Peru: "It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church" Renovation of the Parish Church of the Immaculate Co

Project Code: 234-01-19

There are no other countries in South America where the shortage of priests is more acute than in Bolivia and Peru. Even though some 84% of Peru's population of 28 million has been baptized as Catholics, there is a great lack of even the most basic knowledge of the Catholic faith and an acute shortage of the necessary pastoral care. As a result, sects are flourishing, so that today up to 10% of Peruvians belong to one or other of the many evangelical "free churches" – and the trend is increasing rapidly.

The sects are on the advance even in the remotest regions, including here, in the Vicariate of San José de Amazonas, in the extreme north-east of the country, on the frontier with Colombia. This is an exceptionally remote region, most easily reached by aircraft or by boat along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. Even apart from the growth of the sects, the sheer remoteness, inaccessibility and scattered nature of the settlements pose great challenges for the priests and missionaries here.

In many of the smaller towns and villages the sects have already built small chapels and in this way they are luring away many of the Catholics. Altogether there are close to 800 small Catholic settlements along the rivers Amazon, Napo, Putumayo and Yavari and their countless tributaries – all in an area of some 60,000 square miles. One of these centers is the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, which has been in existence since 1956. Because of the shortage of priests, most of these small communities are looked after by religious Sisters or lay missionaries, who conduct Liturgies of the Word and prepare the faithful for reception of the sacraments.

The poverty here is almost unimaginable. Most of the Catholic faithful are simple campesinos who barely manage to scrape a meager living from the land. Socially and culturally they have few prospects. This is one reason, perhaps, why the Church plays such an important role in their lives. Almost all the inhabitants of the villages and of the homesteads and settlements in the surrounding area come to the churches to worship. And the parish church itself is both House of God and a communications center at the same time–a place of shared prayer, but at the same time also a social and cultural meeting place.

This is very much the case in Pevas, but time has not been kind to their parish church. Bishop Miguel Olaortua Laspra has visited the community personally and seen for himself the state of the church, which was built in 1968. The rain and heat have caused the roof to rust through by now and the water drips through onto the altar missals. It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church, since at any moment pieces of the ceiling can break away and fall down.

Given these conditions, the Bishop wants the church to have a new roof. "Unfortunately, the vicariate is not in a position to cover the costs of the repairs itself," he writes. "We are therefore appealing to your generosity and would be most grateful if you can help us."

The parishioners themselves are willing to play an active part in renovating the church, but their efforts alone will not be enough. And so we were happy to promise them a contribution of $9,000.  Will you help fulfill this promise so these local faithful in Peru can repair their church and have a safe place to worship?



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