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- At the end of life, we shall be judged by love. -- San Juan de la Cruz...
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- In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be Love! -- St. Therese of t...
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|Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lima 2007|
|Monday, 05 February 2007 13:07|
Forty three pilgrims from the Diocese of Pembroke went on pilgrimage to our sister diocese, the Archdiocese of Lima, in November of 2006. They were warmly welcomed by their sisters and brothers in Christ and this experience provoked many thoughts and feelings from the pilgrims.
The following are reflections and journal entries from some
of the pilgrims who traveled to Lima.
ARRIVAL IN LIMA
We were up after a short sleep - weather is warm, foggy and smoggy. Met with Cardinal Cipriani, then had a tour of the Cathedral of Lima, followed by mass where we heard sounds of heaven when a young soprano, violinist and keyboard player accompanied the mass. Went to Caritas to hear a presentation on the Chorrillos Nutritional Program, how it would be run - very important information. The workers were young and dedicated in working for the Archdiocese of Lima to improve life for their fellow Peruvians. We had evening prayer on the bus as it was late and a delicious meal of chicken and rice with baked apple for dessert awaited us. Everyone was exhausted.
I felt very humble and grateful to be part of Archdiocese of Lima. The splendor of the art displayed and the skills used to build the ancient Cathedral left me in awe.
First stop at St. Catherine of Sienna Chapel. I was attracted to the Perpetual Blessed Sacrament and I sat alone and prayed. I felt serenity in this place. I enjoyed talking with people on the street. I stopped at a small house to speak to a mother and child. The mother is happy and proud that I think her geranium flowers are beautiful.
Today is our first day to visit the needy of Peru. We have seen photos, have talked about them but are a bit nervous about our first encounter. How are we going to react in front of our brothers and sisters in need? The Peruvians welcomed us with open arms, thanked us for our generosity and re-paid us with their prayers. Chorrillos is a large community with over 90, 000 people who need clothing, food and most importantly, sanitation. They do not even have water in their homes. All the social problems that come with such poverty: crime, abuse, violence, lack of education and health problems, all of these are present. Peruvians in Chorrillos rely on funding provided by the Church to run social programs. We met many children waiting in anticipation, to see us. Every smile or hug we gave, we received the same and more back from the children.
We were approached at the top of the stairs by a man of about 30. He was filling sacks with gravel which were being carried down the hill by women to build a retaining wall into the hillside. He asked permission of the local priest to speak to us. His impassioned plea was to ask us if we would consider buying lengths of pipe to bring water up the hill so that they would have municipal water piped into their homes. They were building the walls necessary to stop the land from eroding and give the pipes the support that was needed. We all donated what we could and found out later that we had collected the amount needed to cover the cost of all the pipes.
At Chorrillos we were deeply touched at seeing the hard working men and women building retaining walls so that they could get water up to their homes. We were so proud to find out that we had collected enough money to pay for the pipes they needed. Life will be a little easier for them and their children when they have water.
—Marie & Joseph Bastien
The first sight of Manchay was bleak and dispiriting, with its shacks clinging to the steep rock and sandy hills, no real roads, no facilities. After inspecting the Day Care Centre, the Medical Centre and the new Technological School, the despair changed to hope. There will be a better future for the mountain people of Manchay thanks to the Catholic Church.
We arrived at San Roque church [twinned with a parish in Deep River] and what a royal reception we received. A beautiful mass was celebrated followed by a reception. Later we went to the Peruvian Brises del Titicasa for an evening of Latin music and folklore dancing. The bus driver was stuck between too many cars and streets that were too narrow but with inches to spare he backed onto the road and we were on our way to the Retreat House safe and sound.
Visiting Manchay today among the severe poverty, I could detect hope in the people because of the work of the Bishop and clergy and volunteers. They have such compassion for their people. The generosity of Italian donors and fellow Peruvians will certainly help fulfill some of the hopes and dreams through the new technical school. What the Archdiocese of Lima has accomplished is phenomenal - education, day care centers, health clinics, nursing homes, etc. The people themselves work together to make their communities a better place to live.
The Sisters of St. Joseph have been Missionaries in this valley since 1964. As we traveled from the Retreat house in Lima to Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Sr. Pauline took over the microphone and with animated passion in her voice guided us to her other home. One could sense her excitement as she brought to life the history, geography and political scene of the area. As we toured the medical clinic and visited the families of the parish in the afternoon there was a true sense of partnership, love and trust among the people as they welcomed us into their homes.
On the way to Chincha, we marveled at the Andes Mountains, then we stopped at the Pacific Ocean to dip our toes. Many of the Peruvian people swam fully clothed, taking advantage of the lovely weather. We received a warm welcome when we arrived. Lunch was awesome, a mix of Canadian and Peruvian food. The streets were swarming with people trying to sell goods and people begging. This life is so different from what we see at home. There are many squatter families who were forced to leave where they were or who are looking for better conditions for their children. I find it hard to understand how they can survive. This experience makes me thankful for our great gifts at home. I feel humbled by all I witnessed here.
