We would like to share Sr. Catherine, a novice with the Handmaids, experience in Piura, Peru, this past April through July 2016. Please read her personal reflection and see her photos below…
A tiny neighbor runs up and throws her skinny arms around my waist, looking up expectantly with a big smile.
¡Hola pequeña! ¿Cómo estás?
These little greetings, peppered my dusty walk to and from school in the small neighborhood of “El Indio,” outside the northern Peruvian city of Piura- God’s joyful hospitality channeled through small children.
Four Handmaids’ ministries in El Indio, share the responsibility for accompanying the many parish groups, administration and religious education at the Fe y Alegria school, which serves children ages 4-17. They have been in the neighborhood since the 1970s, arriving soon after it came into existence as a squatters’ village. I had the opportunity to spend 2 1/2 months collaborating with our sisters there this Spring, as part of my novitiate formation.
In its early days and still today, some taxi drivers raise their eyebrows and shake their head when asked if they will take you to El Indio. Its reputation has some basis in truth, but, as is almost always the case, falls far short of capturing the fullness of the reality of the barrio. In my short time there, I was struck by both the daily struggle of many families who simply could not make ends meet as well as the beautiful and unassuming Christian community that flourished in the school and parish, through which spiritual, as well as material nourishment flowed. There were the parents preparing one another and then their children for first communion; young adults mentoring children in a group that merged play, team building and Christian formation; students reflecting on how to apply the pope’s writings on mercy and care of creation in their lives; the faithful adorers and associates, to name just a few. What I witnessed shining forth through these groups was a genuine engagement with the wisdom and challenge of the gospel- people taking seriously the invitation to seek, knock, follow and rely on their faith to guide them through the challenges of life.
One particular experience that stands out in my mind was a gathering of all of the leaders of the parish groups. We met in front of El Indio’s small chapel and then marched with songs through the streets, inviting others to join the parish community. When we arrived at our meeting place, each group led an ice breaker or a sing along and then we all participated in an activity centered on mercy. Our groups included children and adults and the songs and activities were the occasion for much laughter and collaboration. I couldn’t help but notice how no one seemed bored or embarrassed or aloof. We were engaged with one another in the shared joy of recognizing ourselves, one another and all of creation as known, loved, sought out, pardoned, called and sent to serve.” — Sr. Catherine’s reflection on her travels to Piura, Peru.
To learn more about how to get involved with the
Handmaids in Haverford, PA, and worldwide please click here.