By MSGR. J. DONALD GORSKI
I have spent 13 years of my life living in Peru, and I can’t recall ever seeing so much human misery. Even during the horror of El Nino, the tragedy was sudden, dramatic, terrifying, but it caught people’s attention and drew in some help to the country.
But La Nina is producing a slow, gradual, almost invisible destruction. The cooler water of the ocean has driven away all of the shrimp larvae (the livelihood of the very poor), and most of the fish and shrimp are reached only by boat.
The flow of money on the coast has ground to a halt. Many of the fortunate few with jobs haven’t been paid for months.
All this has produced a nightmare with parents trying to send their children to school. They can’t e them the needed notebooks, shoes and school uniforms in order to go to school.
If I were God and saw my children hurting so much, I think I would send them some shrimp larvae and fish. That would seem to be the simplest way to help them.
But my ways are evidently not God’s way. What the Lord has done is inspire a level of giving and helping that I’ve never before seen in my 41 years as a priest. Individuals as well as parishes are giving extraordinary help.
It’s inspiring us to go for broke and supply school uniforms and shoes for the thousand children in our soup kitchens. At the same time the parish is providing tens of thousands of notebooks, which in effect become the children’s textbooks.
My sister has a genius for finding work. In the morning dozens of men are outside the rectory looking for work.
Our parish truck is loaded up, and the men are taken to homes that were damaged by mountains caving in during the rains of El Nino. They have shovels to undo the damage.
Each man can work only one day a week (to allow everyone an opportunity to work) and are paid with a bag of rice, beans, cooking oil and a can of sardines.
Teen-agers work around the church. Things have never been so clean as my sister finds ever more things to be cleaned.
Recently Jan, 16 years old, waited in the long line of people to see me. He had been working outside. He asked me directly, “Is the parish going to help me go to school or not?”
I explained that our 25 parish councils would be working with the teachers to provide notebooks and pens to needy students, and the children in soup kitchens would be receiving uniforms.
He told me that his family is not in a soup kitchen. As one of seven children he only had what he was wearing, plus one extra T-shirt.
He told me: “When I went to school to talk with a teacher about my problem, the gatekeeper wouldn’t let me in dressed like this.”
He knew how to get to me for he went on to say: “I have already lost this week of school. Am I going to lose next week, too?”
We are still getting sizes and placing the massive order for clothing in Lima, but the next day I sent someone to Tumbes to get clothing for Jan and his co-workers. They are now in class.
In the name of all the Jans who are receiving your help, our thanks and prayers. Please pray for them and our efforts to serve them. Ask the Lord to draw life out of this problem for all of us.
Msgr. J. Donald Gorski, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, ministers to the parish in Zorritos, Peru, through the St. James Society.