SMC students to peruse Peru this fall break
By HALEIGH EHMESEN | Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Fall break will be a bit more than rest and relaxation for six Saint Mary’s students who will go on pilgrimage to Peru.
Assistant director of Campus Ministry Regina Wilson said she will lead the students as they visit a group of Sisters of the Holy Cross, the communities these sisters serve and an impoverished parish.
It is an important distinction that the trip is a pilgrimage rather than a service trip, Wilson said. The difference in emphasis is subtle, but the focus of a pilgrimage is seeing the experience as a spiritual journey of faith, she said.
Wilson said this focus comes about by recognizing the people they encounter as fellow pilgrims in a spiritual sense.
“Each and every moment we recognize that the people we go to meet are fellow pilgrims on a journey of faith in their own lives,” she said.
Wilson said, accordingly, a significant aspect of the pilgrimage is interacting with everyone in the communities they visit.
“As pilgrims, we go to meet people and to experience the ways their lives are holy and thus, the ways that we might meet the Christ that is revealed in their holiness,” Wilson said. “Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t be doing things, but we hope to be doing things with the children, youth and elderly of the community – to have interactions with them about their lives.”
Wilson said she and the students prepared for the trip during hour-long meetings once per week this semester. They read a book about pilgrimage and Pope John Paul II’s book “Ecclesia in America.”
Junior Kristen Millar said the weekly sessions centered upon assigned readings and discussion of aspects of poverty and solidarity. The students also learned about Peruvian history and culture.
“[The sessions] helped us to recognize in ourselves why we are going and helped to prepare for experiences there,” Millar said. “The readings also helped us to understand how we fit into the community in Peru.”
The Holy Cross sisters, who live and serve in Lima, will bring the pilgrims to visit a group of women the sisters serve and minister to in Matucana, Wilson said. The group also will visit local religious sites, including shrines to St. Rose of Lima and to St. Martin de Porres.
The group will visit a parish in northwestern Peru called SantÃsimo Sacramento. Sophomore Madeline Harris said Fr. Joe Uhen, a Notre Dame graduate of 1980, is the pastor of this parish of approximately 30,000 people who live in extreme poverty.
Harris said the group will work with the parish’s staff to create bags of food for local families. But she said she most looks forward to spending time with the parishioners themselves.
“Just talking to them and hearing about their life experiences compared to my own will be an amazing experience in and of itself,” Harris said.
Wilson said Saint Mary’s Campus Ministry sponsors pilgrimages exclusively to places where the Sisters of the Holy Cross live and serve. In the past, the office sponsored a pilgrimage to Monterrey, Mexico.
A grant called “Women’s Call in Church and Society” made possible this year’s pilgrimage to Peru, Wilson said. Saint Mary’s received funding from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
“The grant’s purpose is to help students with vocational discernment,” Wilson said. “Campus Ministry has developed this particular way, the pilgrimage experience, as a way for students to look at questions of identity and vocation.”
Millar said she is most excited about meeting the Peruvians in the communities they will visit.
“I can’t wait to experience the joy that they have and learn about the problems that they are facing socially and economically – and hopefully share a little bit of myself with them,” she said.
The pilgrimage is about experiencing solidarity in shared faith, Wilson said.
“We are hoping the students meet Christ in the encounter with the people they meet and the holy places they visit,” Wilson said. “And that it is an experience of communion and solidarity in another culture.”