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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru - 11
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¬†Dear Friends....Queridos Amigos, We were blessed with the visit of Bishop Dan in September. Having spent two full days blowing up balloons, cleaning the Church and the house, and decorating banners the Big Day arrived. We invited parishioners to congregate at the entrance to Frias in the early morning to give a warm welcome. +Dan decided to arrive earlier than expected so the only people missing from the Welcome Party were we the clergy... still in the house ...typical!! During Bishop Dan's visit we (he) celebrated Confirmations of many young people in different parts of the parish and generally gave a good "spiritual oost" to the people of Frias. +Dan is a good and holy man and a real shepherd to the people.... and even thinner than me! The month of October passed in a blur of fiestas.... the "blur" coming more from Processions than beer! First we celebrated the fiesta of El Senor Cautivo de Ayabaca. El Cautivo (The Captive) is Jesus bound and being sentenced to his death. There's great devotion in these parts, as Ayabaca (home of the original statue) is within the diocese. Thousands of pilgrims make their way from all parts of Peru (and even further afield), some walking for three or four months, carrying a cross and singing and praying their way to Ayabaca high up in the sierra mountains. Our fiesta in Frias is a more modest affair - nine evenings of prayer (novena) followed by two days of intense fiesta....fireworks, brass band, food and drink, a market miraculously appearing outside our front door, processions and Mass. The very night we finish processing El Cautivo, as we stagger back into the Church, we begin the nine day novena of prayer to Senor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles)..... providing approximately five minutes "recovery time" between the two fiestas! Senor de los Milagros depicts Christ on the Cross with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross. The original image is in Lima, and has a rich history of devotion and associated miracles throughout Peru. Our two processions - one to the top and one to the bottom of the town on 2 successive nights - each last about 3 hours. A friend living in the city of Piura, on the coast, told me that their procession started at 8 am and ended at 10 pm ....... the poor Archbishop leading the procession!! Hand in hand with the fiestas is the ever present noise. I've mentioned noise often enough so suffice it to say that after a year I STILL find it almost unbearable at times. "You'll get used to it... acostumbrarse Padresito" - well folks I'm still waiting for the miraculous moment! We are also well into the Bingo Season. Every group / organisation / institution has it's Bingo day - the prizes are usually a sack of rice / a sack of spaghetti / 30 soles (£5)..... occasionally a turkey. But for Senor de los Milagros there was a colour TV on offer (remember we now have LA LUZ... electricity). Quite an upgrade from a sack of rice or a turkey! One lady sitting to my left on the Church steps was seriously in pursuit of that TV... Whenever we celebrate the sacraments (baptisms, weddings etc.) it's usually always BIG TIME - large crowds. In recent weeks we've been celebrating group weddings - Matrimonios Masivos . All the paperwork is prepared in advance, the civil registrar turns up from the town hall and the religious and civil weddings are then celebrated together. That's the theory. Last Friday in San Jorge we waited and waited but no sign of the arrival of the registrar from Frias (1 1/2 hrs drive away) - eventually we had to begin the Mass as the people had been patiently waiting in the extreme heat for two hours. Seven couples to marry, seven children to baptise and 6 adults to be confirmed. The Mass ended and STILL no sign of our "civic friends". Keep the people occupied was our strategy.... how about a(nother) Procession?! Finally at 1.30 pm (four hrs late) the car arrived and we could celebrate the matrimonios - by which point, having been in my vestments in incredible heat for 5 hrs, I felt just about ready to dissolve in a puddle of perspiration and exasperation. After a tense few moments of apologies and threatening posturing by the crowd (those nice young couples), in typical Peruvian fashion the LONG WAIT was forgotten and smiles all round. Most Peruvians - at least in the campo - do not marry but instead simply co-habitate. The reality is, as so often here, that it's cheaper . Marrying en masse was offered to the couples for a mere 5 soles (90 pence) as opposed to the usual 40 soles (£7). Many of our newly weds have already been together for a number of years and have children. It's been very inspiring to see them deciding to take this step to receive God's blessing on their lives and their families. As always a couple of little "foodie" stories! Last week I visited four of our communites with Sr Palepa. Four days and nights moving from village to village. The people as always were incredibly welcoming and really happy to celebrate the Mass and meet together. We're always well fed (despite my loss of ten kilos in a year) but Day Three became something of a culinary endurance test! Got up - breakfast: large omelette with yucca, rice and coffee; celebrated Mass at 10 am; at 11.30 Lunch # 1: large plate of chicken, rice and yucca; headed off to begin treck to next village - en route our guide led us to his house where his wife was busily preparing Lunch # 2: chicken & noodle soup followed by (YES you GUESSED RIGHT...) large helping of chicken, rice and yucca; 1.00 pm left to continue journey to the village but diverted to another house to bless another man's animals (and family)... as I entered the house, holy water in hand, two ladies were busily plucking a fresh chicken... "Padresito, a little lunch..." - Sr Palepa and I as politely as possible declined "chicken, rice & yucca" # 3; at approx. 4 pm we arrived in the next village and GUESS WHAT, at 6pm sat down to a light supper of ... chicken, rice and yucca. We estimated we'd each eaten, that day, about 2 chickens with all "the trimmings" (rice & yucca). Thank God we have to walk from meal to meal. It's all a sign of the great generosity and hospitality of the people. There's a real "spirit of sharing" in the Peruvian culture which runs deep and wide. Coffee is grown in many parts of the parish - delicious for breakfast freshly roasted / brewed with a couple of tortillas and a slice of fresh cheese. I was slightly surprised, though, on visiting the VERY SMALL children in the Colegio Inicial (Nursery) in the village of La Loma Andina to find that they each bring a large bottle of strong black fresh coffee to have with their mid-morning snack. Must make for interesting group dynamics during playtime!! My next letter will be for Christmas. Until then, keep well and keep in touch. Be assured of my prayers and please continue to pray for me and the people of Frias and Peru. Dios les Bendiga. Con mucho afecto, Kevin
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