Peru Ministry’s 50th year Anniversary

Morropon, Piura, Peru
May 20 – May 27

Sister Pat and I joined Sr. Mary Leah at the monastery to help the Peruvian sisters celebrate 50 years of Benedictine presence in Peru and to be a part of the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Sisters Magna, Marilu, and Nolberta.  

There were parades, dinners, toasts, dances, and music performances to help with the celebrations.  I was awed by the enthusiasm of alums who greeted Sr. Mary Leah and Sr. Pat. While Sr. Leah had left Peru in 2016, Sr. Pat left Peru in 1983.  No matter where we went, the two were greeted enthusiastically with a kiss on the cheek, a hug, and a conversation. The people of Peru are full of gratitude.

The most touching experience for me was the day that we went to Santa Rita for the alums to visit with their former teachers.  I was in the classroom with Sr. Pat as the women came in to greet their former English teacher. The alums reminded Sr. Pat of their names – she was Hermana Patti or Hermana Patricia.  Everyone in the classroom was so excited to see her. They shared stories and expressed deep gratitude for what they learned at Santa Rita. I have limited knowledge of the Spanish language, but the expression on their faces and the tone in their voices needed no knowledge of the language. You could tell they are grateful for the education that they received at Santa Rita. I did have a bit of help with translation from another former teacher who now resides in Scotland. One alum reminded the others of all that has been possible in their lives because of Santa Rita.  And she suggested that they now do their part to help the school to make improvements. My heart was touched to witness the gratitude these women have for the opportunity to attend Santa Rita.

When the school began, there were at most 60 students in 1969.  Now there are around 850 students.  In the beginning, the school was for high school girls.  Now, the school is co-ed and educates primary and secondary students.  

As most people know, Sr. Leah spent time working with the residents of the Asillo elderly home.  Her dream has been to make it self sufficient. She continues to dream – a garden to put food on the table, a bakery, to bake bread to sell.  During her visit, some of her family came. She asked a great-nephew to repair the washer. He had already repaired it once. He was not so successful this time.  So now, Sr. Leah is thinking of ways to raise the money for the purchase of a new washer. Sr. Leah has a great love for the ministry to the aged in Morropon.

One of the projects that the sisters are planning is a new building that would house teachers for the school.  Some come from a distance to teach there an adequate place to stay is needed. This would afford these teachers a place to stay and provide additional income for the sisters.  The building will be a one-story structure adjacent to the monastery. It will have eight bedrooms. Two people will share a common bathroom. There will be a chapel, kitchen, laundry room and a large room where 36 people could be seated.

On another day, there was Mass at the school.  Bishop Dan was the presider and had the homily.  He invited the students to live lives of service.  There were presentations by different alums. And there was a parade following the Mass and other activities in the school.  Each class marched through the street in front of the school and monastery. The band played as all the classes and alums marched down.  The alums also marched. Each reunion class was preceded with a banner honoring a former teacher.

At each of the celebrations we attended, there was a toast.  Each person received a small cup of juice/wine and Bishop Dan or Sr. Felicita invited us all to congratulate the person or persons being honored.

The evening before the Silver Jubilee celebration, we gathered in the dining room at the monastery to make a salad for the meal the next day.  There was lots of chopping of cauliflower and broccoli, so much we weren’t sure we’d get finished. It was an opportunity to express a common idiom.  Muchas manos hacen trabajo ligero. One of the postulants translated it very well into English. Many hands make light work.

The community received two young women into the community on the feast of St. Benedict, March 21.  Maria Jesus Lopez Berru and Rossmary Dominguez Calle. (They were introduced to our web community in March) These two young women are delightful. They take theology classes at the seminary in Chulucanas and Sr. Magna teaches them about the Rule of Benedict and the Benedictine way of life.

Those who provided the 50 years of Benedictine presence in Peru:

Mary Leah Baehl, Marge Sasse, Mary Baehl, Janet VanHorn, Judy Yunker, Romaine Kuntz, Rosa Lee Kock, Mary Earl Stone, LaJeanne Thomson, Barbara Jean Luebbehusen, Diane Weiss, Ida Otto, Mary Ann Verkamp, Patricia McGuire, and Pat Stone.