By REV. MSGR. J. DONALD GORSKI
Pope John Paul has spoken often of a “new evangelization” during the ’90s in preparation for the third millennium. In Peru we see this “new evangelization,” yet it is as old as the Gospel.
Yesterday a Jesuit priest from the states, a Peruvian teacher and several seniors in high school left here for their school in Lima. They had spent a week evangelizing in the mountain area of our parish.
The usually dry river beds are now chest-high raging rivers. Even four wheel drive can’t get through that. The priest, Father Bob Dolan, suffers from thrombosis and should keep his leg elevated. And so he entered the mountains on one of four mules, the other mules loaded with food, medicine and catechetical materials. These young people had worked hard with other school mates to raise funds to help the people.
Walking and crossing rivers, the girls and some others stayed at the third village, Trigal. The others went on to Canaveral — much farther and the largest, central village. The people received them very warmly. Father Dolan told me he felt as though he was back in Biblical times.
They prepared many children for baptism and taught their parents, as well as blessed marriages in the Church. Father Dolan said he has never felt so much a priest or sensed so much the value of his priesthood. It was as though the Lord was present, guiding their efforts.
For instance, they walked a considerable distance to visit with and pray for 15 sick people and give them the sacraments. It never once rained on them. They would enter the little house and the rains would pour. But as they left, the rains always stopped.
All this labor produced a very swollen leg, and Father Dolan knew he would have troubles getting out. We made repeated calls to the archbishop and generals for a helicopter. Helicopters do go in to bring a little food for the people. But all we got were promises and no helicopter.
So the people made a stretcher and carried the priest from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to the coast. We sent our truck in as far as it would go to pick him up. Many people from Canaveral accompanied him to the next village. There were tears flowing as they said good-bye.
He told the people, “If I were Jesus Christ himself, you could not have given me any better care or treatment.” He found it very humbling to be carried and was touched that men in different villages would help to carry him to the next one.
Thirteen of our young parishioners are now following a priestly or religious vocation and most of them are home on vacation. Many of them helped in this labor. One seminarian and another young fellow of the parish were swept down the river and almost drowned. Thank God they made it to the side and continued their ministry.
Father Dolan is now leading the young people on a weekend retreat, reflecting on their experience. We almost did not send the girls, fearing that it would be too much for them. They told me after their return, “We didn’t want to leave and come back to Lima.”
Our beaches are filled with little one-room, leaking shacks housing families who drag for shrimp larvae. While claiming to be Catholic, they have no contact with the parish. That is going to change. In a few days those in the seminary and convent will move in and live with these families. They will evangelize and prepare them for baptism. This sacrament will be celebrated in a Mass followed by a meal and fiesta for all. The “new evangelization” goes on.
Msgr. J. Donald Gorski is a native of Charleston. After devoting much of his time to the diocese, he now ministers with the Society of St. James the Apostle in Zorritos, Peru, where he provides spiritual guidance to the local villages.
Photo: Father Bob Dolan with high school students from Lima, Peru.