By Anne Marie Amacher
When the gift of a monstrance was displayed to the congregation of Chapel of Our Lady of Reconciliation in Arequipa, Peru, the crowd erupted in applause.
Members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf visiting the Peru chapel had brought the monstrance and other gifts: tabernacle, chasubles and stoles, priest’s alb, small crucifixes, holy medals, rosaries, rosary pamphlets, Bibles, school supplies and a laptop computer for the chapel’s pastor.
Lourdes’ parishioners were in Peru in late June as part of a medical mission and then visited the chapel with which the parish has a sister relationship.
Dr. Joe Lohmuller and his wife, Ann, have been traveling to Peru for medical mission work for years. He visited the chapel last year, which is about 20 minutes from where he does his mission work. Upon his return, he spoke with his parish’s peace and justice commission about his experience. The commission, with approval from the pastoral council and Father Tim Sheedy, the pastor, established a sister relationship with the Peru chapel, parishioner Cathy Thennes said. She also is parish nurse at Lourdes.
Lourdes and the Peru chapel have a “spiritual connection” and the relationship is not based on financial support, she said.
Each person on the trip brought two bags filled with 50 pounds of medical supplies and religious items.
Following the medical mission, the Lourdes group traveled to the chapel and met with Father Marcio Paulo de Souze, SCV, pastor of Our Lady of Reconciliation and six other chapels. “If a priest is full-time at a church, then it is a parish,” Thennes said. “Otherwise it is called a chapel in Peru.”
Lucila, the pastoral coordinator, greeted the group. They gave her the items that had been collected by people from Lourdes’ parish and school. The visitors toured the chapel, daycare center and medical clinic connected to the back of the building. The clinic and chapel are supported by Fr. Marcio’s congregation. The daycare center is supported by the congregation and Peruvian government.
As they walked through the chapel, the Lourdes visitors could see sunlight stream through the many holes in the roof, Thennes said. The cement steps were crumbling and the wiring for the sound system was unsafe and exposed to the elements.
Besides prayers, the Lourdes delegation asked how else it could assist the Peru chapel for the long run. It was decided that repairing the roof was an important task. The chapel is looking at two options: a tin roof that is cheaper to buy and install, or a cement roof that will last much longer. The estimated cost for a new roof is between $19,000 and $25,000. Lourdes will contirbute financiall to that project, Thennes said. But the Peruvians are very proud people and haven’t asked for anything, except prayers.
The celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi was observed while the Lourdes visitors were in Peru. Mass is held each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Thennes said the chapel holds about 200, but she thinks many more people packed the church and flowed outside for the feast.
During the Mass Fr. Marcio held up each of the items for the congregation to see. “They were so overjoyed,” Thennes said, “especially when they saw the monstrance. They didn’t have one.”
Following the 2 ½-hour Mass, a reception was held in honor of Lourdes parish. During that celebration Fr. Marcio blessed the rosaries, which were then passed to the congregation.
“They have so little, but were so generous,” Thennes said.
She continues email correspondence with parish leaders in Peru. She uses an online translation program to convert Spanish into English and vice versa. “It’s not perfect, but works well.”
She said the Peruvians ask that the spiritual relationship continue and that is the most important aspect of their relationship.