Encounters in Peru


During the Fall of 2023 I had the privilege of making two trips to Peru. The first was from October 18-25 and the second was from November 12-29. During these times in Peru, I had a variety of experiences that enhanced my understanding of the people and their culture while at the same time allowing me the opportunity to support Sister Sara Jimenez and the Peruvian Providence Associates.

While there I attended both the October and November Associate meetings. The Peruvian Providence Associates are a well-established group who are carrying on the legacy of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Carabayllo. They are committed to following in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul by assisting the poor and the vulnerable.

Peruvian Associates

At the October meeting the focus was on youth. The presentation looked at adolescents and their use of cellphones. One PowerPoint slide posed this thought: How to reconcile the Catholic faith and young people today? This certainly is not unique to Peru. At the November meeting the focus was on mental health. The presentation looked at emotional well-being, stress, anxiety, and the negative effects of television, especially regarding the news. I noticed that their news is dominated by reports of crime and violence. Good news stories are noticeably absent. The presentation ended by looking at things to do for good mental health. Both meetings opened with prayer and ended with time for sharing.

In November I had the opportunity to attend the two-day Assembly of Major Superiors of Religious Congregations with Sister Sara. The theme was Religious Life Walking Toward the Dawn of Synodality.

The presentations on the first day focused on the political crisis in the country. Since the November 2023 ousting of President Pedro Castillo, the country has experienced ongoing pockets of political unrest and violence. Curfews are in effect in these areas. Fortunately, Carabayllo, where Sister Sara focuses her ministry and where a good number of the Peruvian Associates reside, is not one of these areas. The political climate of instability holds social ramifications for the citizens. These include a food crisis, unemployment, refugees, illegal migrants, and violence against women.

The presentations on the second day focused on the Synod and a Synodal Church. After an excellent review of the synodal process thus far, religious congregations were encouraged to listen from the peripheries – the geographic, social, and existential peripheries. It was emphasized that a synodal church is called to witness to the love of God that is welcoming and inclusive. Pope Francis was quoted as saying that “a synodal church is a church that listens”.

A Country in Crisis

  • The country has had 6 presidents in 6 years.
  • Studies show that 8 out of 10 Peruvians are affected by criminality.
  • There is widespread insecurity because 1 out of 3 persons in the Lima region is a victim of a crime.
  • Peru is experiencing its worst recession in 33 years.
  • More than half the population lacks sufficient food.
  • 42 out of 100 children between the ages of 6-35 months have anemia.
  • The next generation of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) are active in drug trafficking and violent crime.
Ministry Visits

The opportunities for ministry visits in the countryside with Sister Sara Jiménez were the highlights of my time in Peru.

The first visit was to meet the family whose home burned to the ground in August. The Peruvian Associates were able to provide some assistance to them. When Sister Sara and I visited them in October, the parents were proud to show us their tiny, prefabricated fibreboard house. The family was most grateful for all the assistance they had received to get back on their feet again.

The second visit was to Fray Martin in the countryside. Sister Sara Jiménez plans to serve hot chocolate and panettones to the mothers and children in that village on December 23, just before Christmas. The purpose of our visit to Fray Martin was to speak with some of the mothers to make the preliminary arrangements for the Christmas gathering. The photograph above shows one of the families we visited. They live in a poor two-room house on the hillside.

The prefabricated house and the family in front of their newly rebuilt home.
Sister Sara on left with family in Fray Martin.

Another visit was to Las Estrellas del Sol Naciente (photos below), the communal kitchen that Sister Sandra Shannon and I had visited last year. Once again, our visit was warmly welcomed. Adjacent to the kitchen is a small daycare that we also visited. Sister Sara was able to gift both the kitchen and the daycare with a supply of pitchers and glasses for their use.

Sister Sara speaking with the cook.
A gift of pitchers and glasses for the kitchen.

A different ministry experience was the opportunity to be present at a Christian Workers’ Movement meeting in Villa Esperanza. This has been an annual visit for me and has allowed me to develop a more personal relationship with these women who have devoted most of their lives to the Christian Workers’ causes.

All in all, the total of three weeks that I spent in Peru this year, proved to be an educational and enriching experience allowing me to build relationships with some of the people in Carabayllo. I look forward to next year’s visit and all the experiences that it will hold.

Christian Workers’ Movement meeting.