Last Wednesday morning, the CBS had a surprise visit from Aita Antton, the Basque chaplain in the Diocese of Boise. He came to Reno in order meet the wider Basque-American society here in Nevada, providing pastoral and sacramental attention to many of the elderly in our community. He also held a meet and greet at Louis’ Basque Corner on the very same day. He received a warm welcome from everyone who were very pleased to make his acquaintance.
Aita Antton has filled this position after a five-year vacancy, and he plans to carry on the tradition, encouraging and aiding in the spiritual life of Basques across the United States. From 1911-2009, the Diocese of Bayonne sent a priest to fulfill this symbolic position for the Basque-American community. After Fr. Martxel Tillous’ death in 2009, the diocese was no longer able to spare any priests. It’s only by chance that Aita Antton learned of the position. One day, as he was listening to the radio on a drive through Iparralde to his hometown of Bidegoian/Bidania-Goiatz (Gipuzkoa), he came across a program about the history of Basque chaplains in the United States, which commented on the end of the tradition. This sparked his interest in the position. “This started me thinking and I said to myself ‘why not me?’ I only had a few years left before retiring and I always wanted, not to go back to the Basque Country, but to serve Basques somewhere else.” This revelation led him to get in contact with NABO and the Bishop of Idaho, and the rest is history.
Fr. Antton has quite the impressive C.V. Born in 1953, he took his vows as a Franciscan monk in 1979 and was ordained the following year. His missionary work has taken him around the world, especially in Asia, working and teaching in Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and China. Before coming to the United States, he was teaching in Belgium. He has a PhD in Theology, and has worked as an anthropologist, specializing in comparative religion. He speaks 10 languages: Basque, Spanish, French, and English as well as Chinese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. He has written on his experience in his book True Confucians, Bold Christians: Korean Missionary Experience, a Model for the Third Millennium, published by Rodopi Press. He is sure to be an asset to the Basque community, both spiritually and intellectually.
Visit Aita Antton’s website at: http://basquecatholic.org/
For more information about the history of Basque chaplains in the United States, visit: http://www.nabasque.org/chaplains.html
(Quote from an interview with Joseba Etxarri for www.euskalkultura.com