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Fr. Thomas A. Lawler, SJ
"There are many gifts and challenges in Peru. The Jesuits and their friends are doing impressive work and taking seriously the Society's mission to serve the faith and promote the justice of God's kingdom in a changing world." ~Fr. Thomas A. Lawler, SJ
Solidarity in Faith, Justice, and Mission: Fr. Thomas Lawler's Journey to Peru

By: Fr. Thomas A. Lawler, SJ

Last November, I visited the Jesuits’ Peruvian Province with John Sealey, the Midwest Jesuits' provincial assistant for social and international ministries. The Midwest Jesuits have a long-established relationship in Peru, with five Jesuits still serving in missions there.

We were warmly greeted by the Jesuits into their communities and ministries. Among the places we visited were the Jesuits' Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University and the parish and missions of the El Agustino neighborhood. We also visited one of the many Fe y Alegría schools in the province, as well as Fe y Alegría's national office. Fe y Alegría is a network of schools for impoverished and excluded populations in Latin America. It was started by the Society of Jesus, and there are around 80 such schools in Peru, sponsored by dozens of religious congregations. The school we visited is at Lima's outskirts and is sponsored by the Loreto sisters. It sits on a hillside in a very poor neighborhood. At the school, the children were happy and enthusiastic, because they had a place to learn that is filled with caring faculty who want them to succeed in life and learn skills for the future. We stopped in a class where high school students are learning to cook and bake so they can find jobs in that field someday, or perhaps start their own businesses selling cakes or breads. They proudly showed us their cakes and cupcakes, which looked delicious!

Our travels also took us to parishes and social centers in the mountain city of Cusco and surrounding towns of Andahuaylillas, Ccatca, Huaro, and Ocongate. We visited one of the Jesuits, Fr. Antonio, a legendary missionary who serves a large area of towns and villages at an altitude of more than 11,000 ft. Most of the people in these villages are Quechua.


 A Walk Through Huaro with Zayda and Rusbel

Video by Yusandra Yurico Yuca Naola, with Erin Brown
Music: "Something Beautiful" by Alexi Murdoch


They speak a language also spoken by the Incas hundreds of years ago. Father Antonio works with catechists and vocational trade teachers, groups that plant trees on the hillsides, and others who offer social services to youth and families. Some of the small villages are difficult to reach by vehicle and require hiking. Once, Fr. Antonio walked for four hours to reach a village for Mass. When he arrived to find no one there, he turned and walked back home. A week later, he received a letter of apology from the local catechist, who explained that the villagers had the wrong day on their calendar. Many of the villagers signed the letter using their thumb prints!

We also met several international Jesuit Volunteers serving in Andahuaylillas, a busy village with a beautiful church and parish that offers essential services to families. One of the volunteers we met, Erin Brown, is from Waukesha, Wis., and is the sister of first year Jesuit novice Liam Brown. It is a small world after all!

The Society has a rich history of presence and service in Peru, both before and after it was suppressed. The Jesuits' ministries in Peru are strongly influenced by our call to serve the poor and indigenous people, as well as provide education, youth accompaniment, and service of the faith in areas that are difficult to reach.
 Apostolic Frontiers of the Peruvian Jesuits
• Understanding the Gospel from the Poor’s Perspective
• Accompaniment with Indigenous Communities

• Youth and Young Adult Outreach

• Education and Fostering a Culture of Peace
Peru's Jesuits live very simply and close to the poor. They serve generously in a changing and complex setting, offering service as they respond to the Church’s mission on the frontiers of culture and society. We were impressed with the Jesuits’ gift of collegiality and cooperation with others in mission. In a province of approximately 170 Jesuits, they use a creative approach to serving the mission through networking and dividing the work regionally into “platforms," which allow for apostolic creativity in the service of people of different ethnic backgrounds and indigenous people living in the mountains or jungles of the Amazon. 




There are many gifts and challenges in Peru. The Jesuits and their friends are doing impressive work and taking seriously the Society's mission to serve the faith and promote the justice of God’s kingdom in a changing world.

Please join me in praying for the Jesuits and their colleagues who labor in Peru and share our common faith, hope, charism, and mission.

Fr. Thomas A. Lawler, SJ, is provincial of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus.





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