A glimpse of the Recoletos mission in Cuba

The members of the first Augustinian Recollect community in Cuba: (L-R) Fray Joel Naranja, Fray Ismael Xuruc, Fray Noe Servin, and Fray Jairo Gordillo.

Antilla, Holguín, CUBA – The Augustinian Recollects arrived in Cuba on February 17, 2018, a Saturday. From a total of 32 volunteers, the General Office in Rome chose four friars to compose the international community: Fray Joel Naranja, Filipino, 54; Fray Jairo Gordillo, Colombian, 51; Fray Noe Servin, Mexican, 39; and Fray Ismael Xuruc, Guatemalan, 37.

From Panama City, a direct flight leaves twice a week for Frank País International Airport in Holguín City in the Cuban province of Holguín which is one of the 11 provinces of this Caribbean island nation with a population of around 1.1 million. Most Rev. Emilio Aranguren, D.D., the bishop of the Diocese of Holguín resides in the eponymous city with approximately 350,000 inhabitants.

Upon arrival after an hour and 45 minutes of flight from Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, the four Recollects learned the expressions often used in the island: “Have patience because everything in Cuba is slow,” “Let us go slow because we are in Cuba,” etc. With three flights that arrived at that time, and with only one scanner for all passengers’ luggage, they were able to get out of the airport after three long hours.

The morning heat was scorching. Bishop Aranguren was waiting for them outside with a microbus. From the airport, they proceeded to the bishop’s residence for lunch, and afterwards to their final destination: the Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish, in the town of Antilla facing the Nipe Bay, some 80 kilometers from Holguín City.

The house designated for the new Recoletos community is simple, furnished, and sturdy being made of cement and bricks. It has five rooms and two common bathrooms, a sala, a refectory, a spacious hallway, and two garages but one of which was converted into a prayer room. The bishop gave them a car, a Peugeot, more or less 20 years old. But that means something already because, as the local prior, Fray Jairo Gordillo, testifies: “In Cuba to have a car is practically a luxury. People cannot acquire it. They travel by means of public transport.”

A warm welcome awaited the friars in their convent in Antilla. The 32-year old outgoing parish priest led the other lay people who represented the different parish organizations in welcoming the missionaries. Snacks was served afterwards.

The pastoral work in the Diocese of Holguín is attended to by 12 diocesan priests, 6 diocesan priests “ad gentes,” 13 religious men from different institutes (SVD, Little Brothers of Jesus, OSA, and OAR) of whom 11 are priests, 4 permanent deacons, 50 religious women from 17 congregations, and 3 members of a secular institute. Of the 60 houses of worship, 24 are parish churches.

The four Recoletos friars take charge of three parishes, with the housing center in Antilla, and the other two parishes in Baguanos and Tacajó, some 50 and 30 kilometers from the convent, respectively. Antilla is a port town by the bay of Nipe with 13,000 people. Its newly constructed church can accommodate around 180 persons. The parish of Tacajó has around 15,000 residents while the parish of Baguanos has approximately 19,000. The friars have to minister also to other small communities where a holy mass has never been celebrated.

According to Fray Jairo, Cuba is a country that remained confined to 1959, the year when the revolution initiated by Fidel Castro triumphed. The buildings and vehicles are very old, antiquated, and with less or no maintenance. “The misery of an impoverished country could be seen, as Father General has warned us, repeating the words of the bishop, that instead of being able to overcome it, people are slowly becoming poorer,” he said.

For transportation, trucks with a modified bodywork are used. Buses called “guaguas” often carry tourists or persons like hoteliers who work in far-flung areas. Other means of transportation include carts drawn by horses which can carry 8 to 10 passengers, motorcycle taxis, and pedicabs or bike taxis.

Basic diet consists of rice with black beans (“frijol negro”), sweet potato, pork, chicken or sausages. Beef is prohibited; only small children or sick people with medical prescription can eat it. Milk is only for children below seven years old. Vegetables and fruits are very scarce, and when they are available, they are so expensive. People obtain many goods by smuggling or “from the left” (“por la izquierda”) or from the black market (“bolsa negra”) as people here call it, but for a much higher price.

Salaries and wages are very low. The basic salary is pegged at 250 Cuban pesos (or equivalent to US $10). Moreover, the government distributes to its citizens the famous “Libreta de Abastecimiento” (“Supplies Booklet”) which establishes ration to each person per month: 7 lbs of rice, 1 lb of white sugar, 1 lb of brown sugar, 4 oz of coffee, 5 eggs, 0.5 lb of oil, 11 oz of black beans, 1 lb of chicken, etc. While these basic commodities cost 18 Cuban pesos, or less than a dollar, the serious thing is that the mini-market lasts only for a week. What will they do then in order to survive for the remaining days of the month?

