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Friday, December 9, 2016
Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru (ii)
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 Many thanks to Fr Kevin Dring, originally from Arundel and Brighton Diocese, for letting us publish another vivid account of his work in Peru. Once again his letter is accompanied by some beautiful pictures. Unfortunately at the moment we don't have the facilities to publish them on ICN but hope to be able to soon. - Jo Dear Friends... Queridos Amigos, A few thoughts to share as the month of November draws to its close. As I write this I'm thinking that YOU must be wondering, with these cyber messages from Peru, whether I really DO live and work in a place with no electricity or phone access. The truth is I DO... honest - but for me it's a great relaxation to make contact with the outside world when the opportunities arise... such as now PRAYERS FOR BISHOP DAN: Poor Bishop Dan was in a car accident a week ago in Bolivia - drove into a landslide. He's broken a leg and also needed an operation on one of his feet. He should make a good recovery but please keep him in your prayers! ACOSTUMBRANDO-ING : One of the things that people keep asking me wherever I go, day in and day out, is "Padresito, estas acostumbrando ?"... Father, how are you adapting to it all?"... or put more bluntly "How are you COPING?" It's a good question and always asked with genuine concern and interest. My answer is usually very upbeat "Great, loving it all!". The truth is that at times it's hard to adapt when you realise you're in for the "long haul". It's one thing to be "passing through" and another to see the years stretching ahead. The process of acclimatisation, or inculturation, is a subtle one - two steps forward, one step back. Very often I feel spoilt and embarrassed by the petty worries and frustrations that at times cloud my day. But havin said that, there are things that never fail to wind me up... and hit some culturally raw nerves! One thing I can't (yet) get used to is the sheer level of NOISE. In Frias, a tranquil (electricity free) town nestling in the hills we have three loudspeaker public address systems. These announce phone calls (Phone call for Snr Joe Smith in ten minutes, I repeat.... , I repeat..., once more I repeat...) or anything else that needs announcing (Mangos for sale in the main square... meeting of union of Campesinos at 11am... Bingo this afternoon in main square with the following prizes... I REPEAT.... once more I REPEAT.... and again I REPEAT...). Each announcement is preceded and followed by a blast of very loud tuneless music. At times all three systems are going at once and Frias becomes like the Biblical community of Babel - like being in a room with everyone shouting and no one being heard. Sundays (day of rest) are the worst - everyone gets a phone call on Sunday and every group wants to meet...and there's always bingo in the main square.... groan! Having said that the people are mostly wonderful - so poor (materially) and yet so kind and generous... and genuine. Being a "gringo" is still a real novelty in many places with everyone, especially the children, watching your every move with great interest. As a priest I'm accepted quickly and warmly... but I'm still a "gringo" and a novelty! One lady told me yesterday that as I arrived in her village her grand daughter ran to her and said "Abuela (grandma) it's the one with 'green eyes' !" She explained this is another title for a "gringo". THE FAITH & GOODNESS OF THE PEOPLE: I've visited a further seven caserios (communities) in the past month bringing my total up to 14..... with only 83 to go! Staying with the families in their adobe (mud) houses becomes easier each time. It's just the physical discomfort that's hard ("you little wimp you're all thinking!). The fleas, the not knowing where (with whom or what) you're to sleep, no bathroom etc. etc. But there's something very wholesome and Christian (and human) about accepting the hospitality of a family, especially when you realise they've given you the best spot in their humble dwelling. The photos below show some of the good people I've met, and stayed with in recent weeks. Joined them by the fire at 5.30am ... Every village and every visit is so different and yet so alike. There's always the long waits for the people to arrive for Mass or the evening meeting - sometimes sitting for three or four hours just waiting . Then there's the constant experience of the sheer goodness and faith of the people and their joyfully sharing the little they have. In one house I woke at 5am (having not really slept) to find the room (houses are all open plan) filling with thick pungent smoke from the recently lit fire in the corner. All the family milling around my bed getting dressed and cooking breakfast. "If you can't beat them join them!" so up I got and joined them by the fire. The LONG wait... As the sun set the people appeared... We've recently been having meetings (Pastoral Assemblies) of all the 97 pastoral teams in six different locations in the parish - that's 15 or so teams meeting together at a time. We look at how things are going and plan ahead and just try, as ever, to give some real encouragement. Often the people walk for hours and hours to get to the meeting. In Lagunas, on a very remote mountain top, the first people I spoke to had left their homes at 1am to get to the meeting at 9am (and then had to walk home!). They all arrive with their well thumbed Bibles and a real thirst and hunger for their faith, for the Lord. Amazing, humbling and uplifting! Having walked for hours, Bible in hand... FIESTAS... FIESTAS ... AND MORE FIESTAS: They love a good Fiesta. I thought the Spanish had the prize for wholehearted Fiesta-ing but the Peruvians go a step or two further. Fr Lazaro and I went for 2 days to help with and join the Fiesta of the Patrona of Sapillica, La Virgen Pura y Limpia. The fireworks, the processions, bands, music and dancing all day and into the early hours, 100's of Baptisms, football competition (with first prize of a huge Bull for the lucky winners... how do you share a Bull????), singing competitions ... and all going on without interruption for five days. I asked a priest from another parish what his fiesta was like - having described it I said "you must feel tired at the end..." "ILL" he said "I'm always ILL afterwards". He said it with a smile - confident of recovery in time for the next Fiesta no doubt! The victorious football team carrying La Virgen Pura y Limpia... In Frias we're bracing ourselves for the celebration of San Andres, the Patron. Everybody says "this is the BIG ONE" which evokes a mixture of feelings: excitement coupled with dread as the other "little ones" have been pretty exhausting for my weak Gringo constitution (three hour processions every night, bands and fireworks from 6 am every morning etc). This is the BIG ONE! My friends with the public address systems have started frequent announcements a week in advance - building us all up for "the BIG ONE". The mayor has sent a team to repaint the Church inside and out, the square and roads are filling with stalls and there's a buzz in the air. On 30th after the Mass we'll celebrate 200 baptisms. Further news of the BIG ONE in my next letter in the New Year. Until then........... Wishing you a Holy & Fruitful Advent, Hasta luego amigos y Dios les bendiga, Con mucho afecto, Kevin ("green eyes") Chulucanas, Piura, PERU
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