Comboni Lay Missionaries

A Part of me is called Peru

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

I often think of the meaning of the lives that crisscross my journey. I often think of the conditions where we meet and how simplicity brings us closer.

I could list a countless number of situations I have already experienced here. Some were mastered, while others will keep on ripening until I will understand them.

Many lives are already part of me, and many are the smiles that belong to me, the hugs I do not avoid and renew my strength. With the intention of just dropping in, I spend hours to no end conversing on the doorsteps. For me, mission is timeless.

The doors of our house are open, doors that open to receive the greatest joys of passersby and welcome the sufferings of those who seek refuge from us. They ask of you the only thing you have to give, yourself.

LMC Peru

When night falls, that is when I like revisit my day and, even though often I fall into tears, they are tears of contemplation of the marvels God is working in me and, through me, it’s impossible to ignore it, and not thank God for it all. Many a times I see, countless times, the little miracles and signs that have reached me through these people who are now part of me.

Mission is hard, and you would lie if you said otherwise. Mission is arid, here, where the landscape is covered with the roofs of what is left of homes close to be disintegrated by the strong wind.

In August, part of a year’s work falls apart, when nature blows so strongly that it is impossible to resist. Without fear, they roll up their sleeves, without giving up, and even though what they have is little, nothing is stronger than the will to move onward.

I am not lying, mission is hard. At time it becomes cruel, it hurts. You see the suffering in the eyes of these brothers of mine and the helplessness in the face of what they have to bear with.

LMC Peru

Many are the times when I simply listen, give a hand, my shoulder. Many are the times when we smile together, as we share this love of God so concrete and free. Many are the hugs, the hands shaken. Many are the moments of silence and mutual commitment, in the simplicity of sitting on the ground and be one with them.

Yes, mission is hard. It is in this hardship that I met the deepest meaning of my presence on Peruvian land. It was in this arid land that I placed my dreams and my hopes. In this little corner of the world that I pray daily for the integrity and the rights of people similar to me, created by God. It is a constant state of being fragile and be integrated in the simplicity and humility of those who have nothing. Without expecting anything in return.

Mission is hard, but this is the mission I always dreamed of, this constant discovery of who
I am and of what I am doing here. It is to know that I am nothing and often see how miracles just happen, naturally. It is trust that makes us flesh of the same flesh.

A little at the time everything falls into place, a little at the time everything happens simply, not in human but in heavenly times.

With love and gratitude

LMC Peru

CLM, Neuza Francisco in Peru

The beauty of the Imperfect Mission

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

“The greatness of the mission does not belong to us, but rather to the One who sends us,” Fr. Ivo.

A year in mission. How much time fits in this lapse? How many lives have been held in our own? How many arms were linked with our arms? How many lives have we given? And how many have we received?

We stopped planning our lives to allow life to direct us, to allow God to touch us and the people to meet us. We allowed ourselves to be met just as we are, with our wounds, scars and imperfections.

This is who we are, and this is how we embraced our mission, together and imperfect. We walked in the certainty that “we are all wounded and through these wounds light comes in.” We never wanted to be perfect. Instead we allowed God to touch our imperfections and through them lead us to our brothers, who are now our friends and neighbors. Today they are our family.

The beauty of an imperfect mission is in us, resides within us. Beauty is not in the moment you realize that you and your life are the mission, but rather in the ability to walk on your own little by little without fear letting your wounds, scars and frailties be part of what makes you who you are, an essential part.

Then mission become a solitary journey, with yourself, a journey of two, because you know that you were chosen for a greater love, a journey of three, you, God, your neighbor, in the certainty that the other exists to walk with you.

It allows you to be, to know yourself a little better to let yourself be discovered a little at the time, and join to your neighbor always ready to proceed together. And together, hand in hand with God, we reach the other and the other deliver you in an imperfect, complete fashion.

It is this journey of three that we meet our neighbors, our brothers. They become our home and journey together. They are the people who, in imperfect ways, complete us, make us grow. It is in being imperfect that we keep on meeting others, moving on and growing with each person we meet. This way, mission is not only teaching or learning, but rather growing together, knowing that the union of our imperfections results in the perfection of the whole.

