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Between the 10th and 27th of December, 2023, six friars and a Franciscan sister spent the Christmas season with some communities in the Municipality of Puerto Leguizamo. During this Christmas apostolate led by the “Laudato Si” Movement, 150 indigenous, farmers and Afro people participated in various religious activities and shared their ancestral wisdom. This mission is one of the activities that seeks to consolidate the Ministries of the “Common Home” in the Colombian Amazon and to safeguard the culture of the inhabitants of the forest.

The “Laudato Si” Movement accompanies and trains the people of God who make pilgrimages to the Amazon biome to make “My Beloved Amazon” a reality, a desire of Pope Francis based on four dreams: social, ecological, cultural and ecclesial. In addition, together with the Franciscan Community of the Province of Santa Fe, a Christmas apostolate was organized to spend the great feast of the Nativity with the indigenous, Afro-descendant and farming communities of the region.

The Christmas apostolate of the department of Putumayo was carried out between the 10thand 27th December, 2023 in some riverside communities of the Putumayo and Caquetá rivers that are part of the Colombian Amazon jungle.

Six Franciscan friars, fr. Carlos Andrés García, OFM; fr. Yorgen Marciales, OFM; fr Santiago Ramos, OFM; fr Sebastián Barahona, OFM; fr Juan Guillermo Dávila, OFM and fr Jairo Santiago González, OFM; together with Sr. Carolina Pardo, a Franciscan Sister of Our Lady of Lourdes were appointed to lead the activity.

This mission and its entire process has the purpose of consolidating the ministerial commission of the “Common Home: in the Colombian Amazon jungle to make Pope Francis’ four dreams in the Amazon come true,” the religious leaders reported.

The first three days of the Christmas apostolate had as their epicenter the urban area of Puerto Leguizamo, where they participated in an induction by Monsignor Joaquín H. Pinzón, Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Leguizamo – Solano and his pastoral team. The friars were invited to the Association of Traditional Authorities and Councils of Indigenous Peoples and Alto Resguardo Predio Putumayo (ACILAPP), where they learned about the ancestral wisdom of the Taitas around mambo (Latin American dance) and fraternity. After the induction, the group traveled to the village of Mecaya to meet the native, farming, and Afro population of the region. At this site, located one hour by car and three hours by boat on the Caquetá River, the Christmas mission was carried out.

The group was divided into two groups: three friars and the Sister in the first, who would be with the native community that belongs to the ethnic group of the Coreguajes; and the remaining three friars in the second. “Half way through the mission, the first group was going to be exchanged with the second. In this way, both commissions were able to have knowledge of the two realities in the territory, that is, both farming and native,” said fr Jairo Santiago González.

The experience in Mecaya was more liturgical. During the afternoons, the friars shared with the children of the area and in the evenings, they prayed the Christmas Novena with a Eucharistic celebration. “Our presence in the parish of St. Francis of Assisi was also very interesting for them and for us. The community had never been able to share with a Franciscan even though the parish is named after the saint of Assisi,” fr Gonzalez said.

In the mornings, the Franciscans had the opportunity to visit the different houses and businesses of the township, where they listened to the sorrows and pains of the community as a result of the years of war and drug trafficking. According to fr Gonzalez, in the community of Jericho Consaya the Franciscans experienced two moments: one with a feminine dimension and the other with a masculine one. “The first group of Franciscans was accompanied by the sister and that is why it can be said that the daily sharing was mainly with the women and children of the community.” This allowed them to learn about everyday life in the midst of the kitchen dishes, the stove, the weaving of handicrafts and life on the river. “The second group was able to immerse themselves in the professions of men’s daily lives, such as sports.” In this indigenous village, the missionaries were also able to live in a special way the preparatory time before Christmas, praying the Christmas Novena and celebrating the Eucharist. “We also visited the houses of the inhabitants in prayer and blessed their homes. Approximately 150 people participated in the entire Christmas apostolate, which make up the Coreguaje community,” fr Gonzalez said.

During the Christmas celebrations, women and children performed the traditional dances of the Province.

On the 24th December, the entire community gathered in the public square and danced, an activity they had not been enjoyed for more than eight years.

For the Franciscans, this experience, where five baptisms were held, was very significant. They said that they were able to respond in some way to the call of the church made in the Apostolic Exhortation “My dear Amazonia.”

“The Christmas apostolate allowed us to learn about their ancestral wisdom. This accompaniment is very important because it will allow them to safeguard their traditions and culture,” concluded fr González.