“This can be the beginning of something far bigger than your lives…”
On Thursday 8th August, a group of youth, lead by Fr.Clinton Farrugia, left for a missionary experience in Peru filled with hope and enthusiasm but also with a certain uneaseness in the face of the unknown. Meetings and talks were held weekly months before to help us prepare ourselves psychologically and spiritually for this experience, but nothing could ever prepare us for the beauty that God had in mind for us and for his people in Arequipa, Peru.
A number of fundraising activities were also held before we left in order for us to be able to assist the MSSP Fathers in Peru and while we can never do enough to show our gratitude for the bigger community within the Missionary Society of St.Paul, we thank you for we could feel first-hand your backing and support throughout the whole experience.
We spent our first few days in Lima getting to know the place and the rich culture which forms the life and soul of our Peruvian brothers and sisters. It was also a great time for us to get to know each other on a deeper level before we set foot in Arequipa, where five MSSP parishes are situated.
We were later introduced to the beauty, mystery and charm of Arequipa. Arequipa is a remarkable place, known for its fertile surrounding countryside, its blue sky and the imposing peak of Misti, the snow-capped volcano that serves as a backdrop to this historic and bustling city.
Our missionary experience in Peru can be sub-divided in three dimensions of equal importance, animated by the spirit and tradition of the Missionary Society of St.Paul:
i. Learning to live the fraternal life in community:
Throughout the experience we had to learn to live and work together, as brothers and sisters, to achieve our common missionary aim. This was challenging at times given the rich diverse personalities and backgrounds we come from but it was also a grace to learn from each other and to support each other that led to the deepening of our friendship with each other.
The group was divided in four groups. Each group took turns in doing various chosen activities amongst which was helping in preparing our meals as well as the cleaning afterwards. We also adopted the ‘buddy system’ wherein each one of us was responsible for the care and support of another member of the community throughout the experience of living together in mission.
ii. Getting acquinted with a life imbued with prayer:
Each day started with prayers in which we took time to get in touch with the Lord’s spirit, as well as with was happening around and inside us throughout the whole missionary experience. Frequent celebrations of the Eucharistic Mass, spiritual sharing and various catechesis held by Fr.Alex were also vital for us in order to carry out with love and meaning the mission entrusted to us as well as to live meekly and eduringly the challenges of fraternal life in community.
iii. Being sent to the poor and the vulnerable:
Being sent to the poor was another important aspect for our mission. These activities were led by Fr.Alex and his team of local Peruvians. Our work included the maintenance of one of the multipurpose halls which is used for various meetings and activities which was at times hard and tedious but also fruitful and important for the people we wanted to serve and support.
We also took turns to visit families struck by poverty, getting to know them personally, and eventually supporting them materially together with a parish social worker. This was yet another powerful experience as we met first-hand the brutal face of poverty in contrast to the love shown to us by our brothers and sisters of Peru.
We also made various visits to the Aldea Sagrada Familia, which is a home for boys under the care of the MSSP Fathers as well as organising various parties for children around the parishes.
We returned to Malta on Thursday 5th September, tired but fullfilled, grateful for all who helped made this happen, as well as challenged and marked by this whole experience. Now back on the island, Fr.Alex’s concluding words still echoe in our hearts that “…this can be the beginning of something far bigger than your lives…”.
Mr Ryan Dalli belongs to MSSP Oratorju Youths, Malta.