Argentina welcomed the Custos enthusiastically at the monastery and at the school of the Custody of the Holy Land. After his visit to Washington, D.C., from November 2 to 6, Fr. Francesco Patton flew to Buenos Aires, planning to remain in the city from November 7 to 11. During a week full of commitments, he fulfilled his desire to meet the friars, the families and the youth who represent the essence of the Franciscan presence in Argentina.
On November 7, he went to the monastery and also paid a visit to the Provincial Minister of one of the Franciscan provinces of Argentina. The next day, he spent time at the Tierra Santa Institute, stopping at each classroom and talking to students, professors and administrators. Later, on November 9, students from the School of the Custody Holy Land performed a musical program, so as to thank Fr. Francesco Patton for his visit.
The Custos spoke words of encouragement for everyone and later received gifts from and took photos with the families. “The children were impressed because he spoke Spanish with them,” said Br. Rafael, the Commissioner of the Holy Land for Argentina. “The fact that he wanted to speak the local language, even though he is Italian, fascinated everyone. Everyone, from the youngest to the most elderly, approached him, embraced him, and asked him questions, as if he were an old friend. They were impressed, happy to meet the Custos of the Holy Land, a figure whose importance they had, perhaps never understood before. But he was there and they were able to connect with him and talk to him.”
On Thursday, November 10, Fr. Francesco Patton met with all of the school workers, teachers, administrative staff and leaders of the church, and had encouraging words for them: “Being teachers and educators is not a profession; it is a vocation ,” said the Custos, “and responding to this vocation will help you find happiness.” During lunch with about 100 people, the Custos greatly appreciated a typical local meat dish, known as an asado argentino. Later, at a private meeting with leaders, ongoing projects were presented and working arrangements were discussed. Although it was the first time that they had met him, “they were all happy and reassured,” added Br. Rafael. The day ended with a solemn mass presided over by the Custos in a church packed with young people and pilgrims, all excited to meet Fr. Patton.
On his last day in Argentina, the Custos met with the friars again and encouraged them to continue their mission. Five Franciscans belong to the Monastery of Buenos Aires, which is under the Custody of the Holy Land. Their Provincial Father is the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton. Theirs is, for all intents and purposes, a house of the Custody, despite being located outside the territory of the Middle East mission. In Argentina, as well as in 43 other nations, there is also a Commissariat, which works to promote activities concerning information, pilgrimages and collections for the Holy Land. The Franciscans of Buenos Aires are also engaged in formation, with the help of the Tierra Santa Institute, one of the schools of the Custody. Founded in 1896, it was officially recognized in 1956 and it has been operating without interruption since 1961. Currently, it has 800 students, whose ages range between three and 18, as well as 170 staff members.