This is the logic of God who made us in such a way that we need others in order to love, be, live and be happy.

LMC Peru
Paula y Neuza. CLM Peru

 

Two more weeks in Arequipa … and already a month!

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

Hi!

How’s the heat wave going? Here we had some very sunny days when you just wore short sleeves and the sun was still scorching you a bit. But when it’s cloudy or there is no sun, it gets cooler. We also had a couple of windy days that, with the dust we have around here, were unbearable. They say that, in this respect, this is the worst month…

Two more weeks have gone by and, even though everything is more or less the same, there have been surprises…

A 10 year old neighbor child died of brain cancer… She died a day before her birthday… The girls did not know her or her family, but another neighbor asked us if we would go to pray, so we showed up. We prayed the rosary with them and decided to stay until they were ready to go to the cemetery. But, as they were leaving, an elegant woman appeared. She had been a volunteer in the hospital in Lima where they had attempted to cure the child. The father asked us to accompany her. A little doubtful, at the end we boarded the bus they had rented. The woman sat with us and told us more. Her name is Jessica and was the “Lady in Pink” of Miriam (this is for those who have read Oscar and the Lady in Pink or seen the movie Letters to God).When the Mom and the child were stranded alone in Lima, she had been their angel…

LMC Peru

The cemeteries over here (for those who can pay up to going into debt to do it) are very beautiful. Everyone is buried in the ground and something like a flower or a little item is placed in before they are covered with dirt. On her coffin they placed the birthday cake…

Afterwards before we left the brought some drinks and then at the gate we were all invited over. Back home they had food for all. It struck me how Mom and Dad were going through all this separately… They did not get together even to say goodbye to the coffin and returned home in different cars… It might have been for personal reasons of their own, but we thought of it as an example of the distance they keep in their behavior at times. There is also the aspect of how concerns are always left to the women and she had been the one who, more than anyone, lived through this illness. In the end, while he was sharing a drink with other relatives, she was sitting on a bench chatting with Jessica, and for sure these were intimate and special conversations that she could not share with other friends and relatives.

It was a very sad day, even though we did not know them… On the other hand, it was nice to have met a Lady in Pink in the flesh. As for me, too, it made me relive and remember many goodbyes and losses and have lots of people present to me… To join again in the sorrows of these families and in the prayer for those who left…

“To be with the people.” That’s why we are here, but one never knows what it entails and the shape it takes…

The week continued with a lot of comings and goings because it was the formation week for the laity in Good Shepherd parish (in Independencia, the nearby neighborhood) and there was no stopping, ending up late every day. On top of that, elections are coming up and, as it happens the world over, that’s when things get fixed. In this case, they are paving part of the road, which will be fine when it will be done, but right now we have to face a detour and there is more chaos than usual. I also noticed that this little routine of being ready to leave an hour early and be in my PJs and have a moment of prayer together, I could do without. Getting back to the course given by the Comboni Missionaries, with talks one better than others, but generally good. On the last day they had the Lectio Divina while a meeting was going on in the public square, which caused a big mess… For this reason, it costs me to get into it, also because I still do not go for the religiosity of some people around here… I feel far away from them. At times I feel like judging while at other times I envy their faith… But in both cases I feel like I’m living on a different planet…

LMC PeruOn July 28 we celebrated the Fiestas Patrias (National Holidays) as I already told you, and on Friday morning there was a parade of the neighborhood schools and some authorities. It was nice to go see it, but it strikes you to see the importance they give to marching… From pre-school to college, children to professors… All without exception and with pride. Fr. Conrado was commenting on the amount of class time wasted in rehearsals… It looks to me as a type of rather odd militarization. The messages delivered are all about country in a rather exaggerated manner without any room for criticism or nuances, according to me. But the preschoolers were great and their principal’s speech was beautiful, when they won.

