An Apostolate the Size of a Continent: Interview with Fr. Jean-Michel Gomis
Interview with Fr. Jean-Michel Gomis of the SSPX, by Anne Le Pape in Présent, November 2, 2018, reproduced here by FSSPX.News with her kind permission.
From the church of Notre Dame de Consolation in the heart of Paris, Fr. Gomis takes us to the other side of the world, to Latin America. He came to present the apostolate of the SSPX in these countries, so far away geographically, but spiritually so close to us.
Father, what is your role in the District of Latin America?
I am the secretary of the district superior, Fr. Trejo. It is rather a broad position because besides helping the superior with all the administrative work and the contacts with the priests and the General House, I also have to take care of the district periodical Jesus Christus, the young priests’ studies, the apostolic travels, the retreats…
Where is the District House located?
In Martinez, in the northern suburb of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
It is the district of all Latin America?
South America, for Mexico is a separate district and so is Central America. An autonomous house was founded there last year, so it is now a district in the making with Guatemala, the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. Our district includes everything else except Brazil, in other words, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
If I understand correctly, you also take care of Patagonia?
Indeed! We have the south of Argentina, Patagonia. We go there for apostolate once in a while, even as far as Ushuaia, for we have families that live in this southernmost city in the world.
The Society has its own seminary in Latin America, in La Reja, in the western suburb of Buenos Aires. How many vocations are there and where do they come from?
The seminary is full, we have a good fifty seminarians. They mostly come from Latin America, but some do come from other continents, the United States, Spain, even France sometimes – depending on the particular circumstances, contacts, etc…
Your seminarians do not study for a year in Europe?
No, our seminary is entirely independent. We have all the formation years: two years of philosophy, three years of theology, as well as a preparatory year and the first year that is a sort of long spiritual retreat, the spirituality year.
But you depend on the General House in Menzingen?
How many priories, serviced by how many priests?
In our district we have seven priories plus the district house, serviced in all by 35 priests. Our priests cover impressive distances, sometimes over 600 miles for a two-day stay, and some of the faithful travel nearly 200 miles to attend Mass. You see how lucky you are in France!
What are your relations with the bishops? Cardinal Bergoglio was on good terms with the Society when he was there. Do you experience the effects of this?
It depends on the diocese, but in general, we do not have any particular difficulties. We do have a rather specific status, yes, because the Pope is Argentinian, and the SSPX in Argentina (not necessarily everywhere in the district) does benefit from his good relationship with Fr. Bouchacourt, for example.
Are the Evangelists spreading in Latin America?
Yes, they continue to spread, along with the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nature abhors a vacuum, and as the message of the Catholic Church in general is losing its intensity and presence, people are turning to those who preach a certain morality, like the Evangelists, or who show up with impressive resources, like the Mormons. Buenos Aires has the largest temple in Latin America.
What trait do you see as characteristic of Latin America?
There is much apostolate to be done in these countries that do not yet know Tradition; in Ecuador, for example, that we visited two years ago, where some prayer groups are forming. I went there earlier this year to preach an Ignatian retreat and I was impressed to meet people who are really very Catholic – 95% of the population in Ecuador is Catholic – but are disconcerted because of the crisis of the clergy that is rearing its head, and who are thirsty for the truth. Many families and many young people. It is all very encouraging!
Interview with Anne Le Pape
You are soliciting help especially for your schools?
Yes! We have three schools in the District of Latin America, with a total of 500 students: La Reja, Cordoba and Mendoza, that are in great need of help, both for their structure (Cordoba needs an extension, and the wooden buildings in La Reja are crumbling) and because of the break-neck inflation rates (in January, it was 22 pesos to the euro, now it is 45).
But St. Joseph, whom we never cease to implore, sends us signs; for example, in Mendoza, the commercial group Jumbo insisted on buying our brand-new little church and priory situated in the middle of a large property. In order to do so, the group built us a bigger church and a bigger priory 500 yards away, entirely at its own expense.
Another example: we owed 20,000 euros in taxes for our school in La Reja, the one with the biggest financial deficit. No solution in sight. A phone call from the Carmelites in North America (they cannot keep more donations than they need to live) to tell us they were sending 2,000 euros. And 20,000 euros showed up… only to be spent immediately on taxes; the sister on the phone had mixed up the numbers.
These signs encourage us…to ask for your help so that our work may last and spread.
Money orders or checks can be made out to “FSPX Amérique du Sud” and sent to
M. l’abbé Jean-Michel Gomis
36 rue Mirabeau