PHOTOS: Centennial Celebration of the Pallottine Sisters in Benque Viejo
Today the Cayo District welcomed many faithful visitors and the Pallotine sisters for their Centennial Celebrations and re-enactment of their arrival.
The Centennial and arrival of four German sisters in Belize on March 17th,1913 is being celebrated under the theme “Grateful for the Past Hopeful for the Future".
Presently there are 21 Pallotine Sisters in the country who will be paying tribute to their work with a number of activities taking place country wide.
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Pallotine Sisters by the Macal River
Pallotine sisters by the Macal River
The Pallotine Sisters celebrated their 100th anniversary in Western Belize this past Sunday. The event began as a group of sisters started their walk on the historic boat landing and departure area of the Macal River in San Ignacio Town. It was a hundred years ago that the founding Pallotine Sisters had to travel using basic modes of transportation such as the Cayo River Boat to get to the old “El Cayo Landing” with intent to provide services to the Cayo area.
In quiet modes of reflection to the route once taken by their predecessors, the Pallotine Sisters stopped in San Ignacio for a brief morning visit where they were welcomed by the Catholic faithfull and delegations from other parts of the country. Mayor John August took the opportunity to greet the sisters congratulating them for being exemplary models to Belizean women. The sisters then stopped in San Jose Succotz where they were met by the local marching band and a large number of villagers. The experience for the Pallotine Sisters continued in Benque Viejo, where several of them took to riding a horse- powered device for over a mile in distance. The townspeople followed along with the Sisters, to end at the local High School Auditorium, where an open mass was held. A sign hung on the side of a house nearby announced, “Welcome Back to Benque, Pallotine Sisters”.
It was in 1913, that a group of sisters from Germany began their process of adapting to a new culture and climate and in the ensuing century, their followers went on to contribute greatly to Social Welfare and Education. In the 1920, the Pallotine Mission built a convent in San Ignacio, where the sisters were stationed and from there labored selflessly. A similar pattern of mission was established in Benque Viejo, where the Pallotine Convent still stands.
100 years of sanctity with the Pallottine Sisters
The Pallottine Sisters on Sunday celebrated one hundred years of working in Belize since the arrival of four young nuns in 1913. The order is small, but its achievements are many, especially in the area of education. The sisters were German, but settled in Benque Viejo Del Carmen where they taught English to the mostly Hispanic community. Today, because of the challenges of finance and human resources, the Pallottines maintain a presence only in Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize City and Punta Gorda, but their sprit and works have inspired the entire country. In celebration on Sunday the sisters and many of the faithful performed a re-enactment of the first arrival on March seventeenth, 1913. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon was in Cayo on Sunday and has the story.
Hector Silva Sr., Historian
Hector Silva Sr.
“On the seventeenth of March, 1913, four nuns that left Germany came to the United States looking for a place where to mission. They landed somewhere in New York and they met a priest that was serving in Belize, vacationing up there. This father was Father Bersabel, and so Father Bersabel told them look, Belize needs missionaries, and they came to Belize City and from there they reported to the Mission that was there, and they said look, the West needs, so they came by riverboat, the old riverboats that brought cargo and people. They came and they landed in San Ignacio at the old boat wharf that they called El Cayo landing.”
Mike Rudon, Reporting
One hundred years ago the four nuns on a mission of spreading the word of God and serving the community must have been greeted with excitement and anticipation. Today as they performed the re-enactment of landing in el Cayo they were welcomed with open arms by the faithful who showed their appreciation for the many good works of the sisters.
Hector Silva Sr.
They came through this road and they came to Benque Viejo, but they stopped somewhere here, because at the time this was small villages.”
Where they stopped on that fateful day one hundred years ago was San Jose Succotz, and today they were escorted with great pomp, ceremony and spirit to the Roman Catholic Church in the community. Onlookers and residents lined the streets with signs and banners expressing their appreciation and love for the nuns.
Hector Silva Sr.
“They came here and then they proceeded to Benque Viejo, and they were received by the people there in huge numbers.”
The passing of the years did not diminish the welcome, or the mood, which was a curious mix of reverence…and celebration.
Hector Silva Sr.
“And so they established themselves there at some very old little thatch houses and so, and eventually they built a convent.”
In Benque, thenuns were greeted by Mayor Nicholas Ruiz, who gave them the symbolic keys to the city, and the journey then ended at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School, where a special mass was planned to highlight and celebrate one hundred years of service.
Rocio Carballo, Vice Principal, Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School
“An occasion like this is extremely memorable for Benque Viejo, since this is an occasion that many of us will not be able to see again. We know Benque is an extremely religious place, and the people do practice their faith, do evangelize, and the Pallottines coming here I think is manifesting that indeed we welcome everything that comes from our Lord, and the religious aspect of everything, it started here, and it continues here, and it is alive.”
That spirit was alive today, and present at every stage of the re-enactment of a remarkable journey, and a remarkable century of service, sharing and community. Mike Rudon for News Five.
In Friday’s newscast the Pallottine Sisters discuss the challenges they face in today’s world, and the hope and faith they hold strong despite those challenges. Be sure to tune in.