August 11, 2012
After returning from her home visit in June this year, Mary moved to a new place of ministry, to Cruz de Motupe in the east of Lima where our Sisters have been working for some years. Having lived in the one parish for all her previous years in Peru, she is adjusting to a very different environment.
Mary now lives with another Sister, Katrina van Ruth, and forms community with Sisters Clare Conaglen and Jenny Mori who live further up the road.Their parish is on the outskirts of Lima, and half of it, where Clare and Jenny live, is actually outside the Lima boundary and in another province.
The parish is huge and there are 21 chapels or churches, all of them Mass centres, although the majority don’t have Mass every weekend. Many of the people live on the sides of the hills, some only having access by stairs, and others without even that 'luxury'. Many of these houses are just shacks but others are well constructed. Mary says that, 'Even here, in one of the poorer parts of Lima, you notice the great disparity between those who have and those who don’t.' Mary has been asked to accompany a small community, Cangallo, which is on the side of one of these hills. She says: 'There is a paved road most of the way in but once the steeper rise begins there are only dirt tracks. Fortunately for me there is not far to go to the chapel beyond that point while many of the residents have much farther to climb on foot.'
The small church is very basic, half constructed in brick and the rest in wood. Attached to the church is a common kitchen - where a group of women takes their turn to cook from Monday to Friday - and another general purpose room, in which the sacrament programmes are conducted, and also help is given with the children's homework.
As well as accompanying this Cangallo community, Mary works with a social worker in the overseeing of the programs for visitation of the sick, senior citizens groups and the common kitchens. She has started with the groups of seniors by teaching them some tai chi. She is also continuing to run workshops every now and again on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, and reconciliation and also studying and practising HealingTouch.
Recently, the parish hosted the annual gathering of all the parishes in the region to remember Sr. Joan Sawyer, a Columban sister who was killed by authorities chasing an ambulance with escaped prisoners. She, among others, was taken hostage as the prisoners wrongly believed that the police would not fire knowing that there were volunteer prison workers in the van. About 2000 gathered in a park near where she was shot. The march or gathering is held not only to remember Joan and the others who died during the years of terrorism, but also to remind us that we need to actively work against violence and injustice. This year’s theme was ecological: “Stop the Contamination” - encouraging us not to do violence to our planet.
Mary has summed up her experience thus far of her new parish: 'From what I’ve seen so far it’s a vital parish and I’m looking forward to getting to know the parishioners better.'