The report below was submitted by a parishioner from St. Francis of Assisi Church, outside Washington, D.C., about a trip last month in which he and seven others participated. Observations from participants of the 2010 visit to Peru can be found in the Aug. 1 parish bulletin.
TRIANGLE, Va. — The preface to our Pledge of Solidarity with our sister parishes begins … “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres,” a popular Latin American saying echoed in the North American expression, “People know you by the friends you keep.” Our pledge, among other things, calls for us to cross frontiers and barriers of geography, politics, economics, race and ethnicity to learn more about the Catholic life and witness of our “Sister Parishes” through prayer for one another, communication, education about one another, and when feasible, through visits.
Between July 6 and 15, eight parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle including Robert Menard, OFM, traveled to Lima, Peru, to visit Nuestra Senora de Lourdes and Santa Ana. There, we participated in the daily life of our brothers and sisters in these faith communities on the far southern periphery of the Lima urban center.
This was the third time St. Francis parishioners have visited our sister parishes since 2007. Each time, our “missioners” have returned inspired and committed to build further the relationship with our brothers and sisters at Lourdes and Santa Ana.
Paul Breslin, OFM, guardian of the HNP community in Peru, provided food and lodging. When we arrived at the friary, we were warmly welcomed by Paul, Carlos Sarmiento, OFM, Christopher Dunn, OFM, and Sr. Jeanne Marie Kearney, IHM, (referred to as Sr. Colet). Anthony Wilson, OFM, joined us later as he had car trouble with his 1990 VW Golf (it was up and running the next day).
The weather was cold and damp, but the people of the parishes were warm and friendly. This was a journey full of many blessings. The children at the pre-school, where Sr. Colet has served for over 30 years, greeted us with big smiles and songs and thanked us for helping them (St. Francis parishioners pay the tuition for 10 students with the greatest financial need each year).
We worked with Chris, the pastor, and Lourdes parishioners to assemble hygiene and vitamin packs for the children of the parish. Among the parishioners were three young adults in post high school educational settings which St. Francis supports. Some of us also worked with Chris, chaplain at the local volunteer fire station, and other firemen to paint the firehouse that serves several hundred thousand residents.
At Santa Ana, we were greeted by parishioners, parents and students after Mass on Sunday in the plaza, where a huge banner welcoming us hung from the school building. On one side was the Peruvian flag, and on the other, the Stars and Stripes. In the center of the plaza was the most amazing costumed dancing. We all had tears in our eyes or were at least on the verge of tears!
Next, we accompanied Tony to bless the new computer room. During the past three years, St. Francis parishioners provided the funds to construct a second floor on the school with critically needed new classrooms, construct new lavatories, and purchase 12 computers and furniture to equip a computer lab for the students. For the last three years, the St. Francis community has also provided 12 scholarships for students in need of financial assistance. We hope to be able to foster communication between Santa Ana students and our parish school using these computers.
When we arrived at Santa Ana, we delivered pharmaceuticals that we obtained in the United States through Medical Assistance Programs International for use in the parish clinics. Some of us visited the adult vocational school Tony is developing, some spent time in the medical clinics and in the school classrooms, and others went to an outlying chapel, San Tomas, to assist parishioners building new walls for a food kitchen serving that community.
One morning, we accompanied Carlos to the Lurin Valley to see some of the seven chapels in remote villages where he serves as pastor. One chapel, San Juan Bautista, is where St. Francis “missioners” worked with villagers in 2009 to begin rehabilitation of the chapel. That same day, he took us to a new “invader” area or “new town” where in the last 12 to 18 months, 15,000 people have moved into a long desolate valley. There are no schools, no electricity, no water (other than by tanker truck) and no sewers. Carlos says Mass on an open hilltop where there is a cross.
All of us returned to Virginia grateful for our time with our brothers and sisters in Peru, getting to know them and sharing our common faith through conversation and worship, working with them in their community, and bringing back what we saw, what we learned, and what we felt to our own parish community.
Our journey was indeed full of many blessings.
— Terry Danner and his wife, Sharon, are members of the St. Francis of Assisi Sister Parish Committee.
Editor’s note: Christopher Dunn recently said in an e-mail to the HNP Communications Office, “We are an extremely poor parish economically but now we are seeing our richness in the eyes of the Lord through new vocations in the faith, as a result of many years of evangelization.” Information about a missionary family and other news from Christopher will appear in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.