It was Pope John XXIII who brought us from the Eastern United States to the Perúvian Andes. Fifty years later, the Congregation of Holy Cross continues to serve the Church which is now under the leadership of the first Pope to come from this part of world!
The arrival of the first Holy Cross men in the northern city of Cartavio had all the makings of movie: black robed missionaries visiting the sick and celebrating Mass in small adobe chapels with a few plantation owners seated in pews up front and sandaled sugar field and factory workers squeezed onto wooden benches in the back. That was 1963, and Holy Cross was there faithful to its missionary beginnings. A call had gone out to North American and European religious communities to send some of their members to serve the needs of the Latin American Church, and Holy Cross responded.
Now it’s 2013. We aren’t in Cartavio anymore and all of the Holy Cross faces here are new. A fifty-year-long road has been traced across the Perúvian map since then, marking where apostolic zeal and confidence in Divine Providence have taken us: from Cartavio to the coastal town of Chimbote, the highlands of Puno known for the waters of the great Lake Titicaca, the frontier town of Tacna and most recently to Perú’s sprawling urban capital.
We in Holy Cross have not only served with our heads, hands and hearts, but with our ears. During this half century the Lord has spoken to us through the Church leadership and through its holy people. We listened to the wisdom of those gathered by Pope John XXIII in Council during his brief but significant pontificate and then through the southern continent’s General Episcopal conferences in Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, Medellín, Santo Domingo and Aparecida.
At the same time—like those called together in those historic moments—Holy Cross men have listened to the joys, hope, fears and frustrations of the people around us whom we call neighbors, to understand better where and how to serve.
Finally, the road has led us here, to the heavily populated urban edge of Lima where we have worked the greater part of those fifty years. Our mission is to the urban poor focused intentionally on Education, Parish Ministry and Family.
We lead what might be the largest parish in the county; we run a school for 2,000 primary, elementary, special education, high school and technical education students; we operate the area’s only integral center for people with handicaps and their families; we head up an important research and development center for family life; we administer a large family health center; and provide programs, publications, and workshop to promote prayer in the family through the Rosary Apostolate.
At the same time young people from Holy Cross colleges and other institutions of higher education in the United States come here to learn and serve with us—a unique gift our international character has to offer to the Church.
With great joy and satisfaction we’ve been celebrating where the Lord has led us! Now, on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patronal feast of Holy Cross, we will pray in vigil with the people we serve. Then on September 15, the Feast Day itself, a couple of thousand people will come together with our local Bishop and the Congregation—Perúvians and expatriates—to celebrate the Mass of Thanksgiving which will bring to its conclusion this exciting jubilee year.
So, we’ve looked back for a moment—but only for a moment—to reverence the past with gratitude and to look forward to the future with hope. We’ve paused only briefly because we’re a restless bunch and because we know from insight and experience that all of the hard lessons learned, and the wonderful things that have happened over the years, are just a prelude to what the Lord wants to do for us, in us and with us on the road ahead.
Fr. Don Fetters, C.S.C., professed Final Vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on September 12, 1975 and was ordained a priest on September 4, 1976! He has served for most of his religious life and priesthood in the Congregation’s missions in Latin America.Currently, he serves in Perú, working in vocations and formation. Learn more about the patrons of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and read Fr. Don’s vocation story.