In conjunction with the Holidays, the mothers of the women group decided to have a picnic to share some time together. When we reached the place, we found also some young people with a group from the Holy Childhood. Usually, there is music to attract people, but on that day a neighbor appeared who was furious and almost attacked a young woman, because the music bothered him. He also threw a stone that, fortunately, did not hit her. When we arrived, the girl was crying and was very scared, while the man was still complaining in a very rude way and threatening the group. When he left, we called the police. Hours later, when they arrived, we were able to talk the girl into going and file a complaint because she was not too sure about doing it, and her mother even worse. They are very afraid of revenge… Paula accompanied them in the police car and we said that she could go only if they were going to bring her back, but later they played dumb and left them there. A Comboni brother arrived and started some serious talk about the fact that there had been children present and this man had posed a risk, but the policeman became confrontational and asked him if he wanted to have them arrested for contempt… No comment…

The finishing touch was a woman who, telling the story to others, said “he talked to him as if it were his wife!” The moral being that, if it’s your wife, then you may use that tone, but if not, you are being impolite… What’s “normal” for her is clear, no?

In spite of it all, life goes on with a mix of things: pre-school, visits… We went to visit the sick person who had been in the hospital, but is now at home, but we got there in the middle of a crisis and we had to turn into instant nurses… The next day, when we returned to see him, he was a little better and by the end we were chatting about some of these thoughts that inevitably come up, such as “why me?” or what is there to learn from what happens in life. Visiting some other families we have also seen grave examples of domestic violence… Lots of things that stir you up and make you question your faith, the faith of the people…

On Thursday, after praying and having breakfast with the Comboni Missionaries, we did not have a meeting because several of them were on retreat. We took advantage of that to go with Fr. Conrado to pay a visit to the tomb of Danielito, the child of Carmen and José, two CLM from Spain who worked here, who died just a few hours after birth. The girls had already been here on his birthday, because here it is customary to come to “celebrate the birthday” with the dead, especially if they are children. It was very nice and it is also very special for José and Carmen to know that we go visit their child from Arequipa. There is a very deep history, both personal for their work and as a journey of faith, with him. The cemetery is also very precious with all the details we find on the children’s tombs. It made quite an impression to see how many babies die at birth or soon after.

And this last weekend turned out to be both tiring and intense, but greatly enjoyable.

LMC Peru

On Saturday we went to a wedding! Soledad and Alex are a wonderful couple who, having been confirmed recently, decided to get married and “straighten out their relation with God.” Our daughter is going to make her First Communion this year and how can she receive communion without us? They kept on telling us. Because over here, it is rather common that couples live together, start building a house and improve it, have children… And in the end, the wedding remains a bit in the background. Naturally, if they aren’t married, they can’t receive communion. Paula and Neuza were invited with great enthusiasm and I by my connection to them. When we arrived they asked us to sing and read, so that we started looking for songs and, even though we sang a cappella, it turned out decent enough. I noticed that, after the rings and the coins, they added a third symbol that was like a large chain that bound the two together. I believe it is the same idea of the cape or mantle, which is currently beginning to get lost back home.

For the reception they had rented a place near their home. I thought it strange that the toast, the speeches, the throwing of the bouquet and the cutting of the cake took place at the very beginning. Then the orchestra took over and everybody danced. We were a little lost and downright famished, but we were well positioned and warm and even though we were trying to disengage ourselves and leave discretely, the couple themselves came over to invite us to dance and to be at the tossing of the bouquet (how embarrassing!). Finally, consistent food arrived, even though by then we almost were no longer hungry, and then came the gifts. The money, instead of being given in an envelope, was being pinned to the flaps of the couple’s clothing (then we understood why the bride had even put on a jacket). At this point it’s when they uncorked the wine and brought out cases of beer… Just the opposite of what we are used to! We left soon after and they insisted briefly that we stayed, but understood that it was time for us to go (here begins the separation and we are “the sisters”). It was very nice, because all through it they were very grateful for our presence and attentive to make us happy.

LMC Peru

A few hours later, the alarm clock called us to go to the super feast at Good Shepherd parish. We had been asked to help sell tamales and the door of the church after the 7:00 AM Mass. Incredible as it may sound, the church was packed to overflowing and we sold them in no time flat. Then we helped set up tents, make posters, help with logistics, selling food and giving a hand here and there… In the end, we spent most of the day selling the Villa baked noodles, lollipops (poloflash) and helping out at the grill… There were many spots with music, volleyball games, and soccer for the younger set, and bingo which was well attended. Naturally, we didn’t win anything… We got back after 7:00 by bus, because the cars had all gone, since we stayed behind to clean up.

