Wednesday, November 2, 2022

El Senor de los Milagros

"El Senor de los Milagros" is a uniquely Catholic feast celebrated only in Peru. One of the world's largest processions are held in Lima, and more in several Peruvian cities. I had never heard of this feast until the nuns of the Daughters of San Camillo had the image of the crucified Christ in their chapel during the novena preceding this feast. 

Hence, l went online to search for the origin and significance of this feast, and lo and behold, Wikipedia had a short summary! For those of you who are curious to know straight from the horse's mouth about the history and significance of this feast, here is the link:

Santa Clotilde had it's own celebration and procession of this feast on October 31st. on a sunny, blazing hot, humid afternoon. The procession of between 100 to 150 people led by Franciscan Bro. Adrian, with a marching band, started in the district called 28th of July, then wound through the main street in town, up the hill to the hospital, back down to the main street and ended in the Catholic church. 

Different groups took turns to carry the venerated image along the way, e.g., hospital staff had their turn when the procession was at the hospital. Then the hospital CEO, Gabriela Filonowicz, a Polish missionary, led the prayers and hymns of thanksgiving and intercession, for all the graces and blessings received, for God's guidance, protection and continued blessings of good health, happiness and peace for all who serve at and come to the hospital. 

The strong and lively faith of the people of God was made manifest in Santa Clotilde in this Afro-Peruvian tradition dating back to the 17th century.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Not that Indiana

 The 4th Missionary Encounter of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose del Amazonas in Indiana, Peru.

As the only missionary from the USA at the above conference from August 5-8, I had the opportunity and privilege to meet 45 missionaries including laity, religious and clerics from 17 missions based in the Peruvian Amazon. The missionaries hailed from several countries — Peru, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Poland, India, and Canada. The invited speakers were from Lima (the Conference of the Religious Orders of Peru, and Kairos); they hailed from Peru, Brazil, Chile, Spain and the Philippines.

My friends were initially confused as to why the conference was being held in Indiana, assuming that it was in the USA! Just as there is a town called Peru in Nebraska, there is one called Indiana in Peru! This certainly aroused our curiosity as to the origin of the name Indiana, which is an hour away by boat from Iquitos. On arrival at the main plaza of Indiana, there is a commemorative plaque in honor of the first bishop of the Vicariate, Msgr. Damas Laberge, a French-Canadian Franciscan missionary, who founded the town of Indiana in March of 1948. He had named it after the city of Indianapolis in the USA. The rest is history…please see photo for the explanation.
We arrived on August 5th evening to the Vicariate’s administrative center in Iquitos, where we did introductions and had dinner together. The next day after breakfast, we went by bus to the Augustinian retreat center in Tagaste, for orientation and relaxation. Sr. Lucia Schulz of Brazil and Sr. Griselda Arciniega of Mexico  organized the ice-breaker activities. Later, there were sports activities, board games, music, dancing and a nice size swimming pool to unwind in. After lunch, we returned to Iquitos to take the boat to Indiana, where we settled for the evening at the Vicariate’s retreat center. Daily mass was held in the evenings in the small cathedral a block away.

On Sunday the 7th, the retreat began. Two excellent speakers from Lima, Sr. Lucia Schulz in the morning, and Fr. Nelson Mitchell of Chile, in the afternoon, spoke on the main theme, “Called to Synodality.”  This was the fruit of the encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (on Fraternity and Social Friendship) by Pope Francis on 3 October 2020. The Pope had declared: Synodality is what God expects of the Church in the 21st century. It involves mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. This 2 year process began officially in October 2021, as The Synod 2021-2023 -- “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,”  which allows bishops to consult with their flock — from parishioners to priests — in a spirit of collaboration and openness. Pope Francis hopes that this Synod will encourage greater participation from the whole Church at the diocesan, national and universal levels.

On Monday morning of the 8th, we split into the 3 respective groups —laity, consecrated religious and clerics.  The laity group was led by Henry Vasques and Mayte Galarreta, a husband and wife team from Kairos in Lima. Henry gave an excellent lecture on “Synodality: Contribution to Consensus Building,” which elaborated in greater detail on the previous day's lectures; Mayte kindly translated for me what Henry was saying in Spanish. In the afternoon, the 3 groups reconvened for excellent lectures given by Lima speakers: Sr. Lucia, Sr. Isabel Miguelez of Spain, and Sr. Anna Manauis of Philippines, followed by several small group case discussions on the lecture topics of Violence, Exploitation and Human Trafficking which is highly prevalent in the Amazonas.

In summary, this was an intense conference (100% in Spanish) which reinforced the Pope’s teachings in Fratelli Tutti and challenged us as missionaries to greater participation in living out the Gospel and strengthening Synodality.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

My first trip to Santa Clotilde Mission

In May, I had the opportunity to take a break from my intensive Spanish classes, and was privileged to take my first trip to Santa Clotilde Mission (SCM) in the Peruvian Amazon with 3 short term volunteers from the Chicago suburbs: Dr. Toni, a veteran volunteer to SCM since 2011 who speaks fluent Spanish along with her 2 chief residents, Drs. Annie and Carolina. Charlie, age 8, and Maya, age 6 were very fortunate to be with their mom, Dr. Toni, on their 3rd trip to SCM. 
Enjoying Mother's Day celebration at the school organized by 
SCM combined with Labor Day festivities for the staff and their families.
Toni was our fearless leader who showed us the ropes on getting around Iquitos and upriver to SCM. We were warmly welcomed by the friendly people, especially Dr. Toni and her kids - the staff both in the Vicariate and in SCM were very delighted to see them back, and marveled at how big and beautiful they had grown, and other kids were very fascinated by them.

