A Sign of Peace

Columban Fr. Maurice Foley lives and works in Peru.
December 20, 2013

Sometime in the 1980´s there was the idea that the Church was Communion and community did not need elaborate buildings. What the community needed was communication and so went the argument that with more sophisticated communication we could count on a better Church.

Through several meetings we shared ideas to which was added the idea of more efficient communication instead of a big building as a way of forming a Christian community. My revolutionary idea would get a try, but where would we celebrate the Eucharist? In the park was the solution. How are we going to elect a parish council in the park? What about First Holy Communion, Legion of Mary, charismatic renewal, Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups? Where were they going to meet?

At this stage answers were getting less and less convincing. For a whole month Mass in the park went off very well because of the inherent devotion the people had to the Mass. Meetings of any kind were a disaster. Passersby wanted to know what was happening thinking that a political rally was involved. We were confused with the meetings of Resident Associations and with meetings of Parents and Teachers. Simply speaking, the park was not the answer.

The Parish Council could see that a visible Church was the best communication in the circumstances. It was their house, their home and their administrative center. In the maelstrom of urban life there had to be somewhere for a Christian to be himself and to know his neighbors in the peace of a building that proclaims other values than what he meets on the streets, the market place or what he views every night on TV where his fears are increased and his confidence put to a daily test.

Of course we finally built the Church and a whole new life has developed around it like we never anticipated. Central to the development was the communication factor: spiritual and inspirational and not domineering. On the 25th anniversary of its construction the Church named John Paul II, the Parish Council president addressed the assembled faithful: “There was a time when we were like sheep without a shepherd, but God took pity on us and gave us what we most needed – a home where we could communicate with Him who loves us.”