© Aid to the Church in Need
JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week : Peru & Honduras
“It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church”
Renovation of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, San José de Amazonas
There are no other countries in South America where the shortage of priests is more acute than in Bolivia and Peru. Even though some 84% of Peru’s population of around 28 million inhabitants have been baptized Catholic, there remains a tremendous lack of the most basic knowledge of the Catholic Faith and an acute shortage of necessary pastoral care, resulting in the flourishing of sects. Today approximately 10% of Peruvians belong to one of the many evangelical “free churches” – and this trend is increasing rapidly.
Even in the most remote regions, the sects are advancing – including here, in the vicariate of San José de Amazonas which is found in the extreme north-east of the country, bordering Colombia. This is an exceptionally remote region most easily reached by aircraft, or by boat along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. And quite apart from the growth of the sects, the sheer remoteness, inaccessibility and scattered nature of the settlements is another of the greatest challenges for priests and missionaries here.
In many of the smaller towns and villages the sects have already built small chapels and in this way they are luring to them many Catholics. There are, perhaps, 800 small Catholic settlements altogether along the rivers Amazon, Napo, Putumayo and Yavari and their countless tributaries – all in an area of around 60,000 square miles (155,000 km²). One of these centres is the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, which has existed since 1956. Due to the shortage of priests, most of these small communities are looked after by religious Sisters or lay missionaries, who conduct liturgies of the Word and prepare the faithful for reception of the Sacraments.
The poverty is almost unimaginable by Western standards. Most Catholic faithful are simple campesinos who barely manage to scrape a meagre living from the land. Socially, and culturally, they have few prospects. This is one reason, perhaps, why the Church plays such an important role in their lives. Most of the villages’ inhabitants and of the homesteads and settlements in the surrounding area come to the churches to worship. And the parish church itself is both House of God and a communications centre at the same time – a place of shared prayer, but also a social and cultural meeting place. This is very much the case in Pevas. But time has not been kind to their parish church.
Bishop Miguel Olaortua Laspra has visited the community personally and seen for himself the state of the church, which was built in 1968. The rain and heat have caused the roof to rust through by now and the water drips through onto the altar missals. It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church, since at any moment pieces of the ceiling can break and fall. Therefore, the Bishop would like the church to have a new roof. “Unfortunately, the vicariate is not in a position to cover the costs of the repairs itself,” he writes. “We are therefore appealing to your generosity and would be most grateful if you can help us.”
The parishioners themselves are willing to play an active part in renovating the church. But their efforts alone will not be enough. And so we were happy to promised them a contribution of $12,000 dollars.
Providing religious Sisters with the basics of life
She is young, and she works full-time – and yet she still does not have enough to live on. Ruth Nohemi Martinez is 29 years old, and since December 2010, she has been a religious Sister in the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Francisco, in the Department of Atlántida.
Sister Ruth is one of 23 religious Sisters working in the dioceses of La Ceiba on the northern Caribbean coast of the country. Most of these nuns are active in the pastoral and catechetical field. They look after children, young people and adults providing religious instruction in the kindergartens and schools, preparing children for their First Holy Communion and young couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony. In many of these parishes the parish priests simply could not cope without the help of these parish Sisters of “theirs.” At the same time, many of the Sisters are also active in charitable and social fields. In their work with young people they run day-cares, help the children with their homework, provide lunchtime meals service for the poorest children, care for young people in the country areas and provide psychological and pedagogical counselling… Other Sisters work in retirement homes and hospitals and in the apostolate with mothers and women.
The scope of their work is enormous – but there is one thing that all these sisters have in common, and that is the fact that the little money earned by just some of the Sisters for their work is not sufficient to support their communities. Without the help of generous donations from outside this precious and richly blessed ministry of theirs would be impossible. Bishop Michael Lenihan of La Ceiba writes to say: “We thank you with all our hearts for your precious support, which is helping us spread the Good News in our diocese.”
ACN has always given to the work of these Sisters and will continue to do so this year as well – with a contribution of $13,800 dollars, to ensure apostolates among those of the Consecrated Life, like Sister Ruth, can continue.