To this question comes the response: Cubans live and depend on three possible sources: the supplies booklet, remittances sent by relatives living and working abroad, or theft. This last is equivalent to robbing the State since all companies, factories and big businesses are owned by the government. If you are a baker, for example, you steal some flour in order to sell it in “el mercado negro.” If you are a butcher, you steal a little and sell it “por la izquierda.” Everybody knows about this pilferage but people remain silent, waiting for their turn to do the same in order to be able to survive.

On April 4, 2018, the four Recoletos missionaries had to travel to Habana to sign their Cuban identity document and to avail of the right to have the “supplies booklet” and the right to medical privileges which are for free. “But God has mercy on us,” wrote Fray Jairo, “because we have not experienced grave illness here where medicines are in short supply and essential things such as gauze, alcohol, disposable syringe, and aspirin can hardly be found. People have to buy them. One more detail: while doctors need to give attention to all patients, they prioritize those who can give them gifts; if not, they do not attend to them immediately.”

He also related having talked to a doctor in Habana, an internist with a monthly salary of $50, which is $10 more because he is a specialist. He works eight hours daily, from Monday through Saturday, but his salary does not suffice. To augment his income, he works overtime as a taxi driver, and says that he gains more as a taxi driver than as a doctor. But he needs to work in the hospital because of a contract already established by the government.

People in Cuba have managed to get a little ahead with their private business ventures or street selling. Everyday people pass by the façade of the convent buying and selling bread, banana, garlic, homemade ice cream, pork, tomatoes, homemade sweets, etc. What do they often say when you greet them in the street or when you ask them how they are? “Ahí vamos, padre, sobreviviendo, en la lucha diaria.” (“There we go, Father, surviving, in the everyday struggle.”)

Another matter that costs a lot is the lack of communication. This is very much controlled by the government. “Etecsa” is the only, and state-owned, telephone company in Cuba. The internet with wifi connection is in public premises, usually in the plazas or parks where signal is quite strong. Surfing or browsing is very slow. Some private individuals, however, may have access to the internet but with permission controlled by the government. The bishop’s residence in Holguín, for instance, has a wifi connection which the friars take advantage of when they happen to be there for pastoral matters or drop by for food purchases. Although all parishes have a telephone, the Recollect convent there doesn’t have one. They have mobile phones but the signal is poor. There is a TV set in the convent that displays some channels but they, too, are controlled by the government.

(by Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR / Based on the notes “Cronica desde Cuba” written by Fray Jairo Gordillo, OAR)

 

 

Photo below (from L-R): Fray Gordillo, Fray Servin, Bishop Aranguren, Fray Naranja, and Fray Xuruc.

cuba

Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR

Fray Jose Ernil F. Almayo, OAR, is currently the Provincial Secretary of the St. Ezekiel Moreno Province and Chairman of the Commission on Communications and Publications-Recoletos

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< 2019 >
August
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    1
  • All day
    August 1, 2019

    USJ-R BALAMBAN: LAUNCHING OF BUWAN NG WIKA

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Gideon Antolin Lagrimas

2
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    CST-R/CSNT-R: LAUNCHING OF BUWAN NG WIKA

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Amada de Ramon, AR

3
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    SIMPLE PROFESSION OF VOWS / Monteagudo, Spain

    REPORTING OF NEOPHYTES TO CARES BAGUIO RST: START OF ENROLMENT

    PARISH FIESTA (30th FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY) OF OLCP-R, LARAY, TALISAY CITY, CEBU
    Fiesta Mass: 5:00 PM
    Presider: to be communicated later

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Jay Parilla
    Sr. Felma Elbanbuena, AR

4
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    ST. JOHN MARIE VIANNEY SUNDAY

    PRAYER INTENTION: FOR OAR VOCATION (cf. LAMP II, 5c)

    ORDER-LEVEL MEETING OF THE SECTION FOR INTIAL FORMATION
    August 4-6 / Spain

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Eduardo Celiz, Jr.
    Fray Jazzy Jeff Montanez (simple. prof.)
    Most Rev. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D. (Diocese of San Carlos)
    Sr. Felisa Costonera, AR
    Sr. Eleuteria Lao, AR
    Sr. Yvette Galabo, AR

