In the 1970s the Irish Augustinian Mission in Ecuador extended from Chone in the south to Chibunga in the North. Today we have downsized somewhat to three areas, Convento, Novillo and Flavio Alfaro which cover an area roughly the size of Co. Wexford and includes almost eighty Chapels. Over that area, over 1000 Baptisms a year take place which gives an indication of the size of the population.
Today the Ecuadorian Augustinians retain the parish of St. Rita but when we arrived there in the 1970s, it was the only centre that could be said to have a well-built Chapel. Back then, local communities tended to build their own Chapels because they gave the village status. This could be quite a burden on the Priest who was expected to turn up regularly to say Mass and attend village Fiestas. In Flavio County, there were just 13 Chapels and today there are nearly 60.
We were not just concerned with our parishioners' spiritual well-being. A lot of time and effort went into healthcare, helping the sick pay for prescriptions and facilitating volunteer APSO Nurses' work. Later, Chris Fitzgerald OSA built the first Health Clinic in Santa Rita, and Paul O’Connor OSA built the State Hospital in Flavio Alfara.
The great work of the sisters was invaluable to our mission in Ecuador. The Irish Presentation sisters will remain forever in Flavio and Chone's memory, especially for their social work and their commitment to family catechesis. The Franciscan and Dominican sisters too contributed greatly to our mission's success.
Although our Irish Missionaries in Ecuador have dwindled to one, Fr. Ted McCarthy in Convento, we are confident that the ship is being expertly steered by local Augustinians and the local communities we shared so much of our lives with.
A Missionary’s Story, A Memoir.