Comboni Lay Missionaries

Visit to Peru (IV): Arequipa

LMC Peru
LMC Peru

Back to Lima where I spent a couple of days. Spending the night in a bed is always appreciated. I was also able to celebrate Mario’s birthday with the family.

But soon it was time again to take another bus, this time to Arequipa where our international CLM community is located.

Arequipa, in the south of the country, is about 18-20 hours away from Lima. This time I did not travel alone but I was accompanied by Rosa and Rosalia, two CLMs from Lima.

This time I could stay a whole week in a row, a real luxury.

Again we stayed at the Comboni Missionaries’ house where we were very well received. Most of the time we would be with Ewelina but we also spent time with the Comboni missionaries to get to know in depth the work they do in the very large parish they are in charge of.

The week in Arequipa was also quite intense. In these trips, time is always short to get to know everything.

In the first place, I would highlight the extension of the parish. We, in particular, develop our missionary service in Villa Ecológica where Ewelina and Rossie live. But in Villa we should distinguish many sectors. Villa is a newly settled neighborhood where the asphalt has been left at the gates and public transport only enters through the main avenue regularly and to reach one of its ends you must do it at rush hour or it does not compensate them, so that the rest of the day you are isolated and the only thing left is to walk.

In these neighborhoods people come from the interior of the country looking for a better life, a job in the city with which to get ahead. When you arrive you have to look for a lot (piece of land) that you can afford, pay for it and build a small house to show that you own it. This money goes to the community who will use it for common work. Saturdays or Sundays are the community work day because if the community does not do this work things will not get done. They have to make terraces on the hillsides, open streets, make sure that water reaches everywhere, build retaining walls to prevent landslides when there is an earthquake or heavy rain….

Life in these neighborhoods during the pandemic has been very hard. Most of the inhabitants make a living from small businesses. What they sell one day gives them enough to eat the next, but when any possibility of going out to sell was closed, the situation became very difficult. At that time the common cooking pots began to proliferate (we saw the same in Lima and other cities). Two or three women cooked for 50, 60 or 70 families. Many of these pots are still maintained because the population continues to need them. And in the organization and support of these pots was always the parish, collecting aid and supporting with food to alleviate this difficult situation.

For us the work has a lot to do with visiting the families in their homes, getting to know their needs and accompanying them. From the work of the cradle (school for children from 2 to 5 years old) we also support and do important work, not only with the children, but also with their families.

Education is the engine of development and dignity of all peoples.

One morning we went with Fr. Conrado and Fr. Valentin to visit the parish by car and we needed 3 or 4 hours to go around and get close to some parts of it, not even all, to know the different sectors, the challenges that are opening as people continue to occupy and reach new lands. The last chapel will be at almost 3000 meters above sea level at the foot of Misti (emblematic volcano of 5800 meters above sea level that guards the whole city of Arequipa).

During the week we were able to accompany Ewelina in her work in the cradle, in the catechetical groups, where 50 adults were confirmed and new groups continue to be opened. Her work with the youth, with the elderly we were not able to be there because it did not coincide.

We were also able to visit his home in Villa where together with Rossie (who was in the USA that week to settle some legal and medical matters) they share their daily life with their neighbors and the many dogs that occupy the streets of Villa. There was plenty of time to talk and understand the day to day life of the community.

We also took some time to visit the city, especially the center, with the cathedral, the Plaza de Armas, the Jesuits, etc. A very beautiful historic center, with a colonial character, which makes Arequipa an increasingly touristy place.

In Arequipa there is also the possibility of opening a new group of local CLM, which for the moment will be animated by Rossie and Ewelina but which Rosa and Rosalia attended in the presentation to present how they are organized in Peru and to establish a first link with the candidates and an awareness that being in one place or another we all belong to the same CLM family and we have a common mission.

Undoubtedly an intense week from which I bring back many images and knowledge to share with those who are preparing in the future to continue our international presence in Peru.

I leave here another video of the reality in Arequipa, it is already some years old but it also orients us in the reality of Arequipa).

On the way back to Lima and after 20 hours of travel I went out to buy some handicrafts to give as gifts on my return and above all to do missionary animation in Spain.

To finish the trip I had a meeting with all the CLM of Peru, those of Lima in person and those of Trujillo or Arequipa by internet, to talk about what the continental meeting has meant and to see how to continue advancing.

I spent the last day with Fr. Joselín, provincial of Peru, to talk about my stay during the month, to learn more about Peru and the Comboni presence and to take a walk for a while.

A month that has flown by between meetings and trips. Now it is time to digest and pray all that I have experienced and I hope it will be of benefit to all the people with whom I have been able to share this time.

Kind regards

Alberto de la Portilla, coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.

Visit to Peru (III): Trujillo

LMC Peru

After a 15-hour bus ride from Pangoa I returned to Lima where Mario (the CLM coordinator in Peru) was patiently waiting for me at the station in spite of the 3-hour delay in the trip.

I took advantage of that day to share it with him at his work, to see the day to day and the many other occupations he has.

That same night I took another bus to Trujillo where the CLM that live there were waiting for me.

In Trujillo I stayed with the Comboni community, where as always I felt at home. The first morning I went for a walk downtown with Fr. Luis, a German Comboni Missionary with decades of experience in Peru. It was a very pleasant time to talk and listen about the evolution of the country, the new challenges and some Comboni missionary history.

