Paraguay is a very strongly Catholic country. That is clear to see in the religious architecture across the country.

No city, town, village of district is without a church to call its own. It may be a grand city cathedral or a small country chapel. Whatever it may be it is there to provide for the religious needs of the local population.

Every place of worship no matter what size it maybe is named for its saint. For the main church in a town or city this may also be the saint of the town in general. Elsewhere each little chapel will provide the saint for its district or neighbourhood.

As such in addition to national saints every home in Paraguay has at least two saints. Those of the town and of the neighbourhood.

where I live in the countryside outside the town of Piribebuy my two local districts have their own chapel and accompanying saint.

In one the chapel is dedicated to San Roque and in the other to San Francisco Javier.

With Paraguay following the Catholic traditions the saint to which a church is dedicated is much more than just a name over a door or on a noticeboard.

Always a central feature of the church is a statue of the saint. No church in Paraguay would ever be complete without one.

The statue is one of the most important possessions of the church. It is lovingly cared for, polished and repainted as required and always placed in a predominant position within the church.

Furthermore this is not some large stone object forever fixed in one location. Instead the saint is carved in wood. Large enough to be clearly seen by all and yet small enough to be moved without undue difficulties.

Every year one of the most important date for any church is that of its saint.

The church or chapel is in the weeks previous cleaned and painted to be at its spotless best for the festival of its saint. Any small repairs that had been overlooked during the year are also dealt with at this time.

The statue itself is cleaned and if need be repainted. Then decked out with flowers and other such finery for all to see.

The week leading up to the saints day are part of the religious festival with masses being said everyday each decimated to different groups, organizations or people.

At this time the statue will be taken from the church to take the blessing of the saint directly to the congregation.

The saints from the chapels are taken out into the local community. The church congregation will carry them from house to house bringing the mass to the people. That way the old and infirm are not excluded from the church as the church comes to them.

The saint will then be left to rest in the house overnight before being carried on once more the following day.

For saints such as the Virgin of Caacupe whos flock is much larger and much more widely spread such an activated would not be practical. The people still though do want to receive the reassurance of it blessing.

Instead these saints receive motorized transport. Usually in the back of a pickup, protected and balanced by church volunteers.

Thus the saint can travel far and wide blessing whole districts as it passes by. Everyone knows when such a statue will be passing their house and having decked to fence out with flags will wait for its arrival, surrounded by crowds of worshipers.

The saint will then arrive each evening in a church or chapel along its route where a mass can be said. Like the saints from the chapels it will them rest there overnight before continuing its journey in the morning.

Finally when the day of the saint arrives it would have returned to its home church for the festival. This will go on long into the night with much celebration and thanks giving. It is the busiest day in the calendar of any church and all who can will attend. Normally with this being Paraguay and warm seated out in the open as there will be far too many people to be seated comfortably indoors.

With the activities continuing until well after dark the final act of veneration, the procession of the saint, is often left until the following morning.

Then early in the morning the statue is carried out of the church, held high by volunteers. Behind this comes a small brass band and to the sound of music to saint is carried aloft.

Processing behind the statue and the band is the church congregation. Depending upon the location of the church the procession will then proceed either along the street or several times around the church yead.

Once the statue returns back inside the church the festival is drawn to a close for another year. The worshipers then slowly disperse and return to their homes thanking the saints for the blessing they have and will receive.

With every saint having their given day this scene repeats itself almost every day somewhere in Paraguay.