We visited the home for seniors started by the Sister's of St. Joseph's. When the elderly can no longer work they can be left to languish in a corner of the room, they sleep on a mat and are likely to be the last one to be fed.[ Here they live with dignity and beauty] Next we attended mass at Our Lady of Fatima next to the sisters' convent. Bishop Smith, Father Tardiff, Father Sirosky and Father Guillemette concelebrated the mass with Padre Santiago. The singing was lively with lots of hand clapping and movement. After mass the Peruvian children in the Scholarship Program received gifts from their Canadian Sponsors. Most of the pilgrims went into the homes to visit their family. For me it was an emotional day after presenting the 13 gifts from the Barry's Bay & Wilno area. It was especially moving for me as it was from Barry's Bay that the two Sister's of St. Joseph: Sister Edna Prince and Sister Mary Varney set out for the Mission in Peru in 1964.
Back in Lima from Chincha: We were able to sleep in - having Morning Prayer and breakfast later today. Breakfast included hot tamales with guinea pig stuffing. We visited an Andean market to purchase Peruvian handcrafts. After a spaghetti dinner we presented gifts to the women workers at the center. The young girls were shy and reticent. Yvonne and Sister Pauline had a surprise for us - a feast of Peruvian treats: local fruit, sweets, chips, cookies, wine and beer. Some pilgrims left for the airport at 10 p.m. to return to Canada. The remainder of us rested for a short time before getting up at 2 a.m. for our departure to Cusco.
The bond that connects the group from our experience of everything we saw and felt during the past week made our trip to Cuzco that much more special. We had time to reflect and share our deepest feelings while taking in the majestic beauty of Cuzco and Machu Picchu. The interaction with the local people selling their goods for their livelihood continued to remind us to share with the less fortunate. We leave thrilled with the chance to bring back a small piece of Peru. Our purchases will be daily reminders of the poor of Peru
BACK TO LIMA
Bishop Smith and our priests celebrated Mass in the Chapel at the Passionist Retreat Center. We celebrated with songs led by Elizabeth and Edna. We have called this place home for the past week. I have mixed emotions - sadness because our pilgrimage is coming to an end - but mostly, gratitude that I have been part of this. I feel blessed to have been able to attend mass daily, presided by the Bishop. I marvel at the various locations - from the magnificent Cathedral of Lima to the humble chapels of the villages of Peru. Today Bishop Smith spoke about our solidarity with the Peruvian people in our poverty before the Lord. This has been the recurring message throughout our pilgrimage: solidarity - two languages - one faith. Another message that has been profound is THANK YOU from our partners of Peru for our visit, participation, and generosity. Where do we go from here? I ask God for discernment for each of us - to know what God wants us to do as we leave this place.
In this season of Advent, I look back on our pilgrimage to Peru and reflect on the patience and gratitude of the people. This I observed at the Chorrillos church that we visited. As we stepped inside the courtyard, we were greeted by hundreds of children and moms sitting on the steps patiently waiting for our arrival. They sang their national anthem for us and we sang O Canada for them! In Chincha, parents and children waited patiently (some three hours) to meet their sponsors and receive gifts from them. These examples will remain etched in my memory.
Being part of the pilgrimage group to Peru was a humbling experience for me. Meeting with the children who are sponsored by Holy Name School and CWL and being welcomed into their homes was very special. It was an experience of a lifetime.
The Peru pilgrimage gave me my first glimpse at the depth and breadth of abject poverty and the compassion and dedication of the Church, its Caritas associates, and the poor themselves, in addressing the enormous challenges of such poverty. Poverty victimizes people in so many ways. I was surprised at the impact that our commitment to the nutrition program and the gifts we were able to take with us had - hope and gratitude were a frequent refrain. I look forward to the future of our partnership with Lima.
The most memorable part of the trip was when villagers in Chincha greeted Sister Pauline on the street. The joy in Sister's and the people's faces told a great message of how they loved each other and how much they held Sister in esteem and how much they appreciated the work of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit our Brothers and Sisters in Peru. I felt a true kinship and solidarity with the people I met. Their gratitude for the material goods we were able to share with them was truly humbling and everyone was very willing to pray for the needs of our Diocese and of our country. I am looking forward to doing all I can to further our partnership.
It was enriching to experience the Pilgrimage group in not only getting to know fellow diocesan people but also the deep spirituality of so many in conversation and group sharing. It was deeply moving to hear how appreciated our partnership efforts are being received, and to see how a little can make such a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters; it impels one to find ways to continue this support and to encourage others in our area to participate.
The love the Peruvian people have for the Virgin Mary and the Good Lord Jesus has left its mark on me. "Lord help me be more like them and love You half as much as they do". When I tell my friends about my trip, I tell them about the poverty and immediately tell them about the faith I saw there. Here in Canada, (Pembroke) we take so much for granted.
In Peru we had the opportunity to see Church at its best; ministering to the needs of the poor at many levels - spiritual, social, medical, nutrition, education, child services and dignity for the elderly. These services, which we take for granted, only exist for many people because of the Church. It makes me proud to be a Catholic. Another highlight of the pilgrimage was the rare opportunity to make new friends with the faithful from all parts of our Diocese.
We leave, however, thrilled with the exchanges and the chance to bring back a small piece of Peru. We will be able to share with our loved ones and yet our purchases will be daily reminders of the poor of Peru. We will be able to keep in mind the great needs of these people. I leave Peru with mixed feelings of helplessness towards the lack of bare essentials for the poor, but more so I bring with me the feeling of love, profound gratitude and loving smiles of the Peruvians as they celebrate their faith in Christ so openly. I leave for home proud to be a part of the Catholic Faith and hope to continue to be a small light of hope for the people I encounter in my daily life.