Daniel Hinojosa reports for Pagina Siete:
Conceptionists, entrusted to produce hosts in La Paz
Technology and tradition come together to enable around 60,000 hosts each month, that are distributed to major churches, parishes and chapels.
Making the round, white, thin and delicate hosts, representing the body of Christ in the Eucharist, is a work that continues throughout the year. One of the landmarks where these unleavened bread discs are made, is the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, located in Miraflores. On site, technology and tradition come together to enable around 60,000 hosts each month are distributed to major churches, parishes and chapels of La Paz.
Monday through Thursday, from very early in the morning, the sister concepcionista Sister María de San José, which always wears a white habit and black-veil, besides reflecting a smile that is not erased even with bad news, is responsible for developing 15,000 hosts each week. She notes that people only remember this work at Easter, although it is a work that is done four days a week.
“Making hosts has a special meaning in my life. It’s a service to the Church and above all to God, and that this work will allow many people to come to Communion, ie, receive the body of our Lord in their lives. Personally, I feel happy and proud to do this work, “says Sister Sister María de San José, in an interview with Pagina Siete. She is part of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception for seven years.
Before preparing the hosts, the first actions taken are the sign of the cross accompanied prayer. Prayers and Bible passages accompany their daily work. Then take a look to make sure that the machines are ready, you will not miss any tool and has the required amount of ingredients and the process begins with making the hosts.
Sor María de San José explains that there are three types of hosts: small with four centimeters in diameter, which are distributed to believers; large measuring six centimeters in diameter and are used for the Eucharist; and super large 15 cm in diameter are used to mass events and significant dates. Each bears the cross in relief and in some cases other elements of the Catholic faith.
The process of developing
The technology caused the manufacturing process to be changed. According to what Sister María de San José recalls, a decade ago the whole process was done manually and it took longer; however, now, with electrical machines, the difficulty is reduced as the duration. “We combine the craftsmanship and work with machines,” she stresses.
“In a medium sized bowl begins to beat the mixture with a hand mixer, while the machine for hosts is heated to a temperature between 150 and 170° C. After the dough get the right consistency, with the help of a meter ladle, pours the dough in the machine and allowed for 30 seconds; an alert sound when the host is ready then left to stand in a wet towel, then go to the press, which allows not to deform After this process is finished, they are placed in a circular cut machine, and eventually the packaging of 500 thousand units, “explains.
At the conclusion of the design, a soft smell of mass is dispersed among the warm atmosphere where joy and laughter are allowed. And for Sister Estefanía de la Cruz, who accompanies this process sporadically, happiness accompanied with good humor are the “key” ingredients to leave the hosts in perfect condition without any fault.
“Once, hosts kept on failing to be made, trying again and again, until I called the mother and only with her blessing helped not to return to be damaged. She reminded me about the importance of good mood. and the joy that should be taken into account to make this work. Well, then I took into account the advice and never had problems,” recalls Sister Estefanía de la Cruz, as part of an annecdote.
Distribution to religious institutions
The goal of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, “almost” every day distributes the hosts to the archbishopric, churches, parishes, chapels and even schools and universities. The amount and frequency depend on each institution. The only thing known for sure is that about 60,000 hosts per month are distributed.
Sister Estefanía de la Cruz, who is one of the oldest, states that in the city of La Paz there are only two authorized to manufacture and distribute the hosts, the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception and the Carmelite Mothers places. The two institutions supply of this “sacred element” to the churches, parishes and chapels.
Moreover, the need to generate economic resources to sustain their day-to-day prompted them to prepare jams, using lacayote [Cucurbita ficifolia], peach, strawberry, among others. These products are considered delicacies by those who try them. One of the many people who eat them is Ana Delgado, 42, who says that in her home, they are the favorite accompaniments for breakfast or tea. “They have a special flavor, it may be because they were prepared by people living in peace and close to the Lord,” she says.
Thus, this is how hosts are made, according to their creators, is not just a job for Easter, but four times a week are made.
Interested in the vocation are welcome
The Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, every year, welcomes all interested persons to follow the concepcionists’ vocation. The only requirement is the commitment to religion.
“The young people who want to experience the contemplative life in the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception can do it whenever they want. To do this, the only requirements are a high moral, obedience, be united and follow the way of the Lord,” says the Councilor Sister Estefanía de la Cruz.
In this regard, she explained that interested people can live the experience of being a concepcionista for a week, of course seriously. Before entering a commitment is made. So that time is crucial to know whether to join or not, to the monastery.
“Inside the monastery, they do the same activities like us. The community and the person decide if they have the vocation to engage in this life,” she says.
Interested can visit the monastery, located in the Miraflores area, Guerrilleros Lanza street, corner with Panama, 1519. The telephone number is (591) 2-2112393.