Mundelein seminarians and faculty were welcomed at the Madre del Redentor Orphanage in Piura, Peru and by Father Ponchie and the people of the Tohono O’odham nation in Arizona. Truly God’s beauty is in the people and the land at these missions.
Arizona Reflection by Matthew Howard (PT2 Atlanta):
Admittedly I did not go with any intention to get something out of it, in fact in response to Fr. Dennis Spies before I left I said that I was going in order “to do the Work,” which for me means to do the task the Lord has called us to do.
What ended up happening on this trip, with my class along with Frs. David Olson and Brad Zamora, is that the Lord showed up and showed out in the simplicity of the Nation and its Franciscan missionaries. After passing through a boarder patrol checkpoint, we arrived to a beautiful land with majestic mountains adorning the horizons and every thorny plant and cactus to remind you of the dangers of the desert. Before we knew it Fr. Ponchie, of the San Solano Missions, has us going out into the Nation to break bread in the Mass among the communities of the Tohono O’odham people.
Following this we came to find ourselves hiking, more rock climbing than hiking, up the Sacred Mountain Waw Kiwulik; where in the native religion the creator I’Itoi dwells in a cave. During the missionary days the stories of I’Itoi had prepared fertile ground for the O’odham to embrace the Catholic missionary message of salvation in Christ.
In the next few days I had two profound experiences that I am still praying over. The first happened the following day as we were cleaning up articles that had been left behind by migrants after having traversed an unforgiven desert, that has become a main corridor for immigration and claimed hundreds of lives. Among the articles was a Minnie Mouse bookbag that I have seen many elementary schoolgirls wearing, only this one was torn and worn from the desert’s thorns and heat. This knocked the wind out of me to where I had to throw the bag back in the wheelbarrow to avoid breaking down in tears.
The other experienced happened on Ash Wednesday as we went into the Nation’s prison in pairs to offer Communion services and ashes to various prison blocks. In the block I had to honor to worship with, Brother Joseph Brom and I encountered three men, who at the end of the service we offered for them kept coming up with songs/hymns for us to sing in praise to God. The one though I had strike me was, “even here, men sing the praises of God.”
With these and so many other experience, too numerous and personal to recount, we found the Lord waiting for us in the Tohono O’odham Nation and most especially in the Work He tasked us to do.
Peru Reflection by Nick Le (PT2 Atlanta):
After miraculously changing flights and flying out of O’Hare Friday evening, we briefly visited St. Rose and the historic part of Lima, and then flew to Piura where we spent the rest the week. In Piura, we stayed at and joined in the beautiful ministries of Santisimo Sacrmento Parish alongside their lay staff, several seminarians from Piura, and a few college missionaries.
We had a rich and amazing experience of ministries and service to our neighbors each day. Of particular highlights, we celebrated Sunday mass in a chapel (really a giant tent) and witnessed the incredible faith of the people gathered there. While they had little, they had much faith and love of Jesus. We also celebrated Ash Wednesday mass at a prison. Also, several of us had the opportunity to accompany Fr. Ed in making hospital visits where he would bless, give communion, and hear confessions from countless people hungry for the sacraments and God’s care. And we visited a girls orphanage, Hogar Madre del Redentor, multiple times where we enjoyed playing “cemento” (freeze tag) and other games with the girls.
We all had an incredible time serving, ministering, and simply being with our neighbors at the orphanage, hospital, prison, village chapels, house that we built, homes where we gave communion, and especially in the mass as we praised God. It was a blessed and grace filled time to enter into ministry and witness the beauty of the priesthood in a place that has little material possessions but has great faith in God and gratitude for the priesthood. We are grateful for our time together on this mission trip and the witness of our beloved neighbors in Piura.