Fr. Peter Walsh, C.S.C., files his monthly post today not from Yale’s campus in New Haven, CT, but from our Holy Cross mission in Lima, Peru, where he has taken a group of students on spring break.
I´m writing this from the Centro Patricio Peyton, CSC, in Lima, Peru, where I am leading a group of Yale students on an Alternative Spring Break trip. The Peyton Center is an extraordinarily beautiful and comfortable building for weary students to stay after spending the day unloading wheel chairs donated from the United States or teaching English and Math to students at a local Fe y Alegria school. The dusty brown hills of Lima where the Peyton Center is located seem far from the moist, green Mayo that gave birth to Fr. Peyton, but his vision of strengthening family life through prayer and education in the faith is very much present in the work of this place.
This is my second time bringing Yalies to work in Lord of Hope Parish in Canto Grande, Lima, the center of Holy Cross ministry in the country. Lord of Hope is a parish of about 250,000 people and is organized into nineteen active chapels.
Each chapel would be considered a parish in most dioceses of the United States. With about ten Holy Cross priests living and working in Lima, obviously most of the parish work is carried by dedicated lay people. Tonight, our group had a chat with seven Peruvian university students who work in the parish as catechists. The Yale students are leaders at Saint Thomas More Chapel, so their discussions on their different countries of origin, the role of faith, and the social problems they face here in Peru and in the United States was fascinating.
While the conversation ranged from the phenomenon of Lady Gaga and what they like to do in their down time, both groups expressed concern that young people of both countries tend to be going it alone, looking out only for themselves rather than being concerned for others or having an investment in moral norms.
When one of the Peruvian students stated that the problems facing Peru can be helped by volunteers like us but can only be solved by Peruvians investing themselves, heads around the room started nodding in agreement. This hopeful exchange showed two things. First, the Catholic faith gives young people a healthy critique of their times and cultures that helps them see through some of the empty promises of modern life. Second, as much as being members of a universal Church gives us a broad network that crosses borders of every sort, such a transnational exchange has to recognize that our faith is lived out in local contexts, where people are empowered to confront the problems they face as people with hope. This interplay between being connected to a global network and yet entirely committed to a specific location marks the great work of the Holy Cross religious in Peru over the past forty years.