    ANNIVERSARY OF EPISCOPAL ORDINATION
    Most Rev. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D. (Diocese of San Carlos)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY:
    Sr. Zenaida Ty, AR

5
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    August 5, 2019

    POST-EXPOSURE REPORTING OF DEACONS TO THE PROVINCIAL CURIA

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Mark Ryan Prado

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY (2007-2019)
    Fray Oscar de la Rosa

6
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    August 6, 2019

    TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

    CHARTER DAY OF CEBU PROVINCE

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Consuelo de San Agustin, AR

7
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    19th PROVINCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

    ARRIVAL IN CEBU OF ARCORES INT’L VOLUNTEERS FOR MONTHLY IMMERSION IN CASIAN ISLAND

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Concepcion Reston, AR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Concepcion Balin, AR

8
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    August 8, 2019

    CoHCH-R ANNUAL EVALUATION & PLANNING
    Inclusive Dates: August 8-9, 2019
    Venue: Bulwagang Recoletos, Miranila, Quezon City

    TURN OVER OF THE SACRED HEART SCHOOL OF CAVITE TO THE RECOLLECTS

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Leonardo Queaño II (simple prof.)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Regina Bianes, AR

9
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    August 9, 2019

    WORLD DAY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (cf. LAMP 52)

    SSC-R CAVITE: MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

10
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    August 10, 2019

    START OF NOVENA TO ST. EZEKIEL MORENO

    ARRIVAL OF THE CURSO DE PREPACIÓN PARTICIPANTS

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Yolanda Navea, AR
    Sr. Myrna Arcegono, AR

11
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    August 11, 2019

    PATRONAL FIESTA OF SAN ROQUE PARISH
    Saipan, CNMI
    Time: 4:00 P.M. (Saipan Time)
    Presider: Most Rev. Ryan Jimenez, D.D.

12
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    August 12, 2019

    2nd FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE QUASI PARISH OF N.S. DEL CARMEN IN HNATUAN, SURIGAO DEL SUR

    RST: MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT / CLASSES START

    APAC CONVENTION 2019
    Venue & Date: Ketapang, Indonesia / August 12-14, 2019
    Theme: “Augustinians on Common Mission in Indonesia”

13
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    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Casiano Cosmilla

1415
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    SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION
    Mo. Ma. del Carmen, OAR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Mamerta de San Agustin, AR

16
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    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION (1980-2019)
    Fray Constantino Real

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Adoracion Bonto, AR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
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    Sr. Ma. Leonila Pesado, AR

17
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    ST. CLARE OF MONTEFALCO

    CARES: MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS IN HONOR OF ST. EZEKIEL MORENO
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    Time: 10:00 A.M.
    Presider: Fray Regino Bangcaya

    BIRTHDAY
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18
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    ANTICIPATED FIESTA MASS IN HONOR OF ST. EZEKIEL MORENO
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    Presider: to be communicated later

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS
    @ St. Ezekiel Moreno Chapel, Fanhua, Zhangzhi township, Pingtung County (Diocese of Kaohsiung), Taiwan
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    Presider: Fray Nimrod Launio

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION OF A RELIGIOUS BROTHER (2001-2019)
    Fray Raymund Rueann Alcedo

19
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    August 19, 2019

    PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE SICK (cf. LAMP II, 5c)

    SOLEMNITY OF ST. EZEKIEL MORENO
    Be reminded of the plenary indulgence we may obtain today!

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS OF THE ST. EZEKIEL MORENO QUASI PARISH, CAIDIOCAN, VALENCIA, NEGROS ORIENTAL
    Time: 10:00 AM
    Presider: to be communicated later

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS @ SEMONORE (Antipolo City)
    Time: 10:00 AM
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    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS @ SNTP Church (Quezon City)
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    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS @ St. Ezekiel Moreno Chapel (Pingkian, OLCP-Miranila, Quezon City)
    Time & Presider: to be communicated later

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS @ St. Ezekiel Moreno Monastery (Bacolod City)
    Time: 8:00 A.M.
    Presider: Most Rev. Vicente Navarra, D.D.

