Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Realities About the Amazon Mission in the Prelature of Moyobamba, Peru

I have felt the Holy Spirit asking me to write a blog concerning the mission here in Peru for two weeks. I have put it off until now because I have not wanted to enter into dialog regarding the Amazonian Synod but I can ignore Him no longer. The things I will be sharing have come from our family's direct experience as missionaries here. I will speak from our experience. I just ask that as you read what I have to say you will take that inconsideration and quick to prayer and slow to attack.

In the Love of Jesus,
Katie Schmidt

Servants of the Good Help
Our Lady of Good Help- Pray for Lost Souls!

Here is a map detailing the pueblos we work. Picota is the parish head and it is where the priests live. Nuevo
Control is on the bottom marked with a purple pushpin.  
The Realities About the Amazon Mission in the Prelature of Moyobamba, Peru

My family and I have been serving in the Prelature of Moyobamba, Peru since February 23, 2015. When we arrived here we spoke no language and at that time we knew absolutely nothing of the missionary need of the zone we were entering in. After a month of struggling without the language we travelled to the coast and spent a month in school to learn basic Spanish. Upon returning to Picota, San Martin, Peru we moved into the town of Caspizapa and continued to learn Spanish as well as took the time to learn the culture and tried to evangelize. Those six months were especially difficult for our family adapting to a new language, new culture and with the added difficulty of newborn twins. Through much prayer we persevered. We have since learned the language, welcomed a seventh child into our life through the birth of our youngest child in 2017, taken on a more active role in the missionary parish of Picota by developing marriage retreat and preparation material and helping prepare and give formation to the local church leaders, as well as taking on a new zone in the region of Picota which has seventeen pueblos to minister to. All and all we have fallen in love with the mission and we desperately desire to bring spiritual relief to so many people that have not have any contact with the church. 

Here is a little background for you. A territorial prelature is not a diocese. Our prelature is was established in 1949 and has been an active missionary prelature since that time. All our bishops have been missionaries from Spain. There are ten departmentos or county/parish in the Prelature of Moyobamba. There are currently very few Peruvian priests serving in the prelature. Almost all of the current priests are missionary priests sent from Spain. 

Picota is considered in the southern part of the prelature. We have currently 134 pueblos which are ministered to by two missionary priests from Córdoba, Spain. The priests from Córdoba are on a four year rotation. There are also two orders of missionary sisters, our family which represents Servants of the Good Help and americans who come and go from other organizations. 

How many of the 134 pueblos have access to the sacraments and mass frequently? Picota has mass every single night. There are four pueblos that receive mass monthly. One pueblo receives mass on a weekly basis because one of the congregation of sisters live and serve here. This leaves 128 pueblos who receive mass once every two months or more. The vast majority of these pueblos fall in the category who receive mass once a year or once every two years. 
Can you imagine this? For most of us we can't even wrap our head around this statement. It seems almost impossible to think of since we usually can walk into a church any day of the week for a mass, confession or to sit in adoration. That is not so here. This leaves what then? What does the church look like? How are the needs of the people being met? In all honesty, their needs are not being met and the church is quite frankly nonexistent in so many of these places. 

I am going to recount the stories of a few of our pueblos for you to help bring this all into perspective. 

Nuevo Chachapoyas was founded 30 years ago. The families are originally from the mountain region of Peru and travelled here to start a new life because of the lack of work in their area. During the 30 years no one from the catholic church entered their town. Not one representative went to evangelize them. This is in part due to the fact that the town is not noted on a few maps as well, lack of missionary activity due to the immense need of the zone and it being difficult to reach them during the rainy season. Before three years ago when a road was put in it was necessary to hike 11 hours to reach the pueblo. Since then it is only an hour hike from where the road ends. And all it took was a crazy missionary family to ask what is beyond the road to go out in search of them. That was last year when we learned of the town and hiked with our seven little children to find the town. When we arrived we were welcomed with open arms and prayers of thanksgiving was given to the Lord because He had sent His workers to find them. They were the first to admit that they knew nothing of God. The only thing that they knew was ' We are living like animals.' We have spent the last year hiking the mountain side to minister to their community. On March 10, 2019 Padre Rafael celebrated the first ever mass in their town in the local community building. The matriarch of the community was able to receive the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time in 30 years. Padre said it was a special day for him to be able to be able to bring them Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time in the history of their pueblo. He also was able to celebrate the sacrament of baptism, first communion and confirmation. It was a blessed day to say the least!!! But their spiritual struggle continues. We continue to visit them weekly to evangelize them, form them and catechize them. Every other Sunday we are in their community to lead a Liturgy of the Word service. But they are still so young in the faith, so fearful and so unsure of themselves. They are constantly doubting their right to have us visit them. They do not have anyone formed in the faith living in their community to help keep the community animated. They are still in such a spiritual desert. A high point for having our presence there is we are able to advocate on their behalf for more frequent visits. On November 23, 2019 Padre Rafael will be visiting their community once again to bring them the mass and the Eucharist. But clearly this is not enough. They need such tender loving care and more access to the sacraments. But how is that possible in this case?
Our children drew this in the sand to show
just what Jesus did for us!
Class in the community building

