Grand Opening Ceremony Marks Public Debut of La Parroquia San Andrés in Canoa

National Headquarters  |  July 17, 2019
A look of the new La Parroquia San Andrés Church. Photo by: Tina Tuan

When the dreadful 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador on April 16, 2016, Tzu Chi volunteers set their relief plans in motion for long-term aid in the form of financial, emotional and physical support. Not long after the earthquake struck, a Cash-For-Relief program was initiated in Manta, Portoviejo, Canoa, Pedernales and Jama that provided locals with much-needed job opportunities and initiated city-wide cleanups in the shortest time possible. 

Toiling together with love in their hearts, lasting connections between locals and Tzu Chi volunteers were born. One connection we made along the way in Canoa specifically struck a chord within the heart of our founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen. La Parroquia San Andrés in Canoa was turned to rubble from the earthquake’s impact on the country.  Coinciding with our methodology of long-term sustainable relief, a roadmap for further aid was laid forth that included the rebuilding of this beloved house of worship in the small coastal town. 

The rebuilding of our church, yes, it is a material house, but it is also a symbol… it is rebuilding the church that is within each of us, the temple that is each of us, united.

Sister Mercedes Ajila

The reconstruction project comprised of not only the church itself, but classrooms for children’s Bible studies, living quarters for priests and nuns, and a platform for Tzu Chi’s forthcoming humanitarian events in Canoa.

Reflecting on a New Start

After an initial groundbreaking ceremony a year following the 2016 earthquake, our Reuilding With Faith reconstruction mission was underway. We reached out to the community to assure that the new structure would be best suited for the local culture. Contractors and engineers used special architectural techniques throughout development to ensure this and the structure’s durability.

After a year of diligent expertise and dedication, reconstruction was completed this past June and a new place of love and worship was restored. While this chapter of our relief mission in Canoa came to an end, the grand opening of La Parroquia San Andrés marked the start of a new future for this resilient community. 

Opening Ceremony Preparations

No details are missed in preparation for the celebration.Photo by: Mina Teslaru

Our team returned to La Parroquia San Andrés on July 10th to prep for the public opening and provide a simultaneous medical outreach. Volunteers collaborated with Canoa’s nuns and local volunteers to begin preparations for the big debut.

Local and global Tzu Chi volunteers meticulously planned every detail of the opening ceremony. We wanted to ensure that the big day was representative of the care, thought and diligence that our relief methodologies consist of; no detail was overlooked. Volunteers rehearsed performances to perfection and prepared final touches for the anticipated day.

[image] Local Mariachi band plays traditional Canoan songs, in addition to a specifically composed and rehearsed song for Tzu Chi at the ceremony. Photo: Tina Tuan

The final outcome of the new church far exceeded expectations throughout planning. We were honored to work with such a dedicated team of architects, engineers, construction workers and volunteers who allowed this two-year aspiration to come to life. 

Play Video

Sneak a peek at behind-the-scenes during pre-ceremony preparations.

Only love can move mountains.

Sister Mercedes Ajila

A Grand Start of New Beginnings

Tzu Chi USA CEO Han Huang officiates opening of the church with a ribbon cutting. Photo by: Grace Chen

As the community prepared for the official debut of the new church in early July, local residents and volunteers, Tzu Chi team members and individuals from all walks of life within the Canoa community congregated for the opening ceremony in Ecuador.

Play Video

 Catch live highlights from the opening ceremony.

As a day of love and unity, people from around the world celebrated compassion. Sister Mercedes’s parents, Marcos Jose Ajila Lapo and Eugenia Angela Jumbo Sarango, travelled for over 14 hours from Nangariza, Ecuador to join their daughter at the beginning of this new chapter.

Engineer and local resident Julián Zamora pictured with his now fiance with their son at the ceremony. Photo by: Mina Teslaru

With excitement filling the air in the new place of worship, Canoa Church engineer and local resident Julián Zamora proposed to his girlfriend during the ceremony, to the community’s surprise. 

The ceremony came to a close with Tzu Chi USA CEO Han Huang unveiling a plaque in commemoration of Tzu Chi’s contribution to the Canoa community. 

Tzu Chi USA's CEO Han Huang and Tzu Chi USA volunteer Martin Kuo unveil the Tzu Chi plaque at La Parroquia San Andrés. PC: Tina Tuan
Play Video

Catch a glimpse of the beautiful proposal and see more heart-touching moments from the ceremony.

An Immaterial Gift of Hope Thanks to Intercultural Unity

Our Rebuilding with Faith mission has demonstrated that love knows no bounds. Individuals from various backgrounds, religions and cultures came together throughout the mission to deliver compassion to repair that which was broken. 

Tzu Chi USA’s CEO, Han Huang, reminded us at the opening ceremony that while languages and religions may differ across the globe, we are all the same in our humanity. While our team has made great accomplishments, it was the people of Canoa who demonstrated the true spirit of compassion. Between communal acceptance and gratitude, the people of Canoa accepted Tzu Chi as family. 

Play Video

Watch how universal love fills the community during this beautiful exchange of compassion.

I feel a lot of happiness and hope for the new church and the people of Canoa, who I think will be inspired to continue to keep this as beautiful as it is today.”

Sister Irmelia Zorga Gutierez

With reconstruction finally complete, Canoa residents have been restored with faith and optimism following so much devastation. Survivors and locals alike now look to the future with hope thanks to the compassionate actions from Rebuilding with Faith

Play Video

Discover how the local community responded to the church’s completion.

Join us throughout the journey of our Rebuilding with Faith mission all the way back
to the first day of our arrival and discover the power of universal love.

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