Now in California, Father Gorski continues to work for Zorritos
Though he has retired from his parish work in Peru, Msgr. Donald Gorski, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, continues his ministry. Following is an excerpt of a letter that he wrote from his new home in California.
When I last wrote you, I was preparing for my departure from Peru after a total of 19 years working there. The Peruvians know how to celebrate and the farewell Mass in a stadium was beautiful. It was both joyful and sad, a “sweet sorrow.” What made it easier were the three fine people replacing my sister and me. I felt I was leaving the people in good hands. Unlike the seven other parishes I left, my sister and I are in constant, even daily, contact with the parish. What happened is that the three incoming clergy and the whole parish team who worked with us want to continue the work the parish was doing.
We believe the clergy, the sisters and the lay team are trustworthy. We try to help them maintain the ministries of the parish and I believe my money and your money – which we send to Zorritos through my sister’s community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Grange – is being used responsibly and honestly and is reaching and helping the people.
The Peruvian people themselves continue to give very generously and sacrificially, and so the Lord’s work continues to go on and this gives my heart much joy and satisfaction. I suspect it does the same for the Lord’s heart.
The period leading up to the farewell Mass had some tense and stressful moments, as we tried to assess the credibility of the assault and assassination reports. In the midst of this conflict and tension, I was invited to a meal with the archbishop and vicar general, a wonderful priest who is now in charge of the Zorritos parish. When I arrived the archbishop said, “I understand you’re planning to be a martyr.” We all laughed, as I explained, “No, that isn’t really part of my game plan.” But of course none of us knew what was going to happen.
Thanks in great part to the prayer of a lot of people, I arrived safely back in the United States on Dec. 23. My sister and I will long remember that Christmas and that turkey dinner with family and loved ones in Charleston. It was a time of real joy and celebration.
While in Charleston, I stayed with a priest who owns a very old and fat cat. In his kitchen there is a plaque with the picture of a cat. Over the picture are the words: “I’m over-pampered, overfed, and spoiled rotten”; underneath are the words, “and I deserve much more than this.” We both said that’s how the Lord treats us, except that we hoped we knew we didn’t deserve anything and that it was all gift. But God showers all of us with the super abundant gifts of his love and mercy.
I write you this year, not from Peru or even South Carolina, but from California where I used to live many years ago. My brothers left a coffee mug here where I live; printed on it are the words “I’M RETIRED – (or did the permanent grin give that away already?)” Actually, I retired three years ago when I was 70. But I didn’t feel very retired in Peru trying to care for more than 30,000 Catholics spread out in more than 30 towns, villages and churches.
Family and loved ones in South Carolina and California have shown me much warmth and hospitality. In California I’m living in a mobile home park next to my two brothers in a desert surrounded by high mountains that after last night are now covered with beautiful snow. The temperature here can reach 115 or even 120 degrees and sometimes the snow is still visible.
A few weeks ago at a daily Mass, the priest spoke of Martha and Mary (the two sisters mentioned in the Gospels), and said that most of us know how to be Martha; our culture forms us to be active and occupied with “many things.” We have trouble being Mary and focusing on the “one thing necessary.” I hope this year will be sort of a sabbatical year in which I’ll become more like Mary. After 47 years of doing “many things” in the active priesthood, I think the Lord is giving me a year of mainly “being” as I sit daily at the Lord’s feet to listen and seek the “one thing necessary.”
I’m finding it to be a difficult but enriching transition, as prayer becomes my main daily work – about 5 hours daily in explicit prayer along with lots of silence the rest of the day. I’m trying more and more to move into the prayer that goes beyond words, thought and images that is sometimes called contemplative prayer.
I assure you that you are very much a part of those prayers and that your written names are before me as I pray. They are underneath pictures of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe – with a light shining on all three. Alongside is a large collage showing pictures of the people and works of the Zorritos Parish as I try to lift all of you up to the Lord each day. Please pray with me for the people of Zorritos and especially the nine-person parish team as they go through the difficult process of forming and becoming community with three new people.
I recall a woman receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation who told me, “Thanks, Father, for enabling me to send my children to school with breakfast.” She is one of the more than 100 people (several times it has been 500!) who still line up every morning in Zorritos to receive four rolls and four bananas – breakfast for her children and so many others.
I hope and pray that those who are helping the people of Zorritos are experiencing that joy that is the fruit of love. Whether you’re helping by prayer and/or material gift – or have even visited Zorritos – I pray God fills your heart with that great joy and peace that the world can neither give nor understand. It’s really a sneak preview in this life of what awaits us in the next life. True Christians have the best of both worlds – for despite the crosses, “heaven is all the way to heaven” just as “hell is all the way to hell.”
Peace, gratitude and prayer.
Father Don Gorski
P.S. In my Christmas letter I asked prayer for “the conversion and well-being of the whole parish and specifically for the gift of rain.” God has sent abundant rain after three years of drought! It’s hard to measure conversion and well-being. Indeed, it’s a more difficult prayer since it involves free will, but there are many positive signs. But please continue your prayer for the conversion and well-being of the parish. If you want to send money to Zorritos, checks should be made out to:
Sisters of St. Joseph
Attn: Sister Caritas Gorski
480 So. Batavia
Orange, CA 92868
Your tax-free donation will be transferred directly to a bank near Zorritos and I will acknowledge the gift. One hundred percent of your gift goes to the people of Zorritos. Please do not send checks for Zorritos to the Society of St. James or the Propagation of the Faith, for they must then rewrite the check and send it to the sisters.