LMC Peru

In truth, at these events, you see all kinds of similarities. Some few people are very involved and others, who at a meeting promised to give a hand, never even showed up. The woman at the grill was left alone with just another woman and Neuza provided most of the help with Paula and I pitching in… We were a little bit like “jack of all trades” and did it with enthusiasm, but this is not the point. Anyway, I said it! Nothing new.

With Paula and Neuza all is well. Some days we are a little apart but only for a short while and of no consequence. There are many hours every day when we do not see one another, we do things in different ways, at time weariness and other stories add up… nothing out of the ordinary as we live so close together. For sure, the good times and mutual banter win by a mile. There have also been really cool days when we talked and reflected together in depth. It amazes me that they are five years younger and have already experienced so much… Our lives are so different, but we also have this treasure of being able to look at others and understand them for who they are.

Finally… Lots of little things that move you and upset you… But also cool times with the girls and with the people. And now a whole week of vacation in Puno and La Paz, disconnecting and re-energizing. This will be my next chapter.

LMC PeruKisses.

Aitana, CLM Spain

After two weeks in Arequipa

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

I have already been here for two weeks and I do not know whether it is a lot or too little.

I already got used to the kitchen and know where everything is and I even baked a sponge cake (yes, we have an oven!!). I also got used to the taste of water and to the routine of boiling it and at time having to drink it while still lukewarm (considering how little I enjoy hot water even in winter…).

The sleeping is super because Paula gave me her bed which is the best and the largest. Some evening, when it is not too late, the three of us fit together on this bed to watch a show or a movie, remembering the old days in David’s home. In any case, the rooms are really cubicles divided by partitions that do not reach the ceiling and with an opening for the door, but without it. So that basically it is like being all three in one room. We can converse each one from our own bed without a problem.

But I have yet to get used to the dust that invades my lungs whenever we leave the house and becomes downright horrible when a vehicle goes by.

I have already heard a couple of earthquakes and have caught a cold with the changes of temperature and during the last gray days we just had.

It is still fascinating go outside and see the volcano Chachani close to 20 thousand feet tall, so great and majestic with its snow shining in the sun, and the Misti, a mere 19,000, that is visually overwhelming because we are so close to it, almost in its foothills. These days it appeared with a dusting of snow.

At the beginning I was feeling a little out of sort, but I am now getting used to the girls routine and activities.

The nursery (child care from 2 to 5 years old) is the easiest place for me because the children are beautiful and charming, even though, as all children, like (or would like) to do what they want. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the project “My school, my Family and Me,” where some children stay behind for a while engaged in activities that will improve their socialization, autonomy and language skills… It is always done with fun activities and games and then we eat together. The project demands the involvement of the families that we follow and keep informed. It was interesting to attend the meeting with the director of the nursery, who is the teacher involved in the project, and two psychologists speaking on the development of the children, their family situation, discussing the possibilities of visiting families who are not answering the commitments agreed upon… Even though this is what could be considered an “elitist” project, since it is only for 20 children picked because of their needs and conditions, it is clear that in order to do it well it cannot be a mass venture. The personal attention we give them is very good and it pleased me to see how they know the reality of each child and their environment.

With the senior citizens there is a program on Wednesdays where they perform activities to improve their mobility, do something manual, pray together and play some simple games. With the women’s group they meet every Saturday and try to provide someone who can help them, at times with psychological topics in order to help them with personal questions, at times with manual activities… From what I understand, in both projects there is an attempt to form groups so that they will socialize among themselves, to motivate them so  they will not get rusty, to have them have some fun and help them to stay strong to put up with their problems and daily activities. Especially with the women, they bring in other people (psychologists, teachers…) to run the sessions so they will see different faces and experiences, but lately some people have been missing and it is a little bit of a drag.

