Photo Credit: Anglican Journal
Bishop Urbano Duarte, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Northern Argentina, died in hospital this week after a short illness. Almost 1,000 people gathered for his funeral and burial in his home town of Potrillo on Tuesday, the day after the 67-year-old bishop died in hospital.
“Noticeable among the mourners, including Wichi and Toba [indigenous] Christians, from the Anglican and other churches, were many schoolteachers, who paid a glowing tribute,” The Diocesan Bishop of Northern Argentina, Nick Drayson, said. “Whenever Urbano Duarte was around we knew there would be peace – he was a gentleman and a quiet leader.
“Urbano grew up in village of El Yuto, where he came under the influence of the pastor, Felipe Gutierrez, who subsequently trained him for the ordained ministry, and whose shoes he filled when Felipe died in 1999.
“El Yuto was abandoned due to flooding in 1999, and Urbano accompanied Felipe and his people to Potrillo, where they established a church in Barrio Nuevo – the ‘new neighbourhood’.
“Urbano was also a trained schoolteacher, much loved for his quiet and thorough manner, and specialised in helping children with studies in their own language, ‘Wichi Lhamtes’, which is taught by law alongside the Spanish curriculum.
“When school Number 433 was rebuilt with a modern building, the government asked the community if they would like any other improvements, and Urbano asked for a new church. This was inaugurated in the presence of the provincial authorities in 2013, and was subsequently the site of the consecration of the indigenous bishops in 2016 and the funeral of Urbano in 2018.”
Bishop Nick was referring to the consecration of three indigenous bishops: Urbano, a Wichi; Bishop Crisanto Rojas, another Wichi, and Bishop Mateo Alto, a Toba. “They have paid moving tributes to the friendship and depth of their colleague, as they have shared in many journeys, and ministry together these three years, including two trips to Peru for conferences,” Bishop Nick said. “Urbano was well-known to be the one who travelled most to far-flung communities and was most in contact by phone with church members and leaders.
“He was skilled at resolving disputes, listening, and encouraging, and enjoyed receiving new members and opening new churches! A well-known Catholic priest who spoke at his funeral described Urbano as ‘a real Wichi, and a real Christian’. He will be greatly missed.
Bishop Urbano leaves a wife, Lucia, and five children.