared the names of all the missionaries who worked here: Pedro, Andrés, Humberto Clemente, Pedro Kok, José Raúl, Martín, Antonio (died two days after his arrival), Guido, Gerald Goldstein (who died during the trip), Emiliano, Alfonso ...
The old apostolic prefect of this local Church, Bishop Belarmino Correa, gave five characteristics of our confreres pioneering work of evangelization:
1. They were men of God,
2. They came to stay (incarnation)
3. They learned the indigenous languages (inculturation),
4. They translated the Gospel and the Catechism into these languages,
5. They transmitted the faith to adults that they could transmit to young people and children from memory and tradition as they do to transmit their culture.
On August 16 we had the celebration in Mitu with the bishop, Mons. Medardo, two other bishops, Mgr. Belarmino and Mgr. Alberto, ourselves and a large group of Xaverian missionaries of Yarumal who after 1950 took on this mission to continue the way of evangelization and development of these peoples from Vaupes.
Many older people approached us to tell us how their grandparents had told them about the missionary and social work of our pioneers! But we also had the grace to be accompanied during all this time for Fr. Manuel Alorza, a Xaverian Father who is 93 years old. He is a privileged witness of all this history since he was present when the Xaverian-Yarumal Missionaries came to relieve the Montfort Missionaries and he told us the suffering of our confreres to leave this mission with the indigenous from Vaupes.
Together we thank God for the testimony of our confreres asking the Lord that this same passion for the mission of evangelization among the poorest and most remote villages can also encourage the new generations of the Montfort Missionaries.