New Approach to Missions in Peru

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

LIMA, Peru — The mission structure since 1964 in Peru has changed but the spirit of service has not.

Last month, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, signed a document that officially begins the integration of Holy Name Province friars into the Province of San Francisco Solano, one of two Peruvian OFM provinces.

“On Oct. 21, Fr. Mauro Vallejo, OFM, Provincial Minister of St. Francis de Solano Province, and members of the administration, met with me, Thomas Cole, OFM, director of HNP Franciscan Missionary Union, Anthony Wilson, OFM, superior of our Mission Foundation, and friars from our mission,” said John, adding that Brian Smail, OFM, the Province’s vocation director, served as his translator.

“We signed a memorandum of agreement that effectively ends our mission foundation,” said John. “Our friars will now incrementally become members of the St. Francis de Solano Province. Initially, our friars will work as ‘guest workers.’ Holy Name Province will continue to financially support the missions of our friars.”

Looking Ahead
The obligations of each of the two provinces were listed in an agreement that clarifies details regarding finances, residences and roles, and notes that the new structure goes into effect in April 2014, with revisions made annually. Though the missions will now be administered by the Peru province, the friars will remain members of Holy Name Province.

The October meeting and document signing follows several years of studies done by the administrations of both the Order and the Province.  In a letter sent in September 2012 to Holy Name friars, John and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, announced the Order’s presence in Peru was being consolidated.

“We are hopeful for the future,” said Anthony, who has been stationed in Peru for 25 years. “The new agreement between our provinces allows us to stay in Peru where we have spent so much time and opens the possibility of continuing these ministries as well as new ministries in the mission vicariates of the Province of San Francisco Solano. I think, most importantly, we can now encourage vocations again as we have a clear relationship with the Peruvian provinces.”

During their three days in Peru, John, Tom and Brian visited several ministries staffed by HNP friars, including Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, a child care center, the chapel at Santo Tomas, the parish and school at Santa Ana, and the technical institute still in construction. They also “had a full tour of the Descalzos friars’ ministries in Rimac including their excellent clinic,” said Anthony. The trip included a visit to the local bishop, Msgr. Carlos García.

“As I was five years ago when I last visited, I was very impressed by the work our friars do with the poorest of the poor in what would traditionally be called the slums of Lima. They live a simple life that is prophetic,” John said. “At a time when our new Pope Francis is reminding us that ministry to find care for the poor must be the priority of the Catholic Church, our friars are a shining example of putting these words of the pope into action.”

Historic Background
Holy Name Province began ministering to the people of Peru in early 1964, when Joseph Nangle, OFM, celebrated the first Mass at Most Holy Name Church in the San Borja section of Lima.  He was the first friar to go to Lima in late 1963.

“The history of Holy Name Province in Peru began with a two-fold purpose,” Joseph noted. He is now based in Silver Spring, Md. “It was as a response to Lima’s archbishop at the time, Cardinal Landazuri-Ricketts, OFM, who asked that we take a parish there, and our need for a vacation house to serve our friars working in the Bolivian highlands. In February of 1964, I celebrated the first parish Mass on a warm summer day in the middle of an open field where the friary would eventually stand.

“In 1965, we began the parish school with the able help of Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters from Scranton, Pa.,” Joe explained. “In 1968, thanks in great part to the efforts of Karl Koenig, OFM, we initiated the ‘Vespertina,’ a very successful night school for the domestic servants in the area. About the same time, our parish school, which had served only those whose parents could afford the tuition, accepted children of extremely poor families living in that zone. One sociologist later told me that our socially integrated school was, as far as he knew, the only one of its kind in Latin America.”

Over the years, Holy Name friars, under the leadership of the late Declan McCabe, OFM, began a number of “obras sociales,” schools and clinics in the poor neighborhoods surrounding Lima.

“In 1982, the friars began reaching out to the barrios of Pamplona Alta and Mateo Pumacahua, founding, with the help of women religious, comprehensive clinics for medical, nutritional, psychological, and spiritual care of the people,” Dominic said. “The friars also assumed care of the parish of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes in Mateo in 1993 and of the parish of Santa Ana, in the developing Nuevo Progresso area of Lima, in 2001.”

Currently, six HNP friars work in parishes in Lima, as well as a mission in the rain forest. They include two parishes — Our Lady of Lourdes and Santa Ana — as well as a variety of personal ministries in the diocese of Lurin such as overseeing eight chapels, running a home for Ashanikas (the native people) in Satipo, where they come from the rain forest for medical services or studies, fire department chaplaincy, and assisting in other Franciscan parishes.

“We also continue some of the work of Declan McCabe with the child care center overseen by Sr. Colet Kearney in Mateo Pumacahua and continue to support the medical clinic in Pamplona Alta,” said Anthony. He added that he “felt at home with the Peruvian people from the first day, because of their hospitality and deep spirituality.”

Ideas for a 50th anniversary commemoration for 2014 are now being discussed, said Dominic.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.