Prayers continue to bring new life to Peruvian parish

by Msgr. Donald Gorski

May the peace of Christmas be with you and yours! May the son born in Bethlehem grow in your heart during the new year of our Lord 2003!

Here in Zorritos the town council has just doubled the size of our main church and finished putting a dome on the church tower. My sister, Sister Caritas, suggested using a space in the tower as an escape when I need to do some work. Reached by ladder, the only thing in here is a tiny chair and a cross that is taller than I; however, the view up here is marvelous. There is a lot of breeze and the Pacific Ocean stretches before me as it continues to pound the shoreline 24 hours a day — real therapy for the soul.

This coming new year will be my 10th anniversary of working in this parish. I’m very grateful to God, the Diocese of Charleston, and the St. James Society for giving me the opportunity to minister here. I can’t think of a better place or way to finish my priesthood and my life.

During my time here I’ve become more convinced that the secret of renewing a parish is to have a lot of people praying for the parish. When I’m preaching and doing appeal work for St. James or Zorritos my principal appeal is not for money, but for prayer. Without the prayer the money won’t accomplish much and with the prayer the money will be available.

A few weeks ago we announced to a parish council that our soup kitchens were being closed due to lack of funds. It seems the Lord had other plans for on Thursday, a day later, visitors arrived from the states with some generous donations and 2,000 happy children and old people received the good news that we would continue to serve a hot meal every weekday in our many parish soup kitchens.

I say it often, “Somebody, somewhere is praying for this parish, and we’re privileged to see the fruit of that prayer.”

A couple of years ago a parish youth group from Charleston visited us with Nancy Schwerin of The Catholic Miscellany. Nancy wrote a long and beautiful article on the experience of the group here. To me the best part was her final sentence: “We left the people of Zorritos parish knowing for sure that more prayers than they could ever count will be sent their way.”

When you pray for a parish asking the Lord to renew, convert, redeem, heal, save, forgive, and transform a people you don’t have to twist his arm. You’re only asking him to do what he most wants to do. After all that’s why he shed his blood and died on the cross.

I’m grateful to the many people who are praying for us. I see the Lord responding by providing for the needs of the people in so many ways that I can’t.

For example, family catechetics is a major parish program. Mandated by our archbishop, the parish gives weekly training to small groups of parents for almost two years. During this time the parents are teaching what they learn to their own children preparing them for their first communion in which the parents usually received communion with their children. This means giving the Sacrament of Reconciliation to about a thousand children and parents spread out in about 20 towns and villages hours apart. This doesn’t include hundreds of reconciliations for confirmations, retreats, workshops etc.

As I’m the only priest in this huge parish I face this challenge, praying and hoping some help will arrive from somewhere. Last time I met a former St. James priest on vacation in Lima. He came up for a week and a half and we traveled all over the parish reconciling over a thousand people. He said it was the best part of his vacation.

This year visitors from the states told me of a fine priest from Nigeria working in the states. He wanted to improve his Spanish and help on the missions. He has given us a month of intense work and invaluable help reconciling hundreds and hundreds of people apart from Masses, counseling and other help. He leaves next week with the prayers of a grateful people.

Yesterday we went together to give the Sacrament of Reconciliation to the people of La Cruz. Nothing special was going on just an announcement of the sacrament in the parish bulletin.

We began together at 11 a.m., and he told me he would continue, as I had to leave at 12:45 p.m. for a luncheon meeting with the bishop. When I got back to the rectory in the late afternoon I discovered he’d been reconciling from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — six hours nonstop. People are praying for us and the Lord sends us prodigious workers.

Msgr. Donald Gorski is a priest of the Diocese of Charleston. He ministers in Peru through the St. James Society.

How to contribute

To contribute to the 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. Only one thank you acknowledgement will be sent to contributors, and it will come from Peru directly.