    PATRONAL FIESTA MASS @ St. Ezekiel Moreno Chapel, Mile 14, Kamabai, Sierra Leone
    Time: 10:30 A.M.
    Presider: Fray Mark Ryan Prado

    RENEWAL INPUT SEMINAR ON “MAXIMUM ILLUD”
    Time: 3:00 P.M. Venue: Recoletos de Provincialate

    1st ANNIVERSARY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RECOLETOS DE BALAMBAN COMMUNITY

    START OF THE NOVENA TO ST. AUGUSTINE

    90th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CANONICAL ERECTION OR DIOCESAN APPROVAL OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE AUGUSTINIAN RECOLLECT SISTERS (1929-2019) BY ARCHBP. O’DOHERTY OF MANILA UPON THE RECOMMENDATION OF THEN PRIOR GENERAL, FRAY GERARDO LARRONDO, OAR.

    QUEZON CITY DAY

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (2002-2019)
    Fray Louie Gabinete
    Fray Jerome Virtudazo

    (2007-2019)
    Fray Ian Anthony Espartero
    Fray Allan Jacinto

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    Sr. Ma. Quiteria Ragundiaz, OAR

20
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    August 20, 2019

    27th ASEACCU (Association of Southeast and East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities) ANNUAL CONFERENCE
    Venue: Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
    Inclusive dates: August 20-23, 2019
    Theme: “Reconciliation and the Situation in the East Asian Region”

    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF BISHOP-ELECT JOSE RAMIREZ RAPADAS III (AS BISHOP OF ILIGAN, Lanao del Norte)

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Charlemagne Marin (simple prof.)

21
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    August 21, 2019

    ST. POPE PIUS X

    NINOY AQUINO DAY

    INSTALLATION OF BP. DENNIS VILLAROJO, D.D. (BISHOP OF MALOLOS, Bulacan)

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    Archbp. Jose Palma, D.D. (Archdiocese of Cebu)

22
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    August 22, 2019

    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF BISHOP-ELECT ROBERTO GAA (AS BISHOP OF NOVALICHES)

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Leander Barrot
    Fray Paul Demillones

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Fray Lino Agunod (2007-2019)
    Sr. Ma. Fe Luna, AR
    Sr. Matilde del Rosario, AR

23
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    August 23, 2019

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Benecia Olaño, AR
    Sr. Gecel Polestico, AR

24
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    August 24, 2019

    INSTALLATION OF BISHOP ROBERTO GAA, D.D. (BISHOP OF NOVALICHES)

    USJ-R BALAMBAN: SOLIDARITY ENCAMPMENT
    August 24-25 HARANA KAY MARIA (feat. The Madrigal Singers, Himig Consolacion, & OAR Singing Priests)
    OLCP Miranila / 8:00 PM

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION (1963-2019)
    Fray Emeterio Buñao
    Fray Dunstan Hubert Decena

25
  • All day
    August 25, 2019

    250th ANNIVERSARY (1769-2019) OF THE ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST RECOLETOS MISSIONARIES IN THE MARIANAS

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (1991-2019)
    Fray Eduardo Celiz, Jr.
    Fray Carmelo Borces
    Fray Leopoldo Estioko
    Fray Gaudencio Geronimo de Mesa
    Fray Nemesio Tolentin

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Veronica de los Santos, AR
    Sr. Andrea Cabunilas, AR

26
  • All day
    August 26, 2019

    NATIONAL HEROES’ DAY

    PATRONAL FIESTA OF THE ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO QUASI PARISH-RECOLETOS, Inayawan, Cebu City
    10:00AM
    Mass Presider: to be communicated later

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    (1967-2019)
    Fray Rafael Cabarles

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Afra Medillo, AR

27
  • All day
    August 27, 2019

    FEAST OF ST. MONICA
    Be reminded of the plenary indulgence we may obtain today!

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Genoveva de Asis, AR

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (2009-2019)
    Fray Bob Cabanag

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Felicidad de Sto. Niño, AR

28
  • All day
    August 28, 2019

    PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE OAR MISSION (cf. LAMP II, 5c)

    SOLEMNITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE
    Be reminded of the plenary indulgence we may obtain today!

    CSNT-R/SPA-R: CULMINATION OF BUWAN NG WIKA

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Agustin Culaton

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION
    Sr. Shirley Nonato, OAR
    Sr. Ma. Quiteria Ragundiaz, OAR

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (1988-2019)
    Fray Raul Buhay

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Mo. Monica de San Joaquin, AR

29
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    August 29, 2019

    NATIONAL HEROES DAY

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    Mo. Lourdes Eizaguirre, OAR

30
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    August 30, 2019

    CST-R/USJ-R BALAMBAN: CLOSING OF BUWAN NG WIKA

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION
    Sr. Mo. Lourdes Eizaguirre, OAR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Consuelo Dangan, AR

31

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