LMC Peru

In all these activities I have been mostly a spectator, but already this week I took care of the senior citizen session and we made a “rattle” with rolls of toilet paper . The truth is that you make most of it yourself, but it was OK because we gave them time to personalize it and so they were drawing. Since it coincided with Carmina’s birthday, Paulina brought a cake to celebrate her birthday and my arrival and we all sang Happy Birthday with our seniors and with some children Carmina had brought along. It was very nice.

With the women we made rosettes with the colors of Peru because on July 28 we begin to celebrate the independence of the country and it is a National Holiday . It is an important celebration that lasts a week. In fact most places are already decorated with these rosettes, flags and wreaths. Today, even the Mass was dedicated to this feast and everything was suitably decorated .

Family visitations are a little harder… It is tough to see how people live: junk all over, garbage, dust… Almost all the visits are to older people who are somewhat abandoned and rather pitiful… On top of that, they want to make sure that you get a slice of fruit or they invite you to have bread and tea. We also visit people who are sick and we also went to see families who just had a child or are about to have one and brought them some baby clothes. I am impressed by the capacity Andrea and Paula have to raise their spirit. They know their history and listen with kindness and patience, and do not have a problem to shift gears and give them a massage or help them in whatever they might be doing, such as cleaning, cooking… They roll up their sleaves!

We have also been at the hospital to visit some neighbors. The hospital is rather gloomy and old, but I am told that it is not one of the worst in the region. Then there is the financial situation…  Here some people have the right to the SIS (Total Health Coverage offered to the needy) but they do not always get it, or the procedure becomes very laborious. Andrea and Paula help people with these steps as well. The classic case is to try to get money in way, which is usually with a chicken roast where a family asks the neighbors’ help to prepare fried chicken, potatoes and beans to be sold and make some money. Already in these two weeks we went to visit a very dear neighbor who was very sick, but is now getting better. He always welcomes us with joy and affection. Last weekend we were going to give a hand to his wife in preparing the chicken roast, but we were delayed at the meeting of parents at the nursery. On Sunday, we went to pick up our plates in order to cooperate and he told us that he had gotten a lot of help from relatives and friends. It is beautiful to see how people support one another in these situations, either by cooking or by buying.

On Wednesdays Fr. Corrado comes and we have the Eucharist in the Comboni Chapel of Villa, which is a rather intimate setting because only few people attend. On Sunday there are more people, including the catechism children and the confirmation young people, who have their classes before Mass. The young people who play the guitar and sing never miss. Andrea and Paula started meeting with them, but now the majority moved on to be catechists and two commitments a week are too much, so that regretfully they had to let these meetings go. The close relationship, the cooperation and the affection they have with them is very evident. They are super nice with me as well. In general they all extend to me the love they have for them.

Last Saturday there was a day for the candidates for Confirmation from the various chapels. It was held in Comboni Hall, next to the Comboni Missionaries’ church of the Good Shepherds, located in Independéncia, a slightly better neighborhood with asphalt and located closer to the city. They asked us to give a talk, “Jesus calls you,” and also our personal witness. It was hard but, between the three of us, we came up with a neat interactive presentation also as a way of organizing our witness. Finally we ended up with a very cool session, even though it was short because there were about 50 young folks and it was difficult to elicit their answers. But I think they liked it.

LMC Peru

We also go to Independéncia on Thursdays to pray Lauds with the Comboni Missionaries. Then we join them from breakfast and usually a meeting. The first week, some were going to the doctor, Corrado was leaving for Lima, so there was no meeting and we strolled back home. On the way we arrived at a place where we took pictures of the panoramic views of the volcanos, while even saving time to visit some old folks. They are wonderful, but they discuss a lot, intensely like adolescents. It is funny how they accuse each other of having someone around somewhere, when they are both as wrinkled up as raisins, and she is almost blind while he is deaf. An interesting couple.

This week we had the meeting which, to my surprise consisted in the lectio divina on the Sunday readings followed by a short meeting (what I considered a meeting) to organize upcoming events. At that time Corrado told us about the death of Fr. Jaime, a greatly cherished Comboni Missionary who worked in Arequipa for 10 years. Some anecdotes surfaced. On Monday we will have a Mass for him at the Good Shepherd.

