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In 1966, Pope Paul VI requested that religious congregations in Canada assist with missionary work in Latin American countries. The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul felt called to answer this call and in January 1967 two Sisters visited Guatemala, Peru and Chile to determine where to establish a new mission.
When the Sisters were visiting Peru they met two young priests from the Archdiocese of Edmonton who were attending language school in Lima and were about to establish a mission in the shanty towns on the outskirts of Lima. In the 1960s 30,000 people from the mountains in Peru migrated to the desert areas on the outskirts of Lima, taking over the barren land and building reed huts, known as barriadas, in the face of opposition from the government. The priests and the Archbishop of Edmonton begged the Sisters to work with them in their ministry and the Sisters agreed to help. As a result of their visit to South America the Sisters were “convinced that [their] generosity must stretch beyond the limits originally planned, and after discussing the matter the Council [they] decided to open two missions rather than one.” The Sisters established foreign missions in San Cristobal, Guatemala and El Progresso, Lima, Peru.
The first four Sisters missioned to Peru arrived in Lima on December 9th, 1967. They were met by Fr. A. MacDonnell and Fr. Amadyk, the Edmonton priests. The next day they were welcomed to their new home, El Progresso in the Carabayllo District of the Province of Lima by the people of the barriadas. Carabayllo is considered to be one of Lima’s poorest districts and is situated in the North Eastern part of the province. When the Sisters arrived in El Progresso it was a shanty town, with no basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity and paved roads.
In February 1968 the General Superior traveled to Peru to visit the Sisters in their new mission. Mother Superior wrote “We saw quite an improvement in the “barriado”. A large number of the bamboo shacks have been replaced by small brick houses. These have no floors or windows, though there is the occasional exception. The scene is very desolate and the people are terribly poor … The Sisters are visiting the houses each day, helping and comforting the sick, winning the trust and love of the people. They are accompanying the Fathers when they conduct study sessions, and will soon be prepared to undertake some of this work themselves.”
In 1975, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul expanded their ministry in Peru to Chulucanas, Piura, in the north-west corner of Peru. Sr. Josephine Doiron went to Chulucanas to help train lay leaders, teach catechists, engage in parish ministry and to help the poor. Sr. Theresa Moher joined Sr. Josephine from 1981 to 1983 and served the people of Chulucanas through parish ministry and evangelization. The Sisters’ ministry in Chulucanas came to an end in October 1985.
In 1991 a group of men and women, who had been working in close collaboration with the Sisters for years, formally asked to become Providence Associates. Their request was granted and the Associate Formation process began. On January 20, 1992 five persons made their commitment as the first Peruvian Associates. Over the years the number of Peruvian Associates has greatly increased. They meet monthly and each person tries to live their commitment as a disciple of Christ at work, with organizations, in the parish and at home.
In 1995 the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul began a Novitiate Formation program in Peru. Between 1995 and 1998 the Sisters and the women in formation lived together in one house. In 1998, a house in San Felipe, Comas district was opened to accommodate those involved in the Peruvian Novitiate Formation program. San Felipe is located closer to Lima then El Progresso, which made it easier for the novices to travel into the city for an inter-congregational Formation program. Sister Sara Jimenez Angulo, who was the first Peruvian candidate, took her perpetual vows December 13, 2000. She became director of the Formation program in Peru in 2002. Some sisters continued to live in Formation House until 2011.
Since 1967 the Sisters of Providence have been involved in religious instruction, training catechists, the Christian Workers Movement, providing health care and mental health services to the poor and marginalized, parish ministry, education, and aiding the impoverished people of Peru in any way they can. The Sisters currently continue their ministry in El Progresso and in 2011 Sr. Sara Jimenez Angulo began ministry in Torre Blanca.