Australians in Peru on Missions Before World Youth Day
Lima 07/19/13 (Sodalit News – Perú). Looking to give as well as to receive, almost 600 World Youth Day pilgrims from Australia decided to pass through Peru to work as missionaries.
Jason Abougharrach is a young catholic of the Maronite rite. Recently he left is country for the first time. He is one of the 560 Australians who arrived in Lima as part of a mission trip before World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
“I always wanted to come to South America and I think it’s a privilege to be here,” Jason tells us after having hauled cement for a few hours to build a soccer field in the Pamplona Alta neighborhood, just south of the Peruvian capital.
The missions were organized by the Marian Fraternity of Reconciliation and the Christian Life Movement in Australia through the Catholic travel agency Harvest World Youth Day Tours.
A Cardinal Leading the Way
These young people are being accompanied by three bishops, including Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney and by 23 priests from different diocese and catholic groups throughout the country.
These young people and enthusiastic missionaries are members of different groups of Australian Catholics including the Archdiocese of Sydney and other diocese, the Australian Catholic University, the Catholic Education Office, the Maronite community in Australia, and the Antioch youth movement.
“The kids really want to help, to give of themselves to the community in Pamplona Alta,” comments Lorena Portocarrero, the local superior of the Marian Fraternity of Reconciliation in Sydney. “They are excited, and they really want to give and love, and I can see how the Lord is preparing them to open their hearts and minds to Him so He can change their lives when they reach the peak of their trip at WYD in Rio de Janeiro.” Lorena came with two other fraternas, Eileen Leyne and Cecilia Figueroa to accompany this delegation. In Lima, the fraternas who welcomed the group had been preparing for these missions since last year. Young people from the Sodalit family helped them and joined the group of Australians to work as translators and coordinate the activities in the city.
An Opportunity Give and to Love
The missions came out of a desire that young people that traveled to World Youth Day would have the chance to do social work, to give to Latin America, no just to receive. During the five days they worked, they gave their time, sympathy, and apostolic spirit to the community in Pamplona Alta, a shanty town of extreme poverty located in the San Juan de Miraflores district of Lima, on a hill where basic services are scarce, the houses are built with straw and cardbord. The community also lacks good roads and the people who live there have to walk through mud and swamp areas.
Jason told us, “At home we have water, power, gas. Unfortunately these things would be a luxury to the people from Pamplona. Its beautiful to see the spirit the people here have. They are happy with the little they have and they share those things. They taught us Australians to be very thankful for the things we have, because we’ve got it easy.”
The main projects were the construction of three cement stairways to improve the accessibility to this place, a soccer field and a community dining area.
Other groups of Australian missionaries helped in health, dental hygiene, and child catechesis campaigns. A third group built a catholic chapel, since there are none in the area and non-catholic groups have a strong presence.
Gabriel Arauso, who lives in Pamplona Alta, talked about the benefits of the missionaries in the community: “For us it is gratifying having been able to coordinate with this group to put together the social aid project. It took us a long time to find the support we needed to build the soccer field and the staircase. This area will be greatly benefited by the recreational space for the kids, the youth. We are very thankful for the Austrian’s visit. Although we speak different languages, we understand each other through the work.”
The Australian priest Markum Elkazzi pointed out the importance of this work for the missionaries: “Our pope Francis has invited us to reach out to the poor. They are an important part of our Church, the body of the Church, and sometimes we forget about them. They are part of our family, and one should never forget his family.”
The Marian Fraternity of Reconciliation arrive in Sydney, Australia on invitation from Cardinal Pell in 2006. They have worked in universities, schools and have held with the pastoral needs of the Archdiocese, accompanying the growth of the Christian Life Movement.