|The Maryknoll Bolivia
Mission Immersion Program
Mission is, by its nature, contextual. As we cross cultures and engage the world around us, we are challenged to discover new ways to live the Gospel, and the people we meet introduce us to new ways of understanding God and the world. The Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program seeks to introduce people not only to Maryknoll and mission, but specifically to Bolivia, an incredible country in the heart of South America.
From the Amazon Basin to the heights of the Andes, this landlocked country boasts a remarkably diverse array of climates, landscapes, flora and fauna, and other natural features. But it is the human diversity of this most indigenous country in South America that has made Bolivia an especially grace-filled place for Maryknoll to be in mission for over 70 years.
Under the new constitution, passed in 2009, the country is officially called The Plurinational State of Bolivia, in recognition of the 36 indigenous nations who make up Bolivia's rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and histories. The most economically impoverished country in South America, Bolivia has struggled to resist centuries of colonial rule, economic exploitation, and political manipulation. In recent years, social movements representing the rural farmers, urban laborers, and Bolivia's indigenous majority have organized to overcome exploitation and oppression, and have brought about exciting social and political changes in the country. There are difficulties and vigorous debates about how to move forward, as one would expect. But it is a privilege and a blessing to be here at this historic moment of struggle and change, accompanying Bolivians as they forge a more hopeful future.
Maryknoll has been especially inspired by Andean Cosmovision and the various ways Quechua and Aymara indigenous people here challenge us to look at God and the world around us in new ways, and enrich our shared Catholic faith. Reverence for the earth (Pachamama), emphases on reciprocity, right relationships and mutual aid, a well-developed sense of "living well" ("buen vivir" or sumaq kawsai) in harmony with Creation, and a deep faith in an incarnate God are some of the great gifts Bolivian people generously share with missioners.
The Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program is located in Cochabamba, a city of roughly 700,000 people in the middle of the country. The urban hub of a fertile agricultural region, Cochabamba has traditionally been Bolivia's bread basket, and a cultural crossroads. Affectionately dubbed the "Land of Eternal Spring," the Cochabamba valley sits nestled in the Andes at about 2,500 meters (8,400 feet) above sea level, and enjoys a warm, temperate climate.
Cochabamba is a traditionally Quechua-speaking area (Quechua was the language of the Incas). But indigenous people from rural areas around the country have migrated here in recent years, and many of the communities where Maryknoll works include both Quechua and Aymara families.
Bolivia is an important, beautiful country, and the people here are engaged in a lot of exciting changes and struggles. Come and discover the graces of mission here for yourself!