Brief History of the Region of Mary Queen of the Apostles
Argentina and Bolivia
The origin of the La Salette presence in Argentina is linked to the International Eucharistic Congress held in Buenos Aires in 1934. The papal delegate for the Congress was Cardinal Pachelli who later became Pope Pius XII. A delegation from Poland, headed by the country's cardinal primate, participated in the Congress. The Argentine bishops were aware of a wave of Polish immigrants and, eager to care for their pastoral needs, put out call for polish missionaries. La Salette responded with a visit in 1937 by the then Polish Provincial Fr. Kolbuch and Fr. Edward Sudyka. The decision was made and Fr. Sudyka was named to the Parish of San José in the dioceses of La Plata, Buenos Aires. Nearby Doc Sud offered the first contacts with polish immigrants.
From the beginning the Missionaries of La Salette attended to the needs of the immigrants and of the local people as well. The eventual arrival of Frs. Luis Zawisza, Casimir Kornafel, Joseph Paprocki, Ladislau Pykosz as well as Bros. Juan Maszczak and Adalberto Cieślak fortified the new mission. After a time given the commitment by other congregations in the area to the polish immigrants it was decided to leave Doc Sud and take on missions in the eastern province of Santa Fe as well as Córdoba. Eventually two parishes of Our Lady of La Salette, one in Barrio Candiotti, Santa Fe and the other in Yofre Norte, Córdoba were established and continue to receive the ministry of La Salette Missionaries.
The invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 made it impossible to send more missionaries and having serious consequences for community life and the economic support from Poland. The small missionary band found itself fighting for survival. A magazine was started, Message of La Salette, through which for many years La Salette was made known .With a great desire for a permanent La Salette presence in Argentina the first apostolic school was opened in Barrio Patricios, a neighbourhood in Córdoba, attracting mostly poor children of polish immigrants living in the north eastern province of Chaco. Not long after, preoccupied for the quality of education, a proposal to assume the administration of a boarding school in rural Santa Rosa de Rio Primero in Córdoba was accepted. During World War II the religious congregation administering the school had been called back to France to complete their obligatory military service. For the next seven or eight years the missionaries, with the help of Fr. Dantin who had returned to France from Madagascar, administered the school and maintained their own formation program for the candidates. Fr. Dantin of the French Province died and was buried in Santa Rosa de Rio Primero. The desire to improve even more the quality of the formation led to a decision to buy, with the help of the polish American fathers and brothers in Olivet, a 15 acres piece of property in Pilar some sixty kms. North of Buenos Aires. The proximity of various seminary faculties in the area promised a better quality formation.
Fr. Casimir Kornafel, who for some nine years was pastor in the most southern part of Buenos Aires province, accepted to prepare the property and with the help of the seminarians put it into shape constructing two small buildings with chapel, dormitories and class rooms in addition to the small chalet already on the property. With a doctorate in philosophy from the Gregorian Fr. Kornafel was a farmer at heart and quickly turned the property productive. Unfortunately, according to Fr. Kornafel, almost all the seminarians, apparently exhausted from the hard work involved, abandoned Pilar to return to their homes. Meanwhile several seminarians had advanced to philosophy and were given the opportunity to study at the Gregorian. Fr. Joseph Frydryk, who died in 2007 and is buried in Córdoba was the only candidate to reach ordination. Fr. Kormafel remained in Pilar until his death in 1990. In 1991 Fr. Zawisza died in Córdoba. They are both buried in the cemetery of the town of President Derqui where Fr. Louis had been pastor for many years, not far from Pilar. Meanwhile the parishes in Santa Fe and Córdoba continued to be attended to by Fr. Paprocki and Fr. Pykosz with help from various missionaries from North America. Fr Paprocki died as pastor in Santa Fe in 1975 and is buried there. Fr. Pykosz returned to Europe and others decided to go to the Polish American province of Olivet in the USA. Another door was opened when the political situation in Burma, now Myanmar, made it impossible for the American province from Hartford to reinforce its presence there. The General Council recommended Argentina as a future mission in the light of Pope John XXIII's call to reinforce evangelization in South. America. After a visit by the provincial, Fr. Michael Cox, the decision was made to send as a province commitment the first three Americans Fathers John Bradford, Steve Krisanda and Jim Weeks. With a desire to be considerate and not give the impression of taking over the mission from the Polish Fathers the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Las Termas de Rio Hondo, in the poor northern province of Santiago del Estero, was accepted in response to the local bishop's (note) desperate need for resident priests.
La Salette continues to minister in this large mostly poor and rural parish. Given the absence of an apostolic school and the departure of the polish fathers from Córdoba it was decided to open a house of Formation in Yofre Norte, Córdoba. The first seminarians lived in the balcony of the parish hall where the American La Salettes had now assumed responsibility for the Parish of Our Lady of La Salette. It was eventually moved to, and continues to function in a spacious house on property acquired by the polish fathers in the same neighbourhood. Meanwhile with the continuing arrival of missionaries from the states and the collaboration of Fr. Joseph Frydryk, the expansion of the mission included in Córdoba the rural town of San Agustin, and the founding by Fr. Frydryk of a much needed parish in the populous neighbourhood of José Ignacio Diaz. In Santiago del Estero the expansion reached for a number of years the very large rural parish in Clodomira and eventually the establishment of a new parish, Our Lady of La Salette, in the city of La Banda, where La Salette continues to be present.
With the establishment in 1976 of the last of the military dictatorships, following fifty years of rotating dictatorships with democratic interludes, the missionaries faced along with thousands of Argentines and others a dark chapter in La Salette´s history in Argentina. The novitiate house located in Barrio Los Boulevares, Córdoba was ransacked by military in plain clothes. As Fr. Weeks and now Fr. Alfredo Velarde along with other seminarians returned to the house they were accused of subversion and kidnapped. They were eventually held secretly in one of the notorious torture centers, La Perla. Thanks to the quick action of Fr. Jerry Biron and the intervention of Cardinal Primatesta they were located and eventually released. Fr. Weeks was deported and the others were eventually sent to continue their formation in the USA for a year. Their only subversion had been to evangelize in a very poor part of the sprawling city of Córdoba. Eventually the Region of Mary Queen of the Apostles with the same missionary spirit of the founding pioneers extended itself in 1985 to Bolivia with the help of Fr. Weeks who had continued to minister in Peru.
In 1989 a tragic accident took the life of then Regional Superior, Fr. Roland M. Nadeau. He is buried in Las Termas. The recent death of fifty year old Argentine Fr. Francisco "Pancho" Negri, now buried in Córdoba, stretched the limits of the region. Relief has come with the arrival from India in 2008 of Frs. Jacob Vettathu and Joseph Peethuruthel, and the recent ordination of Bolivian Fr. David Cardozo. We also expect to have several novices next year. Today, we minister in Argentina in three parishes, in one neighbourhood of a diocesan parish and in our two houses of formation. In Bolivia we serve in one parish and in our house of formation in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba. We are La Salette Missionaries from Argentina, Bolivia, the United States and India, grateful to the early Polish Missionaries who paved the way.