WITH the coming of Canadian Oblate missionaries and the opening of a church in the parish of Victoria, a spiritual revival is going on in the great desert of northbeurrnhCd Ile. burned The new church, replacing one that was down, was
opened by the Bishop of Iquique.
Europe has a special and indeed a vital interest in this area, for the nitrate extracted from its arid soil gives new life to Europe's exhausted The export of nitrate was for a long time the primary source of income for the Chilean Government.
The workers, however, have not benefited. Their standard of living is very low.
Towards the end of last century. the Chilean pampas witnessed abuses at the hands of foreign capitalism, which gave rise to workers' reactions in the form of disorders that were repressed forcefully and at times with bloodshed.
LACK OF PRIESTS
This condition provided an opening for Communism. It is from the Chilean pampas that the more notable Communist parliamentarians of Chile come.
From a religious point of view the surrounding desert is a picture that is all too true of the spiritual life of the " pampinos."
They are all Catholics. at least in name, and devotion to Our Lady is deeply rooted in their hearts. But religious ignorance is common and profound.
There has been a serious lack of priests among them for several decades. Even today the Bishop of Iquique can count on the help of only four diocesan secular priests for 125.000 Catholics spread over a very wide area.
Now, however. 14 Canadian Oblates are working in the diocese.
On Sundays about 1.000 people attend Mass in Victoria's new church, whereas only about 30 were in the habit of going before the arrival of the Oblates.
Y.C.W. IS BUSY The Young Christian Workers, both boys and girls, are making worthwhile contributions in the social field among the workers, and groups of Catholic Action, organised by a very zealous old Spanish priest, are giving a new spiritual and Christian tone to life in the camp.
Courses are being given to youths in preparation for marriage, defective marriages are corrected, and children are baptised.
When the new church was being built the local Communist newspaper protested, and there were complaints that it would not bring food to the workers. But since it was opened, the discordant note has not been heard. The miners arc pleased with their new church,