Building Parish Chapels (Peru)

April 12, 2010

In his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritae (paragraph 53), Pope Benedict urges us to work together for the common good:

The children with Pete and Fr. Gerry Despond

The development of peoples depends, above all, on recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side.

For 92 years, Columban missionaries have lived and worked side by side with people who have been socially, politically, economically and religiously oppressed for decades, often centuries, through no fault of their own. And, nowhere is Columban commitment to living side by side and working together more evident than in the community chapels in Peru.

Columban Father Ed O’Connell, who currently is living and working in Peru, noted that temporary chapels are often built when an area is first evangelized. These chapels provide a focal point, a beginning for the new Christian community. In areas where so many people are without reliable transportation, a chapel within walking distance is necessary to build faith communities, to serve the people and to encourage more active lay participation.

After a few years, more permanent structures are built for the communities. While most of the funding comes from generous benefactors, the local faith community provides the labor and some of the building materials. Working together, building their places of worship and outreach, strengthens the community’s bonds and their commitments to the Church and one another.

Project Mission

In early 2010, Fr. Ed began a project to build more chapels and expand their existing programs since the parishes are growing and spreading out over wider and outlying areas. With more than 60,000 Catholics in the area, more chapels and more services are needed. The chapels and their halls become meeting places for the community offering youth and healthcare services. The lay leadership teams are growing and taking on more responsibilities in the area of social issues. With such a wide pastoral presence, we are able to invite more people to hear the Good News and live and work together in true communion.

The chapels in Peru are good examples of a faith community living and worshipping together. We are part of the infinite family of God, and it is together that we make a difference.

Funding and Stability

Given the economic poverty of the people we serve in Peru, most of the monetary funding comes from our generous benefactors. Although the community is unable to fund the project, they provide something just as important, the time and the labor to build the chapels. Once the building materials have been purchased, the community does the rest. They ready the building site, clearing away any debris.

Once the site is ready, they start building the chapel – brick by brick, board by board. Anyone who has labored over a project, from a do it yourself home repair to knitting a sweater or scarf to mastering a new recipe in the kitchen knows the immense pleasure and satisfaction that comes from investing personal time and effort into a project. The local community invests in their future through the sweat of their brows and the calluses on their hands.