First mass in the history of Nuevo Chachapoyas
Walking in the mud and rain

Nuevo Piura is another one of our pueblos. This pueblo was also founded 30 years ago. It is another hour and a half beyond Nuevo Chachapoyas. This pueblo is on the district line of Picota and another county. One time sixteen years ago a visiting missionary priest stopped in their pueblo and baptized the children after an hour long class. Since that time no one has come into their town. They were forgotten and abandoned. Once again all it took was a crazy missionary family to go out in search of them. We had received word from a man in the town of Mirador of another pueblo which had not been visited. We didn't need to think about it. We knew instantly that we needed to go out in search of them. Let me just say our first family climb to their town was not pretty. Our children were 11, 9, 7, 6, 3-½, 3-½ and 1. The climb was long and hard. We brought candy, water and snacks to help break up the long journey. When we arrived we were again welcomed with open arms and unbelief that we were searching for them. We met in the community building and asked questions. In the middle of our time there it started to rain. By the time we had programmed our next visit the rain had stopped. Our hike back home was a long, muddy and hard journey. Two and a half hours in and three and a half hours out. The first climb out of town took us 30 minutes. The mud sucked our boots in and it took all that we had to make it up. Right then we learned mules were a necessity for the journey. We found and purchased two to help specifically with our visits to Nuevo Piura. 90% of our visits happened to include a rainstorm that started as soon as we entered town. The mules have been such a blessing to have to help carry our supplies as well as most of the children each visit. With each visit the people rejoice and sing praises to God because He has not forgotten them. On August 7, 2019 Padre Rafael celebrated the first mass in their town in sixteen years. This time padre was able to celebrate the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, first communion, confirmation and marriage. It was another blessed day!!! And just like Nuevo Chachapoyas the struggles for a spiritual life are very real and very difficult. 

Still all smiles after our long muddy hike out 

The five young girls who received their first communion.

We are thankful to have animals to help carry the little
ones up that big muddy hill when it rains!
First mass in sixteen years for the pueblo of Nuevo Piura.

I would also like to share a little about the pueblo of Nuevo Control. We first arrived to Nuevo Control in January 11, 2016. The town of Nuevo Control is the second town of the Valley of Bombonajillo. The priests would travel once every year to visit the catholic communities there; however, they never stopped in the town of Nuevo Control. Why? There was no active church community and when they had previously asked about catholics they were told everyone living there was not catholic. We were asked by the priests to start ministering to the pueblos in this zone in December of 2015. Taylor made the first contact with the town and asked for the catholics. Initially he was told there were none but when he probed more he learned that there indeed were people who considered themselves catholic living there but there was no active church community. When we visited them for the first time we met with one couple. He is a carpenter and she is a house wife. Initially they told us the town couldn't receive the church because there was no one there to take on the responsibility. Rafael's exact response was 'I am just a carpenter.' Taylor quickly responded that Jesus was a carpenter too. And with that he agreed to allow us to come and teach those interested in learning about the faith in his carpenter's shop. Every Friday we would travel two hours in car to spend two hours teaching the community. Over the course of two years the priests came to celebrate mass three times. They also celebrated the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, first communion, confirmation and marriage. Rafael and Esilda were married in the church. We were blessed to share that special day with them as their witnesses and we were Esilda's godparents when she was baptized. Rafael and Esilda took on the responsibility of leading the local church community. Unfortunately they have also had problems. Two years after we started visiting them we were asked by the priests to move to the zone we are currently ministering to. They placed another group of missionaries in charge of the continued formation for the community. We learned from the community and also from the other group of missionaries that they were no longer visiting and forming the people of Nuevo Control. The initial contact was made, there was an active church community which desired greatly to continue forming but the church dropped the ball. The were abandoned and left to try and figure it out on their own without any help. It wasn't the community of Nuevo Control's fault. The fault lies with the local catholic church. The fault falls on the missionaries who choose not to drive two hours to teach them and to check on them. The church failed this community. Praise be to God that they did not lose hope! Over the course of the year of abandonment they continued to come together to pray and to read the word of God. We were given permission in June to once again take on the formation of their pueblo. Due to the workload we currently have with the seventeen pueblos of Buenos Aires we can only commit to visiting their community once a month. The last Saturday of the month we now travel three hours one way to minister to them. They joyful receive us. We dedicate some of our time to teaching new hymns as well as focusing on formation. We also take time to lead a Liturgy of the Word Service for them. We are thankful to the Lord to once again have the opportunity to spend time with these beautiful people. We also are very thankful the Lord guarded their hearts and souls and kept their faith alive!!! 