It was just so amazing to see the fruits of the labor of love built by missionaries over 70 years at SCM in this remote, rural Amazon outpost, referred to simply as "The Jungle" by the big city dwellers of Lima.
The hospital ambulance that picked us up from the new boat dock on a light drizzly afternoon.
For those who are interested in the short history of SCM, what better introduction than the one here -
Santa Clotilde Mission, Peru: HISTORY - Blogger by Drs. Toni and Brian, long term veterans of MDA.

As a small remote rural hospital accessible by boat only, I was very impressed by what Frs. Drs. Moe and Jack had established over their 30 years of service to the people of God, with the wide range of basic services that were available, e.g., basic labs, X-rays, ultrasounds, pharmacy, well child clinics, ER, OR (nonfunctional since no anaesthetist was available), and a hospital kitchen that provided food for the inpatients!

The work day routine started with morning prayer at 7 a.m. led by the CEO, Gabi, a Polish volunteer, who speaks excellent Spanish. This was followed by rounds in the wards with the doctors, nursing and lab staff. There was a wide variety of clinical cases both in the pediatric and adult wards. Besides infectious diseases, e.g,  TB, HIV, dengue, pneumonia, pyelonephritis, abscesses, there were also fractures, burns, asthma, suspected metastatic spinal cancer, diabetes complications, maternity patients and malnourished kids.

There was a newborn with cleft lip and palate who needed a special nipple to suck on expressed breast milk, that came from the Iquitos General Hospital, 5 hours away by boat. The parents who lived 3 hours away by boat, were very grateful that their 3rd baby was put on the list to be seen by volunteer surgeons from Operation SMILE that visited Iquitos twice a year. They were encouraged by the online before-and-after pictures of kids with similar condition.

I also saw my very first case of a baby with congenital syndromic pansynostosis. After rounds, there were busy outpatient clinics. There was an incredible amount of paper work involved since this was a government sponsored facility, that made us appreciate electronic medical records more in the USA. We also had the opportunity to do health outreach visits to 2 outlying villages on the Tambo and Napo Rivers.

What struck me the most in my 3 weeks at SC mission besides the paperwork? 
First, was the stark contrast in temperatures between Lima (low 60's in winter) and the torrid humidity here (middle of the heavy rainy season, however, thick cloud cover did drop temperatures for a few days, thus requiring sweaters at night and in the morning- see photo #3). 
Morning rounds with clinical staff. Notice majority in sweaters. 
On far left is Dr. Norberto, CMO and volunteer Ob-Gyn from Spain. 
Second, the difference in cuisine: Lima is well known as a foodie's capital, here there was a lack of leafy green vegetables, somewhat restrictive for those on a vegetarian diet. Meat, eggs and fish were readily available. 
Third, the abundance of clean, filtered rain water in the cisterns installed by an NGO, Water Mission, in 2018, with 2 washing machines in the volunteers' house. What a pleasant surprise!

Fourth, the incredibly loud, blasting music that reverberated late into the wee morning hours during festivities, especially on our first weekend for combined Labor and Mother's Day. Fifth, the roosters that crowed at odd hours, plus pack of dogs that barked what seemed to be all night long sometimes...ear plugs were absolutely useless. I could certainly adapt to the really slow 2G internet and the daily scheduled electricity rationing.

All in all it was truly a great experience and exposure to the lovely people, culture, environment of SCM and the vast Amazon. I am looking forward to coming here after 2 more months of intensive Spanish classes in Lima.

"The blessing of the Lord is our greatest wealth. All our work adds nothing to it." Prov. 10:22

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Light and Love

The title of my blog site is in Quechua, the native language of the people of Peru. Kanchay means Light (Jn 8:12) and Munay means Love (Mt 22:37-39). It reflects what my mission is all about: to be in constant awareness of Christ’s light and love and be His light and love to all wherever I am, here and now. How is He using me as His instrument to be of service to all I encounter in the moment? It is not an easy task to say the least, given my human foibles and weaknesses! Whoever said following Him was easy? With faith, He is leading me on, if I only trust -- “Let go and let God, Lucy" (my name means Light, Mt. 5:14) -- my constant mantra during the intensive 4 months mission training. I made it through with some serious doubts (Lk 8:25) along the way: "Is it I Lord?"

A picture of my 1st day of school, just arrived off the Combi bus

So here I am, being sent to Lima, Peru, in trepidation and wondrous anticipation on the first baby step of my mission -- to learn, understand and to speak Spanish fluently -- what an indomitable task (Mk11:22-23). My friends believe I can do it; that certainly helps alot! Elise reminds me to be kind and gentle with myself.

My teachers: Rosa, Luisa and Pilar

Hence, I am slowly adjusting to my life as a student and to my new environment of a bustling, congested, sprawling capital city. The Peruvian people I have met have been very gracious, kind and patient especially Haydee, the person in charge of the mission house I am staying at, and my teachers. Learning a new language certainly teaches me to be like a child, to be curious, patient and humble. I just passed my first exam. Whew! What a relief!

"We are only God's light bulbs, and our job is just to remain screwed in!"
Nobel Peace prize winner, the late Desmond Tutu

Happy Easter to one and all!


El Senor de los Milagros

"El Senor de los Milagros" is a uniquely Catholic feast celebrated only in Peru. One of the world's largest processions are he...