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Saint Mary’s students make pilgrimage to Peru

| Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For the second straight year, 10 Saint Mary’s students made a pilgrimage to Peru over fall break, which students said was a spiritual encounter in the people and the places of Peru.

Senior Sarah Lipinski said the week was eye opening and insightful.

“Everyday brought new experiences that both challenged me as well as have a greater appreciation for the communities we encountered in our journey,” Lipinski said. “We visited local schools, a hospice, built a house and delivered food to families who were being sponsored by families in the US.”

The pilgrimage, which is funded by a grant from NetVUE, is not a mission or service trip, which assistant director of campus ministry Regina Wilson said distinguishes it from other fall break experiences.

“While we do do things for people, we did build a bamboo house which is what everyone does, the point is to meet people and to encounter Christ in them,” Wilson said. “We are not going specifically to do things for you because we can do things for you. We are going so you know that you can reveal Christ to us, and that’s a big big distinction on this trip.”

The group traveled to the northwest part of the country to the city of Piura, Wilson said. The students stayed in Santisimo Sacramento Parish, where Fr. Joseph Uhen, Notre Dame class of 1980, serves as pastor.

“We spent four days [in Piura] and then three days with the Sisters of the Holy Cross who are stationed in Lima,” Wilson said. “There are six sisters there. The sisters tell stories about these places and the Peruvian people and their experiences with the Peruvian people.

“So we meet the Peruvian people through their eyes, through the ministry that they’ve done and then we travel to a town two hours in the mountains called Cacachaqui.”

The Peruvian women who work at the parish in Cacachaqui did not have a pastor before the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Wilson said.

“The sisters started working with the women there to get them to take leadership to realize that they could do that and they were able to start allowing people to come and be baptized,” Wilson said.

Wilson said students grasped the idea that the Peruvian women in the parish share the same experience as students here in America.

“One of the students was realizing that what students here experience is what the women there experience with the sisters is the same kind of inspiring encouragement to be women of faith and to be leaders in faith community,” Wilson said. “That was a really great insider thought that we shared in that group of Peruvian women and North American women. All of us have been shaped in some way by the ministry of sisters.”

Lipinski said the students attend the Peruvian festival Señor de Los Milagros, a devotion to which is said to protect Lima from earthquakes. She said she has never felt so connected to her Catholic faith than at the festival.

“While the needs of Peru are great, they do not lack in their sense of community and in their faith,” Lipinski said.

Senior Allison Cox said the group was active in the local communities while in Peru.

“We brought along arts and crafts for the children, we took their pictures with a instant camera and allowed them to decorate construction paper with their picture on the front,” Cox said. “We spoke with the mothers of many of the children in the afternoons regarding their experiences with their church in Mantucana and the faith community there. Overall it was a wonderful trip, and gave great perspective of a different part of the world.”

Six to seven weeks before the trip, students prepared by with relevant readings, Wilson said.

“We read a document by John Paul II called ‘Ecclesia in America,’” Wilson said. “We read a book on pilgrimage, get people to start talking about themes in their life of conversion and encounter and solidarity so they can prepare and look at the whole experience through those lens.”

“Students that did come wanted to have that experience, and most of them wanted to have a profound experience of faith in a culture that is very different from ours.”

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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