"Havana lacks a History (...)
the oldest ones invent another story,
a lie, as it should be (...)
In about the year 1950 the Province of St Peter of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament wanted to have a house in Spanish America. A first attempt at making a foundation in Venezuela, after having the authorization of the Archbishop of Caracas and the approval the Superiors of the Congregation, was completely frustrated by the attitude of the government of Democratic Action (Venezuela), which refused religious of Spanish origin permission to enter the country.
As the proposition about making a foundation in America was irreversible, a religious from the Province of St Peter (Fr Luis Martínez) arrived in Colombia on 18 January 1950, ready to attempt the foundation. It was the Archbishop, Mons. Diego María Gómez, who opened the doors of the city and made the foundation possible. The Archbishop offered us “ad nutum Santae Sedis” the Sanctuary of Bethlehem with the entire hill that surrounds it. The Superior General of the time, Fr Godefroy Spiekman, while visiting America, arrived in Popayán and personally studied the proposal of the Archbishop.
The Decree of founding the new house is dated 6 January 1951 in Rome. The first expedition left Lisbon by air. And it comprised the following religious: Fr Juan Arratibel, Provincial of the Province of St Peter, Fr Román Esquisabel, Fr Esteban Mariezcurrena, Br Vicente Urquía and Br Macario Andraiz. Fr Luis Martínez, who was named the first Superior of the community, was already in Popayán. All of them received a great reception in Popayán on 15 February 1951. Joining them, on 25 September of the same year, Fr Gregorio Urquiola was assigned to the new foundation, since Fr Provincial had to return to Spain.
The foundation in Havana took place on April 8, 1953, date of its canonical erection. In the house diary of Popayán the following record appears: “June 09-53. Brother Vicente Urquía leaves this house to go to Havana. He is the founder of our first house in Cuba. And he is the first religious, having come to Colombia, who receives orders to leave Popayán.”
There is also another item noted: “1954 January. This month we received the news of the transfer of Fr Esteban Mariezcurrena, treasurer of the community, to the foundation of Cuba. Date of departure: 18 February. Arrival, 28 February.”
To be continued…
Father Gregorio Urquiola, sss
Bogotá, Colombia, NOTIBIP 71 - July 2021