It was Pope Benedict who asked that 2013 be a “Year of Faith” – a special time to deepen our faith in Jesus and discover ways to dedicate our lives in service. There is no doubt that the humble lifestyle and inspired teaching of Pope Francis has given great encouragement to many people to place Jesus in a more central position in their lives.
What are we doing during the “Year of Faith“…
This question is often asked amongst the community during our meetings of the five neighboring parishes that make up our Northern Zone of the Prelature of Sicuani in the Southern Andes of Peru.
What are we doing in the parish of San Nicholás of Combapata…
It was not difficult to decide on our first priority, as there has been widespread concern in the region over the increasing number of suicides among youth. Emotional development and family problems are usually the cause, but in the larger cities, there has been an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol among the youth and an alarming rise in delinquency and early pregnancies. The aim of the secondary school leavers is to continue studying. This means that most live away from home (in a country where family ties are strong), and some face the disappointment of not gaining entry into the universities and higher education institutes.
Strengthening our Youth Formation Program…
Our first aim then was to strengthen our Youth Formation Program and make the parish a place where the youth feel welcome and at home. In Peru, colleges have teachers of religion prepared by the church and paid by the state. This year we are lucky to have Marisol and Abraham, two very dedicated teachers who not only deliver classes in the college, but have encouraged many youth to participate in the parish groups. The numbers of youth in the groups have doubled this year!
The aim of the program:
- Help and guide youth to better understand themselves as sons and daughters of the loving God.
- Form a solid network and support groups of friends.
- Discover the living person of Jesus through the Gospels.
- Deliver new social works that engage community; the most recent being to collect and recycle plastic bottles to avoid ongoing pollution and to protect the “Pacha-Mama” – Mother Earth.
The youth are very musical and when Combapata celebrated its centenary of municipal independence in November 2012, a number of musical instruments were donated to the parish by those now living in Cusco. We have been able to provide excellent music teachers and many young people are now learning to play and an orchestra has been formed.
As we live in a totally agricultural area, teaching horticulture is another activity for young students. A class from the Technical Institute works with the parish, where the parish provides space for gardens and hot-houses.
If our priority is the youth, then the adults have not been neglected. Pope Francis is continually calling us to go out to the streets and to reach out to community where there is need – Acts of the Apostles also tells us how the first communities meet in houses and reflect on the Gospels.
The parish invites our neighbors to also meet in nearby houses to sing, pray and reflect on the Gospel. We pray that 2013 be a “Year of Faith.”
Columban Fr. Donald Hornsey has been a missionary in Peru since 1999.