In the afternoon, after concluding the work day, the CLM picked me up and we were able to spend some time together. It was an intense weekend where I was able to visit the neighborhood in the periphery where they carry out their missionary service, the little schools, the visits to the families, the catechesis of youth and children….

We also had a good time to share what life is like in Trujillo, and how the CLM group is doing. We took time to share our experiences in Lima as well as any doubts they might have, to ask about other CLM realities in the world and so on.

One of the days was dedicated to do some sightseeing, to get to know another of the many pre-Hispanic cultures that have passed through Peru and we even had another moment to visit the beach and the Totora horses.

Walking and talking was our main activity. Helping to understand our vocation, the challenges ahead and encouraging….

It is always a privileged moment to accompany our CLM in the places where they are present and carry out their mission. To see first hand the realities they accompany and the affection they put into it.

I leave you another video of Pueblo de Dios where you can see the reality of Trujillo (it is an older video but it helps us to see the reality of the Comboni work in Trujillo).

Kind regards

Alberto de la Portilla, coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.

Visit to Peru (II): Pangoa

LMC Perú

Once the meeting was over and after saying goodbye to the participants from the different countries, I left for Pangoa, a town in the Peruvian jungle where our CLM have been doing missionary support during their vacations, especially for school support in the indigenous communities.

There I was received by the Comboni community who welcomed me very well. I had the opportunity to meet again Fr. Maciek, whom we met in Poland where he was supporting the CLM, and Fr. Lorenzo, who until a few months ago accompanied the CLM in Spain. During the three days of my stay I was able to visit the different services provided by the parish, how they attend to the people coming from the different indigenous communities, the visit to the Daniel Comboni school, where I was able to share some time with the older students, the visit to the cultural center that is being built and that will undoubtedly help a lot to make known the reality of the indigenous communities and to promote meetings that will strengthen their culture.

On the other hand, we had the opportunity to visit some of the indigenous communities closest to Pangoa. The territory of the parish is immense and getting into it requires an all-terrain car with 4-wheel drive to avoid getting stuck in the mud or the use of canoes to reach the most remote communities.

Pangoa is undoubtedly a parish full of needs and opportunities for missionary service. Who knows if one day we will be able to open an CLM presence in the area?

On the occasion of my visit we took the opportunity to organize a meeting with some people interested in becoming CLM. It was a small introductory meeting that we hope will serve as a seed that will later be nurtured and watered with missionary fruits in the area.

I leave you a video of the area recorded by the program Pueblo de Dios de España.

Kind regards

Alberto de la Portilla, coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.

Visit to Peru (I): Lima

LMC Perú

Undoubtedly the continental meeting of the CLM of America held in Lima was a very special moment. Postponed for two consecutive years due to the pandemic. We were finally able to celebrate it and share how we are living our vocation in a reality that is trying to come out of the pandemic and recover from the consequences.

A meeting of this kind always serves to encourage us, to reflect together and to gather strength and new ideas for the imminent future that awaits us.

Once the meeting was over, as usual, to take advantage of the plane ticket, I had the opportunity to stay in the country and visit the places where we are present as CLM.

The first visit was to the neighborhood of Pamplona Alta where the CLM of Lima carry out a large part of their pastoral activity. This visit was made by all the participants of the continental meeting during the last Sunday. We divided into two groups and each group visited some of the communities that usually accompany our CLM brothers. The parish has a Spanish parish priest from the IEME and has the presence of the Comboni Sisters.

During the pandemic the work has been very hard, helping the communities to survive. The creation of numerous community kitchens has made possible the solidarity among all the members of the community and allowed many families to survive.

Here is a video of the area recorded by the team of the Spanish television program Pueblo de Dios. There we can see the extent of this work and the reality of these communities.

Kind regards

Alberto de la Portilla, coordinator of the CLM Central Committee.

Our new home!

LMC Peru

For the first six months of my mission in Arequipa (Peru), I lived in the house of the Combonian Fathers close to the parish church. With the arrival of Rossie – Comboni Lay Missionary from the United States, we were able to move to our new home in Villa Ecologica – the parish “district”, where we are to implement all our projects. During the pandemic, the owner of the house made a makeover, thanks to which each of us has her own room. Apart from that, we have a living room where we can have guests, a bathroom, a kitchen and … a garage. We don’t have a car, so we don’t use it, but it can be turned into an extra room at any time in case our community grows. When we go out to the street, we immediately notice the snow-capped peak of the Chachani volcano and the ubiquitous dust here 🙂

Due to the relatively short stay on the mission, we decided not to take a dog to defend the house, even though it is a very popular practice here. However, three neighborly mongrels decided that we looked quite nice and in exchange for additional food they offered their help as guards of the household. After a few weeks together, they even let themselves be petted and want to play with us. The only problem is their huge appetite, no matter how much food they have already received on a given day, they are always open to more. Our relocation coincided with the celebration of Independence Day in Peru.

On that day, practically every house had a red and white Peruvian flag. Father Conrado – the local parish priest asked us if we had put up a flag in our new apartment and explained that it was a civil duty and that people could get a fine for not having a flag. However, he laughed that when the mayor saw that a Pole and an American lived in the house, he would rather forbid us to hang the Peru flag 🙂

Ewelina, CLM Peru