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Welcome to the Latin America Apostolate!
Since 1956, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis has sent its own priests of the Archdiocese as missionaries to La Paz, Bolivia in South America. Due to the shortage of native priests in the Archdiocese of La Paz, Archbishop Abel Antezana requested that Archbishop Joseph Ritter send priests from Saint Louis to serve in La Paz. Archbishop Ritter said that the decision to send priests of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis as foreign missionaries was the most important decision in his twenty-three years as a bishop.
Fr. Patrick Hayden
Fr. James Michler
Through an agreement with the Archbishop of La Paz, the first three priests from the Archdiocese of Saint Louis were sent in May 1956. The first three priests were Father David Ratermann, Monsignor Andrew Kennedy, and Father Andrew Schierhoff. They began their missionary work in what would become Cristo Rey Parish (Christ the King) in La Paz.
In 1959, Archbishop Ritter invited the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood from O'Fallon, Missouri to serve in a parish school that would be built at Cristo Rey. The first Sisters to be assigned received their mission crosses from Archbishop Ritter in August 1959. They were Sister Christine Foeller, Sister Mary John Bosco Sanders, and Sister Mary Christopher Fiala, C.PP.S. The Sisters not only taught in the parish school, but also worked in health care and developed religious education for children, youth, and adults.
Later on, the Sisters of Loretto also established a mission in Bolivia.In the 1960s, a program called Papal Volunteers in Latin America (PAVLA) opened the door for participation of lay missioners. Frank Clarke and Mary Jane Krekeler were the first to serve and were later joined by twelve other lay people. These fourteen individuals worked in various capacities, including health care services, educational and human development programs, cooperatives to provide job training, and care for the poor through the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. Other dioceses followed this example set by the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.
Mosiac at the Cathedral Basilica
The Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica is famous for its many beautiful mosaics. Some of them depict important events in the history of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. One such mosaic, illustrating the history and commemorating the mission outreach of the Latin America Apostolate, can be found on the west side of the arch over the main nave. There is an unusual scene: a priest dressed in a cassock, a sister in a habit, indigenous people in their typical dress, and a llama, an animal native to the Andes Mountains of South America. This mosaic was completed while John L. May was Archbishop (1980-1992).
The Latin America Apostolate is supported by Annual Catholic Appeal.