Gracious and generous amid struggles and need


May the Risen Lord guide you as we move into this new millennium. May it be for you a time of new life and growth.

It’s often been said that truth is stranger than fiction. I recently wrote someone who knew me and my sister as teen-agers growing up on 26th Street in San Diego. I told her if anyone had then told me, “Your sister’s going to be a nun and you a priest. You’ll live out the last part of your life working together as missionaries in a place called Zorritos in the country of Peru,” I’d have considered all that to be strange — if not absurd. Yet here we are working together and, thank God, working well together. It must have been the Providence of God that made this happen. When she returns to her motherhouse every year, I start counting the days until her return. It’s then that I discover how much she does and how invaluable she is for the ministry here.

Speaking of truth being stranger than fiction, Peru’s Nobel prize-winning novelist said he couldn’t write a novel about what’s happening in Peru. People would consider it too unrealistic, strange and impossible. The daily news is like a soap opera with new videos coming to light showing more and more corruption. The president faxed in his resignation from Japan, where he stays claiming to be a Japanese citizen, so he can’t be extradited. The congress rejected his resignation and fired him. His right-hand man, Montesinos, is in hiding, having stolen hundreds of millions of dollars. He left behind thousands of secret videos many showing senators, generals, Supreme Court members, and TV and newspaper owners accepting enormous bribes. With these videos the government controlled the country. Ironically, Montesinos has probably exposed more corruption than anyone in the history of Peru — all live in color. All this has left the nation in shambles, and especially in the last three years there has been a severe depression. Businesses are folding; unemployment, poverty and hunger are soaring.

Peru now prepares to elect a new president and government. In the presidential election last year the only opposition candidate dropped out saying correctly that the election was rigged. So the president ran against no one. Guess who won! Please pray the Lord guides this election to give us honest and competent leaders in what appears to be a very transparent election process.

Yet with all this going on in the country the people here in our parish struggle on. They have a tremendous capacity for suffering. I don’t know how they do it. It must be the Spirit of God that keeps them going. In the midst of this national chaos our 26-parish council keeps moving ahead. Our archbishop asks each parish to carry out a major project each year to support our seminary. Especially since we have so many parishioners in the seminary, we try to heed this appeal in a big way. I brought back from the States a small video camera and Walkman radio that our parish councils raffled. At 3 and a half solis to the dollar, we charged 3 solis a ticket — a mistake. Councils said many people didn’t have 3 solis and couldn’t buy a ticket. Nevertheless, after costs the people gained well over $1,000 to send to the seminary. In the light of our economic crisis, I’m impressed by such generosity. A video is a useful prize because it can provide some employment filming weddings, baptisms, etc.

Representatives of our 26 parish councils are trucked into Zorritos for a meeting each month. This has done a lot to unite this huge parish. (We’re four hours from some villages even more now due to the rains.) The meetings are helping to forge a common vision and sense of unity. The councils have taken on a big project: to pave the road into the mountains, which would open up the whole area. A petition with hundreds of signatures has been sent to our transitional president (apparently a good man). We know it reached the president’s desk, and we will try to maintain pressure to have this work carried out. Pray with us for this.

We’re encouraging all of our councils where there is no Sunday Mass, to hold a worship service in our 26 churches. For the first time a mountain village (our largest) has asked to have the Blessed Sacrament kept there. I think they are ready, and we hope to do this. They’ll have Communion for the sick and Communion services every Sunday.

Our usual rainy season was late in arriving but is here in force. Last Sunday the waters cut off a bridge on the Pan-American Highway eight minutes from Zorritos. This means we were cut off from the rest of Peru as that’s our only highway.

Last week a visiting priest accompanied our secretary and eight parishioners to our two farthest villages to give six-day missions. Due to the rains they went in through Ecuador and then crossed back over the river into Peru  a 12 hour trip. But then torrential rains came and the river was impassable. With women on horses, the men walked with them about eight hours through the mud to a village in our parish where they finally found a truck that was going to try to get through. We made brief phone contact, but they still haven’t arrived. Any other priests want to visit me?

Sending letters in the States is less expensive and more secure, so I bus my letters to Lima when I learn of someone traveling to the States to be mailed there. In early March someone carried 80 letters, Mass cards, etc., to the States to be mailed. I don’t know why but apparently none arrived. If your letter or gift was not acknowledged, I’m sorry. If you need a tax exemption form that didn’t arrive, let me know. Our parish got a secondhand computer from the States and could acknowledge gifts by e-mail. If you have e-mail I could acknowledge any letter or gift directly from here, if you would prefer this.

I’m deeply grateful for the tremendous support of prayer and material gifts that enable us to serve and help so many people. I’m grateful to God, who  despite some minor problems  has given me the health and energy needed to work here. May the Risen Lord and Resurrection fill you with his life and draw you to share in his resurrection.

P.S. Two 16-year-olds (without being asked) said they wanted to thank those who help our parish. This is what they wrote: “Senores, in the name of the Christian community of Zorritos, we thank you for the sacrifices you’re making for so many needy people in our country. Thanks to you we have so many good works in our parish, and we ask the Lord to shower you with his blessings.” … Carlos and Randy

Msgr. J. Donald Gorski, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, ministers to the people of Zorritos, Peru.

How to help

To contribute materially to this mission, checks may be made out to the St. James Society and sent to Msgr. Robert Kelly  Missions, P.O. Box 1257, Folly Beach, SC 29439. The Society of St. James will forward the checks through their banking acount in Peru, thus avoiding the Peruvian Post Office. Only one thank-you acknowledgement will be sent to contributors, and it will come directly from Zorritos.