The Augustinian missionary spirit has been alive and a core element of the Order for centuries. It was the same missionary spirit that initially brought the Augustinians to the United States from Ireland in 1796. That very same call to global solidarity led the Midwest Augustinians to rebuild the Church in northern Peru at the request of Pope John XXIII in 1963.
Peru, a third world country with a developing economy, has suffered natural disasters, political instability, and economic uncertainty in recent past. Northern Peru, in the area near Chulucanas, is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions in the country. The missions we serve daily stretch from the desert area along the Pacific Coast to the Andes Mountains.
Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A. led the Diocese of Chulucanas as its first Bishop and is succeeded by current Bishop Daniel Turley, O.S.A; both Bishops are Augustinian missionaries from the Midwest Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel. The Diocese has flourished over the past 50 years to give birth to 22 parishes, one hospital, one Catholic university, and many projects to benefit and educate the local extremely impoverished community.
To grow the Augustinian Order in Latin America, our Province has developed priorities for the success of our Vicariate in Peru. The long-term goal of our missionary efforts is to incrementally strengthen the local Order with native vocations and financial sustainability so that it may one day be fully independent. We are nearing this dream each day.
Building the Native Church
Missionary Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A. once said, “Our best investment would be in the people, not in buildings. We arrived in Peru to promote the Peruvians, not to replace them.” Over 50 years later in 2014, we now see an incredibly rapid growth in native Augustinian vocations. In the entire country of Peru, there are about five dozen men in various stages of formation.
Similar to our formation program in the United States, the houses of formation are shared across the country between two other Augustinian Vicariates located in Iquitos (the Amazon Jungle) and Apurímac (in southern Peru, near Machu Picchu). Our novitiate is located in the country's capital of Lima, and our largest formation center is located in Trujillo, a city along the Pacific Coast.
The Midwest Augustinians have nurtured Augustinian Vicariate in Northern Peru, since it was formally founded in the Augustinian Order in 1986. With the growth of the Latin American Church, we are passing more responsibility into the hands of the native clergy. In 2010, Fidel Alvarado, O.S.A. became the first native Peruvian to serve as the Regional Vicar. Presently, 80% of the Augustinians in solemn vows in northern Peru are native Peruvians. We are even seeing that they, too, have embraced the missionary spirit by serving in distant countries: currently in Cuba, Algeria, and Rome.
Providing the Sacraments to God’s People
First and foremost, our missions exist to evangelize the local Church in Peru, as well as provide sacraments to the many thousands we serve. Some of those we serve live in very rural places, with limited access to the Holy Sacraments.
The Augustinians developed a Pastoral Plan in the 1960s to help the priests' reach go beyond their physical capabilities. Each parish is broken up into zones with a local team of lay people that are trained to educate the rest of their zone about the Holy Sacraments: their history, what they mean, and how to prepare for them. Groups of Augustinians then visit the dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of zones throughout their parish territory, administering the Holy Sacraments to all those in distant areas. Some zones can take up to one week to travel to; each zone is visited at least once per year.
Creating Opportunities through Education
The Augustinians have a reputation of being fantastic, impassioned educators. We bring those same core Augustinian values of Truth, Unity, and Love to our schools in Peru. We opened our St. Augustine School in Trujillo, Peru on March 11, 2013. Right now, we are investing money to build a high school near the grade school. The high school will be able to provide an Augustinian education to the local teenagers in this growing economic city and also help the Augustinian missions in Peru become more financially self-sustaining.
Walking with the Poor and Underserved
Many of the Peruvian people are considered "extremely impoverished" by standards defined by the United Nations. In addition to fulfilling the spiritual needs of the people, the Augustinians work hard to provide the necessities for the people of Peru. In the past, we have opened soup kitchens and pharmacies, built the only hospital in an entire diocese, started disease prevention and treatment programs, and a plethora of other programs designed to promote justice, peace, and the commitment to basic human rights. Our prayers go out to the Augustinian missionaries, the Peruvian Augustinians, those discerning an Augustinian vocation in Peru, and the many thousands of Peruvians served everyday by the Augustinians!