Sister Susan surrounded by the children who greeted them with hugs.
BY SISTER SUSAN PYE AND SISTER REINALDA KLOOSTERMAN
They won the trip to Peru in March as the result of a draw suggested by former General Superior Kathryn LaFleur.
We had a long, uneventful plane trip to Peru. On arrival, after going through customs, we were delighted to see our Sisters at the airport. What a warm welcome to an unfamiliar country!
Another nice reception was the summery weather we encountered. After leaving cold Canada it was great to step out on the streets of Lima without jackets.
The first couple of days we had some quiet time to get adjusted to El Progreso. During this time we ventured out to see our new surroundings. The small children across the street greeted us with hugs — it was a lovely introduction to the atmosphere in Peru. Every time we stepped out of the house, the children were there to meet us with the words “Madre, photo”, so we took many photos of the children.
On our first day, Chevela cooked us a delicious roast beef dinner. It was terrific having her there for the tasty meals she provided during our visit.
The second evening, we participated in a first year memorial Mass for Sr. Sara’s brother. This was an excellent opportunity to meet Sara’s relatives. She and the Sisters later showed us their home at San Felipe. The following day, we were treated to an enjoyable dinner at San Felipe. Carmen, Danny, Chevela, Clementina and her daughter, Betty, joined us for the meal. Another friendly welcome by the Peruvian Sisters and Associates.
For the rest of the week, the Sisters scheduled various activities with us. Sister Rose-Marie accompanied us to the local market and to her clinic. We were impressed with the service she provides for her patients who seem so needy and yet so grateful. Sisters Sara and Irene brought us to the Christian Workers meeting up on the hill. We were touched by everyone’s commitment, enthusiasm, hope, and courage to their Christian values in spite of the many challenges they have to face: corruption, injustice, poverty, violence, unemployment and the ecology. One evening, we met with them again and were privileged to see other Christian Workers, both young and old, demonstrated, in popular drama, the similar issues. We were grateful for the translation by our Sisters.
Later in our visit, we accompanied Sisters Rose Healy and Sara to a meeting for young people discerning their future; another worthwhile encounter with this young group who are trying to grow in their faith and meet the many challenges facing them. They also demonstrated in drama, the theme of one of the courses they studied in their program.
One afternoon, Sr. Reinalda was delighted to meet Petit, an Associate, and her prayer partner. We visited her home and also the co-op where she and her co-workers create many purses, tablecloths, etc. which they export to various countries. Petit has also been very generous to share some of her co-op gifts with the Sisters in Canada.
And of course you can’t go to Peru without going to the market in Lima for gifts and shopping. Sr. Rose Healy was able to accompany us in a “taxi”. The shopping was wonderful and the taxi ride was something to write home about. No laws about seat belts. The angels were certainly surrounding us every time we stepped into one of those taxis or buses.
Sisters Sara and Irene spent a day introducing us to the area where Sr. Sara ministers in the Parish and with her people. We were touched by their challenging ministry. On this tour, we saw one of the Spanish plantation ruins and a few other interesting spots.
We were fortunate to be with Sr. Maria for the renewal of her vows. The service was early in the morning in her parish and the church was filled to overflowing. Maria looked so happy as she pronounced her vows. Sr. Reinalda was able to sing a Spanish hymn at the service. A priest from the Society of St. James in Ireland celebrated the Eucharist. Afterwards many of Maria’s friends, family, Sisters and Associates participated in a large reception.
The Peruvians love to sing and there was great participation at the church services. They seemed to know all the songs even when they didn’t have hymn books. We were also attracted to the bright colorful clothing the Peruvians wear and this seemed in contrast to the barren desert conditions surrounding them.
Sisters Irene and Rose-Marie brought Reinalda and me to Lima for a couple of days. We stayed at an attractive hotel and enjoyed some of the highlights of Lima. What a captivating city! We visited a commercial centre overlooking the Pacific Ocean. One afternoon Sr. Rose-Marie journeyed with us to an Anthropology and Archeology national museum. So much history in Peru. We could have stayed there all day. And to finish the day, we went to an Inca ruins. We were able to view it from the car as it was closed when we arrived.
During the last couple of days we went to a school down the street from the Sisters’ home. The children were charming and one little girl in particular captured our hearts. It was her first day of school and she was heart broken. Many tears were shed.
The Sisters tell us much of the infrastructure has improved since they first arrived in Peru. They have running water, electricity, improved roads and even some greenery. Some of these services however are not available to the very poor living on the hills. We noticed a need for improvement in some areas, especially regular garbage pick-up. The garbage strewn around the streets was everyone’s legitimate health concern. We were surprised to see many dogs on the roads going through the garbage and also sitting on roofs of buildings, apparently guarding their dwellings. We even observed roosters perched on roof tops and heard them crowing in the early morning. We thought we were back on the farm.
Peru is still a very Catholic country (78% of the population). We noticed many crosses on the hills. They tell us they are there for protection. The faith of the Peruvians, the Priests, Sisters and Associates and their commitment to their Christian values is inspiring.
Space is limited so we are unable to share all encounters and experiences but they are in our hearts and will stay with us as we think of Peru, our Sisters and Associates.
The weather remained hot and sunny (30°C) throughout our visit.
These two weeks were not a real holiday but a time to get to know our Sisters and Associates and their ministries in Peru. It was a deep encounter with a different reality and we were very grateful that we were given the opportunity to experience this.