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SLOVAK MISSIONARY OF SALESIAN ORDER FROM ECUADOR

FATHER JAN SHUTKA

Few weeks ago father Shutka was visiting his sister Mr. Volentier. I call Mrs. Volentier grandma (starka,) as if she was my grandma. I like her a lot. I know her and her family from the Slovak church of St. Cyril and Methodius in New Westminster. Grandma is a Widow. Her son John is married and has two children. One of her daughters live with her, the other is married and has three children. Two daughters Anicka and Betka and son Frank. When Bystrina was Bystrina, Anicka, Betka and Frank were members of the group.

Last Christmas grandma first time talked about her brother missionary in South America. When I learned that he was here visiting, I wanted to meet him. My wish had come through and here is his story.

Father Shutka is from Central Slovakia from a small village called Orovnica, close to Hronsky Benadik or Nova Bana and about 45 Km to 50 Km from Nitra and about the same from Zvolen.

He works in Ecuador for the last 33 years from the time he became a priest. He works with a native tribe called SHUAR in the Amazon's delta.

His destiny starts wit the leaving his birthplace, his homeland in 1951. In his first years he spent some time in Italy, Austria and finally immigrated to Ecuador. There he spent two years, from where he went to study theology in Bogota, Columbia. In 1960 after he was Ordain as a priest he returned to Ecuador and started to work in missions with the tribe Shuar, deep in the Amazon's jungle. The situation was very bad, as there were no schools and health service almost non-existent. The death rate was very high, especially children. At this time there were missions in the jungle, but no schools. The Americans donated a small transmitter Collins 1 kW in 1968 and educational transmissions started in 1968. The Mission hired teachers that were preparing the programs for transmission and teachers helpers that live in the jungle with the tribe in many centers, now totaling 244.The children of the tribe Shuar are getting their education at the beginning in Shuar language, than in Spanish and finally also in English. This year 226 students graduated in the system. On the religious side 80% of the Shuar tribe are baptized Catholics. There are 11 missionaries of Silesian order working in Ecuador with the tribe Shuar. Their territory covers about 30000 square kilometers, with a population of 60000 Shuar and 80000 inhabitants of mixed race called Colonos. As the territory is so vast, they started another program of educating Catechists. They hold services most of the time and the missionaries visit each center for one or two days per month. They also have volunteers from time to time from Germany, USA and even a doctor from Slovakia.

There were problems with land as Colonos started to take over the Shuar lands and clear-cut the rain forest with no compensation for the Shuar. With the help of Peace Corps from USA, volunteers from Germany, Austria and Italy they have solved the situation by working closely with the government and approving co-ops for each center. The missionaries were always on the side of the natives and that is why their Mission was burned down in town of Sucua in 1968 by the Colonos.

With financial help from USA, Belgium and mostly from Germany they had started a livestock farms to improve the financial situation of the natives.

Last week father Shutka went back to Ecuador to town Quito to tribe Shuar where he continues in his work. He would like to build more Chapels, educate more Catechist so they can spread the word of God to the natives in more centers and his biggest wish is for all children, even the poorest being able to get an education. Salesman order has missions in some of the poorest countries in the world and the mission in Ecuador is one of them. There is no electricity, roads barely suitable for horse.

Father Shutka speaks English, French, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish and Slovak. If you would like to help father Shutka to fulfill his dream, he will be most grateful.

P. Juan Shutka
Apartado 17. 12. 466,
Quito
Ecuador 

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Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 1, No. 3, Fall 1993
Copyright Vladimir Linder 1993 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.