LIMA, Peru — For her nearly 60 years of service to the Franciscan missions in Peru, Mariano Gagnón, OFM, recommended Astrid Montagne de Almenara to be presented with Holy Name Province’s Francis Medal.
Mariano met Montagne in 1958, ten years after he had arrived in Peru to serve as a missionary. Astrid was a student at the Colegio Villa Maria, a high school run by the American Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, where Mariano gave a mission talk.
“At that time, Fr. Mariano was working at the Mission of Flor de Punga in Requena,” recalled Montagne. “I was very impressed by the work that the Franciscans were doing in the missions in the jungle of Peru.”
“Astrid was quick to gather a group of friends to help the mission,” recalled Mariano. “Throughout the years, she came to the rescue of not only my mission, but also many other Franciscan missions.”
One of the indigenous groups that Mariano served was the Ashaninkas, which means “people” in their language. He recalled Astrid’s assistance at one of the missions, saying “The friar in charge was not noted for his order or cleanliness. When I went by boat to pick her up, there she was on her hands and knees, washing the floor and trying to put order into chaos.”
In the late 1960s, Mariano was sent to a small new Ashaninka mission at Cutivireni, located in the mountainous jungle of the Ene River Valley. In the 1970s and 1980s, settlers and drug traffickers began encroaching on the area around the mission and the mission was attacked and burned to the ground several times, resulting in a daring evacuation of the Ashaninkas in 1990.
“When Fr. Mariano was in Cutivireni, I visited several times and was able to help, especially when the terrorists burned the entire mission,” said Montagne.
As the years went by, Astrid married Patricio de Almenara, a businessman and founder of a large paint company, Tekno Quimico, which was generous to the friars for many years, according to Mariano.
“It was a pleasure for me to recommend Astrid to the Province to receive the Francis Medal,” he said. “I am sure that she and her loved ones will be in our prayers for her many contributions to the Franciscan missions.”
Montagne was presented with the Francis Medal on Sept. 1 by Anthony Wilson, OFM, on behalf of Holy Name Province. The celebration took place at the apartment of Wayland Luy in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima. Wayland is the pilot who helped Mariano save many members of the Ashaninka tribe from massacre by the terrorists. Also present were members of Astrid’s family and close friends, and Mariano, who was staying as a guest of the Luy family.
“I thanked Astrid for her support of Mariano during the years and especially for what I myself have witnessed in these recent years for her attentiveness to his health needs,” said Tony, pastor of Santa Ana Parish in the Villa Maria district. “Mariano is stationed in Satipo and is overseeing the construction of the chapel for the retreat house Emaus. He will be going to live in the friary in Rimac again.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Celebrating 50 Years of Franciscan Ministry in Peru” — Dec. 23, 2014, HNP Today
- “Peruvian Parish Returned to Archdiocese” — March 23, 2016, HNP Today
- “New Approach to Missions in Peru” — Nov. 6, 2013, HNP Today