St. Francis Xavier Mission Trip to Peru 2015, in Pictures
The fourth annual Saint Francis Xavier Mission Trip was another tremendous success. 38 young people from the United States, Canada, and Mexico accompanied 4 priests, 3 seminarians, and 3 sisters to Piura Peru from July 28th to August 10th.
Piura, which is located in the northwest corner of Peru, is not the most beautiful part of Peru from a natural point of view, being a barren, sandy desert. Supernaturally, however, it is very beautiful. Although there is much poverty, the roots of faith run very deep in the culture.
The members of the group spent their time in a variety of corporal and spiritual works of mercy. They built and repaired houses, visited orphanages, delivered food donations, painted a school, visited the sick, and assisted with catechesis. These experiences certainly made a lasting impact on everyone as they learned firsthand the beauty of making a sacrifice of oneself to serve those in need. There is also something very moving about being able to connect with people of a different culture and who live in very different circumstances through the bonds of Christian charity.
Each year the trip also makes a lasting impact on the participants on account of the friendships it engenders. On a large map that hangs in the refectory where the missionaries ate each day, a mark was placed on the city from which each missionary hailed, ranging from Vancouver to Guadalajara. The resulting impression was profound. These young people, most of whom had not known each other before, were united in a common commitment to the traditions of the Church and a desire to put their faith in action. In the words of one of the missionaries:
“I am certain that this trip and the persons on it will remain in my heart and prayers for the rest of my life.”
They shared work, prayer, recreation, exhaustion, and strong sense of accomplishment and renewal in their desire to be strong Catholics. They had opportunities to deepen their knowledge of the faith by submitting their questions to the priest-panel. And, of course, there were always opportunities for one on one conversations, confession, or spiritual direction.
This year’s trip was especially unique in the degree to which the participants were truly missionaries of the Traditional Mass. Almost every day, the four priests were sent to celebrate Masses in the scattered villages the comprise the parish of Santisimo Sacramento. Some of these places are very rarely visited by a priest. Some had not had Mass since the Saint Francis Xavier Mission Trip had come last year. And for others it had been even longer. In many of these places confessions were heard for the first time in decades. The boys assisted by serving and many of the girls enhanced the beauty of the Masses with sacred music. Everywhere that the Mass was introduced, it was received positively, with love and enthusiasm. Many people eagerly wanted to know when the group would be returning with this treasure again. Not only was the ability to bring the Mass a gift for the Peruvians, but for the missionaries it opened the eyes of many to the great blessing it is to have regular access to the Mass and the other sacraments, especially in this beautiful and holy form.
The greatest fruit for the missionaries who participate in this trip is that for two weeks, what is most important in life is brought emphatically into focus. In a short time, the young people are able to form relationships with the people in Peru, even though most of them do not speak the same language. There is a great joy in holding and playing with the numerous children met in Peru, in visiting the very simple but very welcoming homes of the Peruvians, and even in making sacrifices of one’s sleep and comforts. Through these experiences, and even the more difficult but equally beautiful ones of visiting the dying and the suffering with the consolations of Church, one realizes in the Peruvians and in oneself that happiness is certainly not a product of one’s material possessions. Certain of Our Lord’s words perhaps, as a result of this trip, ring all the more true: “Seek ye therefore the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be added unto you;” and “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As one missionary wrote:
“I will never be the same again because of this Peru trip. I mean, what person gets the opportunity to travel to South America, do mission work, and go to twenty-four Traditional Latin Masses in about ten days-? Not many, I think, and I am so grateful to have been given this life-changing opportunity by you and the Fraternity.
I hope and pray that this trip changed me for the better and formed me into a more generous and mature person, but as you said to all the missionaries in Peru, the hard missionary work is at home, and in the everyday mundane things. I hope to become a better missionary in my own home and parish, and I hope to see you next year!”
(our thanks to Fr. Daniel Heenan, FSSP, for the contribution of this article)
August 24, 2015