Seminarian reflection written by Keegan McGarry from the Diocese of Atlanta.
I recently had the opportunity to spend my long weekend break with fourteen of my pre-theology brothers and two faculty priests on mission in Piura, a desert city in the northern part of Peru. Upon arriving in Lima, we took some time to visit and pray in various churches, including the ones where Saints Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres are buried. Next we traveled to Piura, where we were eagerly welcomed outside the airport by parishioners and staff of Santissimo Sacramento parish, which would be our home for the week. This incredible parish, in addition to offering daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and faith formation classes, provides a grade school and a trade school, two orphanages, a food pantry, a hospice care facility, and multiple smaller chapels throughout the area.
Although this was my third mission trip to Peru, it was my first as a seminarian, and this one had a more distinctly pastoral character than my previous trips. Throughout the week, we not only helped to build bamboo houses and deliver food, but we also brought communion to the sick, visited families for house blessings, and spent time with the girls at one of the orphanages. It was simultaneously inspiring and humbling for me to see my brother seminarians so fearlessly loving and serving the people we encountered throughout our time in Piura, even if they knew little Spanish.
Reflecting on the entire trip, I am reminded of a moment from the beginning of our pilgrimage. While waiting in the airport for our red-eye flight to Peru, we found a mostly empty gate and prayed the Liturgy of the Hours in community. After we’d finished, a woman who had heard us singing approached us and asked for our prayers. This encounter was a reminder that though we were traveling to Peru, our mission of service and love as future priests started before we arrived, and certainly didn’t conclude upon our return.