San José de las Petacas was a Reduction founded by the Jesuits in the northern part of present-day Argentina. The Jesuits ministered to the indigenous people until their expulsion from the region in 1767. It was not until 1975, more than two hundred years later, that the Society of Jesus was able to return to the area to once again serve a population that had been deeply wounded by exclusion. Today, three Jesuits priests, Juan Carlos Constable, Rodrigo Castells and Marco Alemán, are dedicated to accompanying the people, encouraging the life and dignity of communities, and being servants of mountain life. Here is how they describe their presence in San José.
Accompanying, together with the State and peasant organizations, the struggle to remain in their territories, work for a sustainable future and the care of the common home and its cultural traditions. Juan Carlos, accompanying with his presence and permanence; Rodrigo, with his vocation as brother and agronomist in promoting the life of the mountain and its inhabitants; and, in my case, by being attentive to blessing and celebrating the sacred life of the mountain.
As a Society of Jesus, we ask ourselves; how do we want to accompany and serve the life that God is giving life to on the mountain today? Some answers are emerging. We would like to take off our shoes in the face of this sacred reality and this will only be possible if we try to de-class ourselves, to leave aside our “social class” or “socio-economic and cultural place” of origin, so as not to impose our own world. Only with this attitude, with this way of being present, of approaching a reality that is not our own, will we be able to generate an enriching dialogue that promotes dignity. A dialogue that will make possible and real a process of mutual enrichment and learning. A dialogue in which we can discover the life that God is giving life to on this mountain.
From this way of being, of accompanying, of serving, we will be able to care for and promote the life of the communities and of the mountain. We will be able to grow in the awareness and value of creation, the value of our roots, our identity and dignity. We will be able to move from extractive management to sustainable management, cultivate gratitude with the forest and its animals, work for an intergenerational responsibility and defend the rights of peasants against the threat of agribusiness entrepreneurs, those who think that everything can be bought and believe that everything can be sold.
We do not want to be the voice of the voiceless, but rather to unite ourselves to their cry. A cry of dignity heard from the mountain.