Mission to Open

March 25 2024 | by

SAN LORENZO, Paraguay, the third most populous city in the country, has over 202,000 inhabitants. Lying just 12 kilometres from Asunción, the capital, it is a busy overcrowded commercial and cultural centre with numerous schools and universities – both public and private. But in spite of its importance, 68 percent of the populace falls into the low or very low economic bracket.


Hearing difficulties


The Antonio Provolo Institute in San Lorenzo offers comprehensive education and training to people with hearing difficulties, and to others who are in vulnerable situations. It is the only institution in the country that prepares young people with hearing disabilities for university. The institute is managed by the Sisters of the Company of Mary, who are often referred to as the Company of Mary for the Education of the Deaf and Mute. Since 1972, the same year that the Sisters arrived in Paraguay, it has been subsidised by the Ministry of Education and Sciences.

“The Sisters of the Company of Mary was founded by the Venerable Father Antonio Provolo in Verona in 1841 and has been expanding in Latin America for the last 86 years in Argentina and Bolivia, and for 49 years in Paraguay,” says Sister Francisca Perez Bazan, the project supervisor. “Its work responds to the needs of children, young people, and adults with hearing difficulties and others with special educational needs. When Jesus cured a man who could not hear and had a speech impediment, he said to the man, ‘Be opened!’ and he was cured. It is on this that the work of the Venerable Father is based,” continues Sr. Francisca, “and which has a very significant echo in Paraguay. Today, the ‘Openness’ of our mission cannot be separated from our other works of mercy.”



A Catholic education


“Our religious and educational community is responsible for the maintenance of the Institute premises with the support of parents and friends who accompany extracurricular activities,” explains Sr. Francisca. “Families offer what they can to support their children’s education. Some can make a monthly social contribution of an approximate value of 5 or 6 dollars. Many families come from far away and have to get up early so their children don’t miss lessons.” It is thanks to the Sisters, serving and retired teachers, and other benefactors that most of the important and urgent needs of the institute are met. “The entire educational community is committed to the Christian formation of students,” continues Sr. Francisca. “They make their first communion, confirmation, and grow in faith. Many of them consciously come to the altar for the sacrament of marriage and encourage their children to grow in the love of God. Evangelization becomes exciting, although many of the students are of other beliefs, and these are also respected.”


Threefold necessity


“The number of students is continually growing and this entails the need for expansion and maintenance of the premises,” says Sr. Francisca. “Our urgent needs were three fold: completion of an unfinished ramp for wheelchair users, a roof that would protect us from the heat and from the rain, and new male and female sanitary facilities with larger bathrooms for disabled people. Although the toilets appeared to be in good condition, the old, unrepaired pipes were causing water to overflow.” The total for these construction and repair endeavours was slightly above €30,000. After factoring in local contributions, St. Anthony’s Charities approved and provided a grant of €25,150.

Work commenced in February 2023 with the bathroom closest to the ramp – the ones for females – followed closely by finishing the ramp and improving the area around the drinking fountain to facilitate easier access for the children. Post-completion, the focus shifted to the male restroom. During this phase, two days of intense rainfall halted progress, but subsequently, the project resumed as planned.

In the second stage of construction, the male restrooms were fitted with entirely new piping. Additionally, an expanded area at the top of the ramp was built to improve movement flow. “The project fell behind schedule at this point due to an outbreak of the Chikungunya virus – almost all the workers were infected – the consequences can last for several months, leaving the sufferer with terrible joint pains. There is no specific treatment or cure,” explains Sr. Francisca. The virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito to humans. The word chikungunya means “that which bends up,” and refers to the contorted posture commonly adopted by patients suffering from it.


Joy and happiness


The final stage culminated with the completion of all project aspects on 3 August 2023, despite further setbacks caused by the chikungunya virus. The objectives of the project have been fulfilled and in particular the opportunity to improve the quality of service in a special educational area. “We give gratitude to God for this achievement in favour of the disadvantaged,” says Sr. Francisca. “We value the hearts of all people who give strength to St. Anthony’s Charities through their collaboration and for such an extraordinary and significant mission before God and men.”

In the future, the Sisters and the educational community together with other benefactors and partners will remain responsible for the maintenance of the completed ramp, new roof, and remodelled toilets.

“We count once again the joy and happiness of us all,” concludes Sr. Francisca. “May God reward each member of this beautiful work of charity with the blessing of Saint Anthony of Padua. May God bless and accompany all those who work with and support St. Anthony’s Charities.”


Updated on March 25 2024