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Presence of Alejandro Fajardo sscc, of the Andean Province, in Amazonia

It has been a year and three months since I arrived in the Province of Francisco de Orellana in the Apostolic Vicariate of Aguarico (Capuchin mission), with the aim of establishing a presence in the Amazon in line with the "dream of Fr. General" that would involve the whole Andina Province in a work together with the SSCC sisters. That said, it seems clear to me that there are still steps to be taken.

At this time, I want to thank the Congregation for the opportunities it gives us to look beyond what we are used to looking at. I would like to say that it is a particular experience, since it makes it possible to live the utopia of synodality through a close, open, supportive and committed work with lay and religious communities. I have seen and felt the closeness of the bishops and the solidarity of the Capuchin fraternity, as well as that of all the missionaries of the Vicariate. There are 16 religious communities and 7 diocesan priests thus making it necessary for us to work with a fraternal and open spirit, getting involved in the different pastoral ministries: urban, rural and indigenous. Each community also has to be part of the commissions (Family, Youth, Vocations, Education, Social Pastoral, Education, Catechesis, as well as the Departments of Communication and Protection of Minors).

At the pastoral level, there are no parish priests, so the team takes responsibility for the pastoral care of the area. The team covers 150 kilometres on the road (Alejandro and Inés), plus the communities that exist within the jungle. We are in the north of the area together with a diocesan priest from El Salvador and three Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. In the centre are the three missionary Servants of the Divine Spirit and myself and to the south are three Capuchin brothers, one of whom is a priest, with four SSCC sisters. Rocio Vinueza sscc along with a Carmelite works directly with the indigenous Shuar people. We have several meetings, e.g. every first Monday of the month there is a retreat day run by the CER (Ecuadorian Conference of Religious), on the second Tuesday of the month a meeting of the Pastoral Zone takes place, on the third Monday there is a monthly assembly to evaluate the Vicariate and on the fourth Tuesday of the month a meeting of the commissions.

Our area is marked by the presence of oil wells, which means that everything revolves around the exploitation of oil. Everyone hopes to get a job, which is sporadic. The people work twenty days at a time and take ten days off. There is a lot of corruption, alcohol and drug addiction, prostitution, lack of fidelity and a strong degradation of values and with it the lack of family structure. Drugs are spreading to the rural communities. On the other hand, the indigenous brothers and sisters are exploited in order to indiscriminately cut down trees and transport the wood to the metropolis. There is a great absence of government regulation and care for the environment. We have to deal with these sins that disfigure the human face and make the pollution emanating from oil exploitation unliveable. We have many rivers, but they become unusable. The land in this area is very poor. This is the environment that we missionaries have to face. Evangelisation is not of the masses, they are miniscule and sometimes disappointing, but here we live the challenge of hope and trust in the God of History who one day will manifest himself to transform what we believe to be lost.

Drawing from the Apostolic Exhortation Beloved Amazonia I want to make my own the three dreams of His Holiness Pope Francis as we proceed in this journey: to dream of an Amazonia that fights for the rights of the poorest and most impoverished, to dream of an Amazonia that preserves the cultural richness where the diverse forms of human beauty shine. And the third dream is of an Amazon that safeguards natural beauty.