Fr Kevin Dring writes from Peru - 15

Fr Kevin is a priest from the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.


Dear Friends ... Queridos Amigos, It probably doesn't seem long since you received Letter # 14 but a month has gone by ... incredibly fast! I'm down for a couple of days from Frias to Chulucanas and will not be back again for another month so am sending a little resume of the past few weeks. The weeks have been very full as we're now well and truly into the full swing of our pastoral programme which will see us through to Christmas. Three of the past four weeks I've spent out in the campo moving from village to village, celebrating Mass, Baptisms and all the activity that accompanies their one annual visit from the priest.

I love the highest part of the parish - the Meseta Andina (Little Table of the Andes) - and the simplicity of life, warmth of the people ... and escaping from Rodrigo and his PA system to the absolute silence of a landscape still untouched by electricity and all mod cons! We spent the first couple of days in Arrenales leading some workshops for the catechists and the teams that keep Church life going throughout the year - in our parish that = 10 in each team X 120 "zones" ( = 1200 catechists and "pastoral agents")!!!! After five months of the rains and no visits it's quite an adjustment getting back into the rhythm of life. The visits are physically hard and tiring due to ........ the walking, the altitude, the intense cold at night, the living for days on end on a diet of potatoes / tortillas and cheese (no veg / no fruit), the lack of privacy & amenities, "creative" sleeping arrangements etc. However these minor hardships are made up for by the people and their gratitude & generosity (with the potatoes / tortillas and best - or only - bed in the house).

Unlike in Frias and lower altitudes, sheep are found in abundance in the Meseta. Then off to San Diego where again potatoes, tortillas, Mass and plenty of blessings of houses, land and anything that moved Even though potatoes of different shapes and sizes - Peru has 3000 varieties - can become ... well ... BORING at least they're fresh! It's always a great joy to be with the families and the children, who watch intensely our every move (especially El Gringo) and often burst into spontaneous laughter and giggles .... something to do with my accent maybe, my hat ?! On to Pechuquiz where we found the parents beginning the building of a new school complex (primary & secondary) which they say will be completed in just 3 months - and substantially all by hand. Work you wouldn't normally associate with a Sussex or Surrey PTA !!

Leaving the beauty of the Meseta after a week of visits with a mix of feelings - grateful to the Lord for all the blessings of the week and being able to share the Mass etc with the people, and fun and good company of Sr Saane & Gerardo ............. but RELIEF to get back to my own bed and the relative warmth of Frias 2000 mts below. Only for 3 days before heading out again for more visits. On a light finishing note we're just about to celebrate the 182 Anniversary of Frias and always the week begins with Reinado : the election and coronation of Miss Frias and her two assistant "Queens".

Yes - I sat there in the square for three hours (meant to start at 3pm, started at 5pm, ended at 7.30pm) as one of the panel of judges. On one side were two police officers, me in the middle, and on the other side Sr Saane and a lady visiting from the coast. A thoroughly neutral and independent panel of judges! To my great relief I managed to avoid being conscripted into accompanying the three "Queens" to Piura (big city on the coast) to purchase their regalia (dresses / shoes / crowns etc). Each has a budget of about 1000 soles (�150). I overheard somebody say that normally they're so indecisive that the shopping "day trip" turns into an "overnight". As much as I enjoy an occasional trip to Piura (cinema, pizza) ... not to purchase dresses, shoes and crowns please!! Take care one and all and hope you have a good summer and a break.

Always good to hear from you too and will be in touch again towards the end of July. Until then... Dios les bendiga. con afecto, Kevin e-mail: PERU POSTAL ADDRESS: Casa de la Fraternidad, Calle Cuzco 381, Chulucanas, Piura, PERU

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