More than 30 years ago, a Peruvian woman dedicated to working with the poor of her country drew my attention to a text in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Soon after, this friend of mine died in the service of her people. Ever since, I have tried to work so that others may have life. Aware of successes and failures in this, I am trying to live out that mission to be, with Jesus Christ, a source of life to others.
I am in charge of a parish of about 60,000 people in Lima, Peru’s capital city. About half of these people have moved here in the past 10 years. They have purchased small building blocks in the housing programs that invade what was fertile farmland. Most have electricity connected but are still organizing the installation of water and sewerage. Most roads have yet to be paved.
Father Peter Woodruff and his parishioners in Peru.
The challenge for me is how to work with the parish’s 14 communities so together we develop the participatory model that the people want and that will be supported by the bishop and the clergy of the diocese.
On another front, three years ago I enrolled in a master’s degree program, by research only, through the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University and have upgraded to doctoral studies. Continuing with field work part-time, I hope to soon finish writing the thesis.
The thesis is about the possibility of migrants from the Andes Mountains who come to Lima to creatively recognize and integrate key elements of their ancestral heritage into the ever-emerging urban culture of the capital city.
I have honed in on the Andean communal sense of life, and I hope this project might foster a revaluing of the Andean heritage that has been consistently denigrated for 500 years.
I believe if millions of Peruvians become openly proud of their heritage, a mighty life-force will be unleashed. I hope the finished thesis might be the raw material needed to help others come to a greater awareness of the possibilities within themselves.