SSpS Mission in Cuba: Challenges and Perspectives
Let us continue our journey around the world, today we go to Cuba, a beautiful country in the Caribbean Islands, where our missionary sisters face many challenges together with the Cubans.
The first SSpS arrived in 1996 in the village called Nicaro, diocese of Holguín, and two years later opened another community in Niquero, diocesis of Bayamo-Manzanillo. At the moment, they are also in Havana, the capital.
Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus in October 1492. Its capital is Havana. In the beginning this island was populated by aborigines coming from diverse migratory currents from the north of the American continent through Florida and later arriving in successive waves from the mouth of the Orinoco along the arc of the Antilles.
In 1510 Diego Velázquez, one of the rich colonizers of Hispaniola, took charge of subduing the Cuban territory with a prolonged operation of reconnaissance and conquest. Thus began the development of the Spanish colonial society, which was replete with natives, blacks, whites, forming the mestizo mix that is currently recognized as criollos.
Cuba is an archipelago constituted by the Island of Cuba, the Island of Youth and about 4195 small islands, keys and adjacent islands stretching over a surface of 109 886,19 km² of which 107 466,92 belong properly to the Island of Cuba.
It is located at the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico, between the Strait of Florida to the North and the Yucatan Peninsula to the West. To the East it is bordered by the Windward Passage and Haiti and to the South by the Caribbean Sea and Jamaica.
The climate that prevails in the Island is warm, tropical humid with a marked maritime influence. The temperatures oscillate between 24° and 35° C. The islands are characterized by valleys, mountains and plains. Rainfall is quite frequent, although the year is divided into two seasonal periods, rainy and less rainy.
With regard to natural resources, the Island possesses a remarkable combination of renewable natural possibilities (surface water, forests, wind, solar radiation, hydraulic energy, agricultural products, etc.,) and non-renewable (petroleum, natural gas, metallic minerals such as nickel, cobalt, zinc, copper, etc., and non-metallic: cement, marble, plaster, etc.).
The current population is approximately 11,256,372 inhabitants, ranking 83rd in the list of countries by population. 77% of the population live in urban areas. Annual population growth is 3.2 (in 2021). Life expectancy is 77 years.
The Cuban population is mainly formed of the following groups: 51% are mulatto (slightly dark skin), 37% are basically Spanish descendants, 11% are black and 1% is of Chinese origin. There is no significant immigrant population since almost all of its inhabitants were born in the country. Some 77% of the population is classified as urban.
In 2019 the Catholic Church estimated that 60% of the population identified themselves as Catholic but the number has dropped to almost 40% of the population; almost 50% of Cubans consider themselves non-believers, 6% are atheists, about 3.5% are Protestants and 1.5% practice Afro-Cuban syncretism and Santeria.
In Cuba, education is the right of all the people and it constitutes a responsibility of the State which guarantees free education services from early childhood until university, reaching even the most difficult and mountainous places.
There is an increasing number of graduates, masters and doctors. There are also professional technical schools where young people are trained as skilled workers and technicians in the areas of electricity, mechanics, construction, services, transport and others.
The Cubans operate a national health care system and assume fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all the citizens. The entire medical care in Cuba is free for the Cuban residents. There are no private hospitals or clinics as all health services are administered by the government.
The SSpS Communities
Sr. Annemarie Reisch was the Superior General who responded to the request for the foundation in Cuba. The first missionaries: Sr. Aluigia Höing, from the Chilean province. Ana Matilde Rosch Gallinger, from Argentina South and Sr. Dina Tobares, from Argentina North arrived in Havana on March 6, 1996, accompanied by Sr. María Adela, the Provincial of Chile. On March 22 the Sisters officially formed the community under the patronage of Blessed Maria Helena, in the town of Nicaro, diocese of Holguin.
The second SSpS community is located in the parish of St. Francis Xavier, Niquero, belonging to the Diocese of Bayamo-Manzanillo, Granma. This community has Blessed Josepha as patroness and was founded on March 19, 1998. Sisters Veronica Obexer, from the Province of Austria, Maria Cristina Krupek from Brazil and Miriam Luz Perez Aravena, a younger sister from Chile, formed this community to accompany the people in the Catholic Christian faith.
A third community was founded in the same diocese of Bayamo – in a village called Bartolomé Maso in the year 2009 but due to lack of sisters, had to be closed in the year 2015 in order to open the new community in the capital.
At the end of the same year 2015, the Congregation bought a house in the capital Havana and Sr. Miriam Luz Pérez Aravena, Sr. Deepika Soreng and Sr. Regina Mamun formed the beginning of that community.
Creation of the Region
In 2013, the Region was created with the name of Holy Trinity, with the regional house in the community of Niquero. The first regional team was: Sr. Rani M.A, as Regional Coordinator, Sr. Alicia Casale and Sr. Vera Bernadetta Jelita as counsellors. In 2016, the regional administration moved to the community of Havana.
We had the joy of celebrating the first profession of the first Cuban Sister Edisley Mireya Rivera Licea on 18th February 2016.
The seeds of the Faith sown by the first sisters are continued by all the sisters who passed through Cuba by means of catechism for the children, adolescents, youths, and preparation for the sacraments for the adults, spiritual accompaniment of sick persons taking Communion to their houses, accompaniment of the Christian communities.
Young Missionaries of the Holy Trinity with the group’s T-shirt
Lastly, some years back, two groups of laity were formed with the name of Young missionaries of the Holy Trinity and Association of Lay Missionaries of Servants of the Holy Spirit who live our charism and missionary spirit.
Lay members of the Holy Spirit Association during the Jubilee celebration of the Niquero Community.
Through different projects we offer social help to the most vulnerable and needy: with feeding centres, medication, raw food materials, and other basic necessities of daily living.
Every day is a gift from the Lord for us as we experience being and doing in this Cuban land. We find it difficult that most of the time we don´t see the big results of our great efforts in our mission where we are challenged constantly, and sometimes we are discouraged at not perceiving the fruits of our hard work. It is there that the greatest challenges lie for all of us, yet it gives happiness and proves that those who share with great love, even if it is little, small or simple, will discover in their lives the presence of the Triune God living in their hearts and in the hearts of all the people.
To keep up the missionary enthusiasm, looking for new ways of evangelizing, in spite of the social reality and of migratory insecurity of the Christian communities that we accompany.
Happiness and future perspective
We feel the great support of the General Administration of our Congregation and the appreciation that people show us for our presence.
It gives us hope in continuing our missionary service and walking together with the lay youths (JMST and AMES). We also would like to have more sisters so that Kingdom of God continues growing and awakening new native vocations.
Sr. Rani, Sahaya Rani M.A. – Regional Councilor and Communication Coordinator of Cuba Region
Watch the video
In this video you will find more details about the Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit in Cuba.