By REV. DONALD GORSKI
During my years here in Zorritos, Peru, I have been constantly awed and amazed at the extraordinary generosity of the people of South Carolina and other parts of the world as well.
Thanks to this generosity our parish has been able to respond to a wide variety of human needs. For example, every Thursday two volunteers travel a half-hour to Tumbes where they buy about $400 worth of food.
This food is sent every Friday to the parish soup kitchens located in many of the 35 towns and villages of the parish. Since Caritas not only supports three soup kitchens and the government has greatly reduced the food they give to us, this donation money is what enables the parish to provide a daily nutritious hot meal to people almost all children.
The other major parish project and expenditure is medical help for the sick. I’ve lost track of the number of human lives saved by this donation money.
For example, four years ago a young boy fell on some rocks and badly shattered his knee. Month after month his family heard him crying all through the night in pain. They couldn’t even afford pain medicine much less the needed operation in Lima.
The pain of the infection had reached his stomach. The doctors said when it reached the heart he’d be dead. He asked me several times: “Please baptize me before I die.”
After weeks in a Lima hospital, David returned in good shape. He’s now 16 can’t run or do heavy work but otherwise fine. We send him to Lima for an annual check-up.
In the same way the parish saved the life of a poor man who lived on the beach in a straw shack with his wife and two children. He was literally dying of a broken leg. It was a huge mass of infection and he had no money for the needed operation.
An active church worker came to see me two days ago. She lost her last baby and the doctor thinks she’ll need a cesarean operation to deliver her present child.
Like most of the people she has no insurance and no savings. Her family is trying to put on a goat dinner in the street to raise the needed funds.
As always I sent her to the Parish Council of her town who will give her 50 kilos of rice, cooking oil and 10 kilos of goat. The family will provide the rest, sell the tickets (I promised to buy some) and put on the meal. So the parish is helping them to help themselves and provide for their own medical needs.
To me the most important use of donation money is to help in the formation of dedicated Christian leaders. Long after the St. James Society has left Zorritos, these dedicated well-formed disciples of Christ will be serving the people of this area.
Every year we send leaders on the 18 hour bus trip to Lima and other closer cities to receive training and formation in many ministries. In the last four years hundreds of parishioners have made the extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime John XXIII weekend retreat. Countless others are begging to make it.
This live-in weekend (something like a Cursillo) costs $14 per person and many don’t have it. So the parish supplements and helps them. In January our two retreats will be packed with 250 retreatants.
Next week the parish is sending a couple to Lima on a three-day training program on prison ministry. Our people visit the 260 prisoners in a nearby jail.
Conditions are incredible. During the intense heat 110 degrees last week most of the prisoners, squeezed into a small dirty space, have horrible skin sores. The parish provided 260 containers of an effective skin medicine. (This year for the first time in my life the heat gave me a skin rash.)
The women in the prison have their children with them. So the parish took the children out of jail for a wonderful day at the beach providing them with a good meal and new clothes.
Our parish now has two young women in the convent and provides some help for them. We have five young men in the seminary with two more leaving tomorrow. The parish provides for their tuition and everything even soap and toothpaste. Their families just don’t have it. When school ends before December more young people will be entering the priesthood and religious life.
I only regret that those who provide this help can’t see the good that is done. For me it’s one of the joys of working here. It’s also satisfying to know that no donation money is used for fund raising or administration. All of it is used directly to help the people.
At present we have funds to continue all this for about a month and the Lord will step in and provide what is needed for the next month. He has never failed us. My prayers and gratitude are extended to the many people who are his instruments.
Father J. Donald Gorski is a native of Charleston. After devoting much of his time to the diocese, he now calls home the Society of St. James the Apostle in Zorritos, Peru, where he provides spiritual guidance to the local villages.