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Parish house will embolden evangelisation

Updated: Oct 12


Gerard Gough


IT CANNOT be overstated just how vital the presence of a priest is in the parishes and dioceses in which they serve, but this is perhaps particularly salient with regards to those who serve in a missionary country or territory.

Earlier this year, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy released a new document to help guide the reform of parish communities, entitled The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church.

Within it was the apt description of the parish as a ‘house among houses,’ a permanent sign of the Risen One in the midst of His people as well as adding that ‘the missionary nature of the parish is fundamental for evangelisation.’ The instruction stressed the importance of a focus on spiritual dynamism and pastoral conversion based on the proclamation of the Word of God, the sacramental life and the witness of charity, in particular the witness of faith in charity and the importance of caring for the poor, which the parish evangelises.

The role of the parish priest as pastor of the community was also given great weight. They are expected to be at the service of the parish—not the other way round—and their role ‘involves the full care of souls.’

Impact

With this in mind, Missio Scotland’s second project in the Sicuani Prelature of Peru—the construction of a parish house in San Sebastian de Llusco (above top)—is one that it is hoped will have a great evangelising impact upon the parish and its parishioners.

“Fr Urbano Quispe will be the resident parish priest in the house and will carry out pastoral work from there to the wider district,” Bishop Pedro Bustamante of the Sicuani Prelature explained (above). “A permanent resident for a priest allows him to pay closer attention to the parishioners and their spiritual and material needs. It will allow him to more easily reach the nearest communities. We hope that there will eventually be another priest living with him so that they can develop a joint priestly life.”

Care amid crises

The need to care for the spiritual and material needs of those who live in the District of Llusco is crucial given the tumult that they have had to live with in the past few years. On March 3, 2018 a State of Emergency was declared in the district for a period of two months due to mass displacement in the area as a result of intense rainfall (above). Approximately 84.9 per cent of Llusco’s inhabitants live in rural areas and work in agriculture and some 54 families were affected as a result of the displacement. A medical outpost was destroyed, while irrigation and basic sanitation systems collapsed. The displacement also resulted in the loss of 26 hectares of crops and one kilometre of the Cusco-Apurímac highway was blocked off.

In Llusco, the incidence of total poverty is 85.1 per cent and extreme poverty is 56.4 per cent. There are high infant mortality rates in the wider region and 20 per cent malnutrition.

“The low economy facing the community of Llusco, added to the recent events of a geological fault in the district that caused the collapse of the town declaring itself in a state of emergency and the climate conditions of the area, make a difficult panorama visible for the parish priest and his parish action, but extremely necessary and urgent for a population that today more than ever needs to show the love of God through the spiritual strength that the Prelature can bring through its priests,” Bishop Bustamante said.

“The disaster and subsequent events takes its toll on the spirituality of a population that feels forgotten. This is the time when pastoral activity should be strengthened to help in the spiritual field and with humanitarian aid, so that people can face adversity, feeling that they have the accompaniment of the Church and the presence of God.

“The prelature wishes to keep alive and strengthen the faith of the people with the presence of pastoral work that shows God as the Father who accompanies them in their daily effort to get ahead despite the circumstances.”

“We believe that the construction of a small parish house that houses two priests and thus facilitates the dedication of more hours of pastoral presence and an increase in parish activity, is necessary,” Bishop Bustamante continued. “It will help to intensify pastoral care and promote community development in the district. Moreover, the permanent priest (Fr Urbano Quispe) does not have a residence that provides security in these times of disaster that the district has experienced.

“This parish house will be built so that it can withstand the rainy and cold seasons and will offer a stable residence that houses two priests from the area and can also welcome missionaries who can support us in evangelisation efforts.”

The residents of the district are humble, charitable and low-income people, who need all the material and spiritual support that can be provided. Thus, this parish house would act as the catalyst for an increase in pastoral work, welcoming those who work and sacrifice for the faithful and the friendly hand of the Church to spiritually strengthen this community in Llusco.

A Celtic connection

When Fr Pat Hennessy (above) was informed of this second project being supported by Missio Scotland in his former missionary homeland of Peru, he was delighted and also explained his connection with Bishop Pedro Bustamante, the man charged with overseeing the project.

“Two years ago they were giving medals to these missionaries in Cork and when I went here was this bishop, Pedro Bustamante,” Fr Pat recalled. “He said ‘Patricio’ and I said ‘yes?’ He said ‘you visited our village when I was 14 years of age and you stayed for a couple of days and I’ve never forgotten you! ‘God,’ I said ‘that’s amazing!’’

“A parish house is important because of presence,” he said. “The reason why people built a house for me was because then they knew that I would stay with them. The fact that the priest has a residence will allow him to live among the people and that makes them feel so good it would break your heart. People might ask why you would build a house, but it’s a really good thing, it won’t just be a house for the priest, it will become bigger and it will probably have facilities like a hall and a pharmacy and so on and being able to share life with the people is a great thing.”

Please help us to aid those who are affected by poverty and environmental disasters in Peru and support evangelisation efforts in the country, especially those of Fr Quispe who wishes to share life more fully with his parishioners in Llusco.

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