Clem Comesky Working in Historic Monastery

Jim McIntosh OFM Around the Province

In September, Jim McIntosh left the HNP Communications Office in New York City for a two-year assignment in Bolivia. He recently visited Clement Comesky and filed this report.

Clement Comesky is currently living in the small town of Tarata, approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

The friary at Tarata was originally built as a Franciscan Apostolic College in the late 1700s. For more than 100 years, until 1930, the college formed and sent missionaries to work among the Guarayos, a group of indigenous people living in southeastern Bolivia. There are now only two friars living in this enormous friary.

Tarata is famous in Bolivia because it has produced three presidents, including the infamous president General Mariano Melgarejo, who held office from 1866 to 1871. It was General Melgarejo who once drunkly set out with his army on an overland march to help France at the outset of the Franco-Prussian war.

Tarata is also famous because the remains of St. Severin are said to have been brought here from Rome in the 1800s. The saint is considered to be the patron saint of rain, and so he has a large devoted following in the people of the area who depend on rain for their survival. Daily, people arrive from Cochabamba and the surrounding area carrying flowers to place around the saint’s tomb.

Clem noted that he used to live with Severin Brady in St. Petersburg, Fla.,  and now he has the opportunity to work in the church where Sev’s patron is buried.

Most of the residents of Tarata speak Quechua, one of the indigenous languages of Bolivia, and so Clem has had to resume his study of that language. In a recent sermon, Clem mixed Quechua words with the Spanish language.