Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru - 18

 Fr Kevin is a diocesan priest from Arundel and Brighton. His letters are always accompanied by amazing pictures. Unfortunately we don't have the facility to publish photos on ICN yet - but if you would like to see the original message- just send us a message and we'll forward it to you). Dear Friends ... Queridos Amigos, Feliz Ano Nuevo! I still vividly remember all the build-up to the Jubilee Year 2000 and find it hard to believe that suddenly we're already into 2008. Before Christmas we had some very happy celebrations in the parish. On November 22nd in Lagunas, on the other side of the parish high up in the mountains, we accompanied Bishop Dan for the opening and blessing of the new church. The people had worked hard for a couple of years, literally making the bricks and working in teams in the building process. The local mayor was also very supportive with the doors, windows and in other ways. The final result is a church that any community would be proud of ... especially when built by your own fair hands. In typical Peruvian style everything was last minute and the painting of the outside of the church went on ALL NIGHT in preparation for the Bishop's arrival next morning! On December 8th the children made their First Holy Communion. 300 of them all packed into the church, dressed in white and very excited for their Big Day. In the preceding few days we'd heard all their First Confessions!! It's always a beautiful celebration - with the innocence and excitement of the children themselves, but also it makes you aware of what a precious and special gift we have in the Eucharist. Christmas itself was "muy tranquilo" and then New Year. Every culture and country has it's own particular customs for seeing in the new year (and the old year OUT). Here in Frias, after we had celebrated Mass at 9pm everyone dispersed to their homes for food and then at 12 the rockets were launched overhead and in the streets began the "burning of munecos". These are lifesize effigies (a bit like Nov 5th in the UK) that symbolise the passing (burning) of the old year to make way for the new. Outside the church a huge female effigy by the name of "Sara Sara" was torched but then to my horror (but NOT surprise) with little children all around "Sara Sara", stuffed full of fireworks, proceeded to blow up like a bomb! HM Govt Health & Safety Inspectors would have had a field day with "Sara Sara" - but here H & S is definitely not #1 priority ... falls way behind who can make the BIGGEST BANG!! The next two months will be spent mainly here in Frias visiting the local families and catching up on reading. At the end of January I go to Lima for ten days for a priests retreat followed by a few days break before heading back up the mountain to Frias to spend most of February on my own ... I hear your groans of sympathy!! The rains began heavily on January 1st and have continued every day since. Thanks be to God, as the campesino farmers are ready to sow their maize and the ground is crying out for water. As depressing as it can be to live in torrential rain (and cold) week after week, as they so rightly say "si no hay agua ... no hay vida" (no water, no life!). Finally, for all you squeamish types (or rat lovers!) we were sitting watching the TV a few nights ago when a banging sound came from the kitchen cupboard. We opened the cupboard door and look what jumped out!! (picture of rat held by Fr Dring by tail) On that happy note (not so happy for Brother Rat!) I once again bid you and your family peace and blessings for this new year 2008. Thanks for all your very kind Christmas cards and good wishes and prayerful support to me and the people here throughout 2007. Take care y hasta luegito. Dios les Bendiga. can afecto, Kevin

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