Here is Esilda with Adele. Adele still loves her.

Rafael is in the white shirt. This is from the first day we met him. And this is the carpenter shop where the community meets.
Photos from Rafael and Eslida's wedding mass.

I think now after recounting these few stories it is fair to say that there is still so much the church can do here. The church has yet to truly reach and minister to those who identify as catholics let alone evangelize to those who have not yet heard the name of Jesus. 

The question then becomes "How?" and "By whom?" Clearly what is currently in place is not enough. I can attest to that. There is so much need and not enough people to answer the call for help.

I have heard many people upset about the items being discussed regarding finding the people necessary to evangelize. The things that are being said upsets me greatly. It truly sickens my stomach to read some of the comments. I think in the first world has lost sight of the fact that the people here in the third world have an equal right to hear the Word of God and to have a relationship with Jesus. It almost seems as if because they live in a third world country they do not have the same dignity and right to God as people living in a first world country. Their needs seem to be wiped under a rug and thought as only their problem to solve. But this is not true. We were all created in God's image and we all have the same dignity. We also all have the same right to Know, Love and Serve God. And it is OUR responsibility as the Catholic Church to care for the needs of ALL of our brothers and sisters. We should ALL be concerned that we haven't reached the ends of the earth. We ALL should be looking for solutions and NOT condemning those who are trying to find the answer. It is time to get throw out the thoughts of them and us.  The division that people are talking about was only created by this exact mindset. It has been created by our own selfish pride that we know what is best. It is time to wake up and realize that this is not so. There CAN NOT be a them and us! There is ONLY us !!!!! We are in this together. 

It is only when we realize and accept there is ONLY us that we can finally move forward. And from there we are finally able to address the great needs of the church and work together to find the answers. This is the means of the Amazon Synod. It is to draw awareness of the great division that has infiltrated the church by our own selfishness. By our own unwillingness to think of someone other than ourselves and to look beyond our own thoughts and desires. It has put faces and names to the 'them.' This has brought even more outrage at times because now we can no longer ignore God's image in 'them' and we can no longer look past their dignity. 

I say "ENOUGH!!!" We are ALL created in God's image, we ALL have the same dignity and let us not all forget that God wrote on each of our hearts to search for Him. Some of us have tried to find Him in sex, money, drugs, alcohol, other people, animals, the environment, and material things. We ALL have searched for Him in other things at one point in our lives. We ALL have at one point in our lives held something other than God as the first place in our lives. We ALL have had a false idol. But it wasn't until we were brought the Good News that we recognized that sin and made a change. Then how can we condemn those who have not had the same chance of us to know the True God and to repent of their sins? We can't because we were once in the same exact place and if we do continue to judge we are a living hypocrite. 

IT IS TIME TO STOP THE ATTACKS!!!! Let us cast off all of the differences that we see; our race, our language, our cultures, and our customs. Let us instead look to the things that we share; we are

But this can change. We just need to act. We need to come forth and reconcile for what we have done. I am speaking of the sacrament of confession. We need to ask for forgiveness and we need to make an effort to not fall into it again. For some it will be easy to do and for others it will be one of the hardest things they have done. It will be especially difficult for those who have voiced their outrage and attacks publicly being that a public penance may be necessary but this would be determined by a priest. The sacrament of reconciliation is an amazing gift we are blessed to have. It is the sacrament which can reunite us. 

Let us step out in faith that this is what we need to do. Then let us work together to find a solution which will benefit our brothers and sisters who have been neglected for so long! ~Katie 


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