From March 27 to April 4, 2019, a delegation from the BYNODE Development and Cooperation Association (a non-profit organization) went to Colombia to visit the friars at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Seminary in Itagüí, part of greater metropolitan Medellín. They also visited the friars at the friary of San Anton de Padua in Bogotà.

The BYNODE development & cooperation (ONLUS) is an impulse of Franciscan thought and action. It is part of the panorama of international collaboration aimed at promoting entrepreneurial projects with social aims. These projects are meant to respond to the real needs of the people in the territories where our friars work around the world. The intent of the association is to work as God works, to turn good ideas into concrete projects in order to help improve people’s lives. BYNODE came into being in 2017, as a result of collaboration between the General Curia of the Conventual Franciscan Order and the John Paul II Foundation. BYNODE is currently carrying out important projects in Latin America where our friars live and work, in order to bring real help to people in need or who are facing emergency situations. Friar Agnello STOIA, OFM Conv., is the President of BYNODE. He went to Colombia with Vittorio LAZZONI and Samanta FERRARI, two collaborators from the John Paul II Foundation. The goal of their visit was to check on the development of administrative procedures related to the projects underway in Itagüí and Cúcuta. Cúcuta is a Colombian city near the Venezuelan border.
The confreres in Itagüí have allocated a plot of land next to their friary to build a retirement home for the elderly that can accommodate at least 120 people. The project is called “Ciudadela San Francisco” and we, together with the Colombian friars, have been working on it for three years. The friars of the Sacred Convent of Assisi contributed about one third of the cost of the project, through donations raised by their television broadcast, “With the Heart, in the Name of Francis”.
While in Itagüí, the friars gave the delegation a warm welcome at the “Hermano Francisco” friary and parish. It is located in the “El Pinal” quarter of Medellín. Under the guidance of Friar José Andrés CASTRO FARAH, the Custos of Colombia, an attempt was made to overcome some bureaucratic problems to finally lay the foundation stone on the construction site.
The second stage of the journey took place in Bogotà, the country’s capital. Here, too, we were warmly welcomed by the community of friars and postulants. The delegation visited the Italian Chamber of Commerce, where they dealt with important issues related to “Solidarity Pharmaceuticals” project to be implemented in Cúcuta. This project will benefit the Venezuelan refugees who are encamped in the border town as well as assist thousands of disadvantaged Colombians. Next, they went to the headquarters of the Colombian Episcopal Conference and visited the Secretary, the Most Reverend Elkin Fernando ÁLVAREZ BOTERO, Auxiliary Bishop of Medellín. He warmly conveyed the greetings of the President and gave Friar Agnello a letter endorsing the project.
After Friar Agnello returned to Italy, Vittorio and Samanta met with the Most Reverend Victor Manuel OCHOA, Bishop of Cúcuta, who took them to visit one of the seven large refugee camps his diocese has set up for the Venezuelans. Each day, some 6,000 meals are handed out and over one hundred kilograms [220 pounds] of medicines are distributed through four clinics. The Bishop has expressed his total commitment to the “Solidarity Pharmaceuticals” project and made some facilities available that can host this pharmaceutical center.
Another journey will be scheduled to visit our confreres in Matanzas, Cuba, where work is being carried out to create a food dispensary in the parish of San Pedro Apóstol, in order to guarantee a healthy and proper diet to children and indigent elderly people.
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Friar Agnello STOIA, OFM Conv.