I am happy that they have this weekly activity with the Comboni Missionaries that helps us to feel like a family. This way we do not relate only with Corrado, the pastor who usually comes to Villa, but with all the other fathers and brothers. Also, when there is a celebration we are invited, if they remember… Last Monday we went over to say goodbye to José who is going to Kenya. We spent a wonderful day in Moquegua (photo 8) where we visited the downtown and the museum of pre-Hispanic culture, and in Ilo, on the Ocean, where we took a boat ride and ate in a cevichería. We got our fill of riding a bus, but we took advantage when going by singing and sleeping, and coming back by chatting about our vocations with Frs. Corrado and Isidro.

We also had a ‘tourist day’ of our own through the downtown area of our city, taking advantage of our community day. Camera in hand, we visited the churches in the area and the Plaza de Armas.

The truth is that I see them more inserted and adjusted. They have control over situations, give time to the people without caring about their time or what they want to do, help in all activities wherever they are or are invited to join, are present in the parish and also have their own initiatives and projects, etc. But they also take time for themselves, or to stay home and pray together, to watch movies and shows, to write or read, and speak with their families… It is a very good witness and to share it with them is something special.

Very often I still find that I am out of it, when they speak of people and events, or something happens and, at a glance, they already know how plans have changed, while I am literally two steps behind, lost and understanding nothing. But this is normal, even though they make an effort to bring me up to date and to include me, it is difficult to summarize 10 months of living. So that I try not to be upset or feel bad, but rather simply listen and, if needed, ask.

I am happy when, during interminable bus rides, meals of community prayers, neat conversations come up on how they feel, how these months were, how they lived through this or that situation and how they do it now, how they faced (and at times still do) comparisons with other people who were here earlier, especially with Gonzalo and Isabel who are still much remembered by the people, because logically they had different ways of doing things. Then there is the relations with the Comboni Missionaries, and the Camilas, another religious group working in the area, and also with the Portuguese lay people. And there is no lack of conversation over plans for the future, dreams, desires… A lot, a lot of living.

And I also love the fun and laughter of every day, this touch of craziness they have, to see shows stretched out together in one bed, singing in the kitchen… Naturally there is no lack of reproaches and misunderstandings, because we all have different tastes and ways of doing things. But in general, we mix well and enjoy one another, I think.

We will continue to live and share this time of joint mission, discovering what life offers us each day among these people.

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Kisses to all. I love you

Aitana CLM

Reunion in Mission

LMC Peru

LMC Peru

Having lived with you the preparation for going to the missions, it was very moving to think of arriving in the land which is now your home. I left for our reunion in Peru, my first mission land of nine years ago, and to rekindle the call of my vocation.

Aitana, Spanish CLM

 

Days pass in the mission of Villa Ecológica and, while we walk among the people who welcome us, for several long months we have been wishing to increase our community and in some way share our lives and our experience of a missionary Jesus. The arrival of someone in the mission is a source of hope for us that we will be able to share how we have been transformed by the mission and to live all this with someone who has seen us being born as a community. All our conversations, all that we have shared so far in words and reflections, is now taking flesh and bones through the faces welcoming the arrival of Aitana.

Andrea and Paola, Portuguese CLM

 

LMC Peru

The reunion became real in the warm embrace that melted us into one. Together again. Slowly we are now catching up with things.  Actually, a year has passed since our community experience in Granada, a deep experience at the beginning of our journey, but it seems that time stood still. We were involved in different journeys, but always with mission in our heart, planting the roots of this wanting to be a thousand lives for mission. This was the cry of Comboni that continues to be the call making us leave the shore and take to the sea.

LMC Peru

The first days were spent in introductions and welcomes, gradually inculturating ourselves into the people and the country’s history from getting to know the local market to taking part in activities from the cradle up to the senior groups, passing through family visitation. We go from participating in the Eucharist to shared prayer with the MCCJ community by way of our own community prayers. Together we continue in the discovery of ourselves and of our life mission.

The CLM Ayllu Community, Peru

Aitana, Andrea and Paola