Missionary Society of St Paul
Starting a New Mission - Back in 1968
- Fr. Vincent Magro mssp
Fr Vincent Magro was one of the first Paulist Missionaries to be sent to Peru. Here he reflects on those first days, back in 1968. Today, "Padre Vicente" is still in Peru, happily ministering in a Parish in Arequipa.
The first one is always the hardest. Starting something from scratch – it is really an adventure into the unknown, trusting yourself completely into God's hands.
To speak a different language, living far away from home for a long time, eat food you would have never imagined in your life, living a different mentality and culture, is NOT a joke
This happened to me, being the first Paulist missionary to dare cross the Atlantic on a 13,000 ton ship Donizetti (Italian) to start a new mission in the most mosquito-infected area, amongst sheer poverty and buried alive in a valley full of dangers – river, spiders and excessive heat. Together with two other aides, I was surprised by the unwelcome the people gave us, to be received with suspicion, as foreigners and intruders rather than as missionary priests.
Having been invited by Mgr R Gauci O.C., at that time prelate of Chuquibamba, I was confused. Trouble after trouble had to be overcome; but finally, by mid-August 1968, after residing for two months at the bishop’s residence, things started to settle down.
We had to overcome a hundred and one obstacles along the way – language, different menus of rice and maize, distances, heat, the stubbornness of the people, their “costumbres”, and so on.
As years passed by, things changed so much that the people of this village called Aplao, with a multitude of small hamlets, came to really appreciate the extensive work which has been done up to now by the MSSP priests – the latest challenge being the rebuilding of churches which had to be pulled down after the 2001 earthquake. People have to be well prepared to receive the sacraments with so many pre-baptismal and pre-marital courses being organised in our centres, and we always have to make sure that the pastoral work of the parish is being planned according to Vatican II and the Latin-American documents of Medellin, Puebla, and Santo Domingo.
Today, after 35 years, Aplao can stand for itself in what we can consider the advance in socio-pastoral work. The two MSSP priests presently ministering in the parish, Fr George Scerri and Fr Reginio Bolivar (a Peruvian priest ordained in 1995) are running a 400-strong mixed college with (primary and secondary classes), a local radio station “Horizonte” with a 100 kilometer square area (2500 mw) and, above all, a parish with many fiestas in each village all year round.
I spent 12 years of my life among these "mestizos" or Indio populated village, years which, I can assure you with all sincerity, were the happiest years of my life.
"I follow you wherever you go"