New Heartbeat

June 19 2024 | by

ADELINA, a young mother, faced a challenging period in her life when she was left by her husband during her second pregnancy. With no financial support, the future seemed bleak for her and her two young sons. However, their dire situation took a turn for the better thanks to the kindness of Father Marcos Wilk and his fellow Conventual Franciscan friars at the Guarambaré mission in central Paraguay.

Despite being only 32 kilometres from the capital, Asunción, Guarambaré is characterized by its economically challenged peripheral areas, which house several settlements and low-income neighbourhoods heavily populated by families and individuals in need.

“The largest number of families and people in need are concentrated in these areas,” says Fr. Marcos. “In this context, various situations are often found such as: drug and alcohol addicts, family violence, juvenile delinquency, single mothers in very precarious situations with their children, lack of academic training and a large number of people who work in a precarious way.” In fact, informal employment is widespread, with the majority of the people in jobs such as construction, domestic services, street vending of fruit and vegetables, and rural work. The community is grappling with poverty, with about 40,000 inhabitants facing harsh realities.


Soup kitchen


Since 2001, when the Conventual Franciscan friars in Guarambaré took charge of the Natividad de María parish, which encompasses over 17 chapels and oratories, they have been a beacon of hope and support for those in need. They welcomed Adelina and her children wholeheartedly, providing them with more than just basic necessities; they offered genuine friendship and a nonjudgmental environment. At the mission’s soup kitchen, Adelina found not only food for her children, but also a new sense of family and community.

The friars’ mission extends beyond to just feeding the hungry. They also offer educational opportunities and both moral and practical support to impoverished families. Their daily efforts include running the soup kitchen with the help of local volunteers, which they initially established in 2016 to provide lunch to 60 hungry children between the ages of 2 and 12, utilising facilities belonging to the friars. This has evolved to serve over 100 meals per day to those in need, demonstrating the friars’ unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people like Adelina and her children.


Educational initiatives


The friars have also initiated numerous social services in response to emerging community needs, often collaborating with lay volunteers. The parish now includes a parochial school, where the friars have greatly enhanced the educational infrastructure, offering quality education to approximately 1,230 students from preschool to high school. This is particularly significant given Paraguay’s struggling educational system, characterized by high dropout rates and insufficient infrastructure due to poor management and corruption. Thanks to the work and management of the friars, a headquarter of the Catholic university was built in Guarambaré, where now more than 700 young people study, thus facilitating education for many young people who previously had to travel hours to the capital to attend a study centre. Additionally, the friars have established a strong social outreach, including adult and elderly pastoral care, providing necessary medical supplies like hospital beds, wheelchairs, and crutches.


Larger facility


The friars, however, face an overwhelming and never-ending demand to aid the numerous poor and needy in the community, prompting an urgent need to construct a larger facility. “Our rooms are insufficient and limited, and they are overwhelmed by the current demand for services,” affirms Fr. Marcos. “We urgently need the construction of a larger and more adequate structure to respond to the needs of the most needy people in a dignified and more comprehensive way, incorporating more services.”

The new centre will be known as the Marcelino Pan y Vino Center, and aims to offer a comprehensive range of services, including educational support for children, assistance for abandoned mothers and their children, a soup kitchen for those in need, clothing distribution, and legal, psychological, and basic medical support. The friars’ goal is to ensure that no one in need is turned away. They need your help to bring this vision to life.


Your help needed


“Father Marcos is a remarkable friar,” says Father Giancarlo Zamengo, General Director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony. “He is a present source of help and support for so many in need.”

Your donation of $40/£25/€30 to the 2024 June 13 project could help pay for the first bricks to build the walls of the new centre. A larger amount of  $60/£40/€50 could help install a new bathroom to provide dignity to those who attend the centre, and doubling that to $130/£80/€100 could help pay for the roof of the centre by paying for tiles and wood. An even more substantial donation such as $650/£400/€500 could help provide the electrical wiring for the entire centre. Your generous donation will help Fr. Marcos and the friars help every hungry person who comes to their door.

The construction of the Marcelino Pan y Vino Center is planned in two main phases. The first phase involves building the physical infrastructure – pillars, walls, roofs, a kitchen, storage areas, bathrooms, offices, and installing electrical and plumbing systems, followed by painting. The second phase will focus on forming work teams among the friars and community laypeople to deliver all the proposed services, defining the space for each service area, establishing schedules, and officially opening the centre.


Vital lifeline


The centre will be far more than just a structure; it will become the community’s heartbeat, offering a vital lifeline to those in dire need. It will stand as a lasting testament to the kindness and generosity of Saint Anthony’s devotees, and a symbol of love and hope for future generations.

“Please help to provide a safe haven for the poor and hungry of Guarambaré,” concludes Fr. Giancarlo. “Give a donation now and bring hope and love to people in desperate need. I thank you for your loving and giving heart, and pray that Saint Anthony’s protection be with you always.”



The new centre takes its name from the famous 1955 Spanish film Marcelino Pan y Vino, known in the English-speaking world as Miracle of Marcelino.

Marcelino is an orphaned young boy who lives with a community of Franciscan friars. He is allowed to roam about in the friary, but is forbidden to go upstairs. One day, out of curiosity, however, Marcelino climbed up to the attic, and saw a big crucifix, to whom he offered bread and wine. Miraculously, Jesus came down from the cross, ate, and then told Marcelino he was a good boy. The Lord then offered the boy two wishes. The orphan replied he wished to see Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and then his own mother. Jesus then told the boy he had to fall asleep in order to get his wish. Marcelino fell asleep on Jesus’ arms, and in his dream bore the vision of the Blessed Virgin and his own mother. The friars eventually realized that Jesus had indeed come down to talk with the boy, and understood it was a true miracle. Jesus himself gave the boy the name ‘Marcelino Pan y Vino’, meaning ‘Marcelino Bread and Wine’.

The film remains one of the most famous Spanish films ever made, and one of the first Spanish films to become successful in the US as well.


Updated on June 19 2024