Support for the apostolate of 16 contemplative Sisters in southern Peru, in the apostolic prelature of Ayaviti.
Peru, the third largest country in South America, has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the country responded as early as March 2020 with a range of restrictions, nevertheless, one year later there were already over 1.7 million infections and over 57,000 deaths registered in this country of 32 million with a majority indigenous population.
The economic crisis of the country and the social tensions have only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. The topography of the country ranges from the high mountains of the Andes through to the rainforests of the Amazon region.
There is grinding poverty in these hard to reach rural areas, and many people are now migrating to the cities, where problems of drug addiction and broken families already abound and are growing still worse.
Only 20 Priests to Minister to a Vast Area
The apostolic prelature of Ayaviti lies in the south of Peru and covers an area of over 12,500 square miles (32,000 km²) with a population of around 300,000. Some parts of its territory are among the poorest and most neglected regions of the entire country.
The Catholic Church is facing many challenges here. Although theoretically around 85% of the population identify as Catholic, many have become alienated from the Church, partly because there are far too few priests to minister to them. There are just 20 priests to cover the 21 parishes of this vast area and at the same time there is a lack of catechists and religious Sisters. Many people know little or nothing about the Catholic faith, and the fundamentalist groups are making ever greater inroads.
Nonetheless, its former bishop, now Emeritus Bishop Kay Martin Schmalhausen, who retired only in April this year, does see some signs of hope. For one thing, the contemplative Sisters of the Trinitarian (an order established in the prelature in 2011) live an enclosed life and devote themselves to prayer. And though they are not directly involved in the pastoral work and life of the prelature, they support this work and life through their prayer, their presence and the testimony of their faith. As the bishop writes to us, “We see with joy that vocations to the enclosed life are on the increase and are bringing increased blessings with them. And indeed, their numbers have grown from just 4 to 16 Sisters in the meantime.
Once again this year, as he has done in the past and before his own retirement, the bishop has asked us to support these contemplative Sisters in their life and apostolate.