The following is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU, on Sunday, November 17, 2019 at a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary for Sacred Heart School for the Arts in Louisville, Kentucky on the Ursuline Campus.
So much for the good news of Our Lord
Here is some more good news. “The Amazon is burning, storms are raging, islands are drowning, Jakarta is sinking, aquifers are going dry, species are going extinct, land is changing to desert, and places throughout the globe have experienced one of the hottest summers in history; meanwhile, laws meant to protect our planet are being lifted. As more and more people suffer the pain of the desertification of the planet, the lack of food and clean water, the sinking of their cities, the suffering and desperation of migrants, …the pain of grief and lamentation escalates.” So, says Patricia Bergen, writing in a recent issue of the National Catholic Reporter.
As I thought about these passages from
scripture and Ms. Bergen’s article, and I remembered why we are gathered here today, I thought there must be some
music that could reflect all of this “good news” we have just heard. I asked
Dr. Chipe to work with me on this. Listen and see if we feel Jesus’s words in
music. Let the art take you into the feelings expressed in this Gospel. (Music
Did you feel it? This is exactly what Jesus wanted his
disciples to feel. At least one scripture scholar says that Jesus was probably not
inside the temple when He engaged his disciples in this conversation, but he
was likely seated on a hillside overlooking the temple and this small group was
discussing the beauty of the structure. As the disciples were commenting on the
beauty of the temple, Jesus just casually says, “Yes, but it will be
destroyed.” They knew that other temples had been destroyed and so they were
not surprised, but they wanted to know now so they could be ready.
As a matter of fact, Luke wrote this
Gospel about 50 years after Jesus made this prophesy. The temple had been
destroyed and the people who were reading his writings knew that. For them it
was history. But life had gone on. Persecution had begun. By now all of the disciples
that knew Jesus personally were dead. People knew that Paul had been dragged
before courts and seemed to be able to defend himself by depending on the Holy
Spirit to give him words and courage. So, again what Luke’s audience was
reading was history. However, they knew of martyrs in their own day. Jesus is
telling his men and Luke is telling his readers, if you stand firm, you will
win your souls. Not a hair of your head will be destroyed.
And a few verses later, after
additional gloom and doom in verses 20-28, Jesus ends by saying, “But stand up
straight…hold your head up…your salvation is at hand.” I couldn’t help thinking
isn’t it true in our lives, that it is often darkest just before the light
seems to come? Isn’t it true that when we think we can’t go on, God sends
someone or some grace that helps us get out of the darkness and helps us begin
to see the light? You may have experienced it. Again,
to quote Patricia Bergen, “Who could ever believe that this pain could be a
blessing? And yet it is. When pain sears the core of the heart, when
lamentation fills the Earth and outrage cries out from the deep soul of
humanity, this can be the fertile ground from which powerful visions emerge.
Pain, lamentation and tears can be a blessing, for these reveal the end of
being blind and deaf, the end of denial — and this is reason to hope!”
Not long ago, I heard a talk that illustrates this. The speaker told of one of those terrible events of nature that happened not too long ago. Some here remember when Mount St. Helen in Oregon erupted. It was 1980. The speaker said that a friend of hers who lived in Oregon related the absolute devastation of the lava and ash from the volcano. It ran down the side of the mountain killing everything in its path. There was nothing for miles around but grey ash. But once the ash had cooled somewhat, (this was a year or so later) and cracks began to appear in the surface, wildflowers began to come. They bloomed; they came up in the cracks. They added color to the grey ash that was still there. Today these many years later, people come from all over to see the blanket of wildflowers covering the side of that same Mount St. Helen that was covered with ash. Somehow for me these wildflowers reflect Jesus’ words, “Stand up straight, hold your head up…your salvation; your hope is at hand.”
We are moving into a season of hope, the season of Christmas. Pope Francis recently said, “While hope is a virtue that cannot be seen, it should be the air that a Christian breathes.” He called on the world to be open to the promise of hope in Christian life that is kept alive by the “Spirit that works in us.” He goes on to pray and I join him, “May the Lord give us, to all of us, this grace of living in tension, in tension but not through nerves, or problems. No; in tension through the Holy Spirit who keeps us in hope.”
Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives. —Luke 21: 12-19
32nd Sunday Ordinary Time Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; II Thessalonians 2;16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-28
on October 27, I was in Pittsburgh visiting my family. That morning we just
found out that a mass shooting was taking place in real time at a Jewish
synagogue while three different congregations were at worship. We were only a
mile away from the synagogue as this was happening.
terror hit not only that neighborhood but the entire city because this
neighborhood was one of the most diverse and friendliest neighborhoods in the
city. After all, this is where Mr. Rogers had lived too.
heard that 11 worshippers were killed and six were seriously wounded. My sister
knew three of the victims. It was announced that a prayer service would be held
the next day. However, a teenager was interviewed and said, “We cannot wait
till tomorrow. We need to be together in prayer and hope and faith in the midst
of these people dying for their faith.” That evening, 3,000 people showed up in
the pouring rain across from where the shooting happened. They prayed for hope,
peace forgiveness and reconciliation.
As I prayed
over todays readings, this experience came to me. In Maccabees, you hear a
family being tortured and killed for their faith, not unlike what happened in
Pittsburgh or the Baptist church in Charlottesville; or the mosque in New
Zealand; or where there are so many religious wars of people dying for their
of Maccabees was not a careful historian, but had the gift of presenting many
stories of personal faith that would help others in similar times of
persecution and martyrdom. The brothers in Maccabees died for their faith as
they professed obedience to the Law and belief in the resurrection of the body.
In praising their fidelity, the book describes an afterlife with God for those
who live a just life.
gospel, a controversy ensues between Jesus and the Sadducees, who try to trick
him about relationships in the afterlife. Of course, Jesus goes to the heart of
the matter and teaches them that the resurrected life is for everyone right now
within the community who are faithful in relationships. Do not be over anxious
about the final coming. Live now to the fullest, embrace relationships, be
faithful here and now—then, at the end, you will know that God is the God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob and of all of us, for God is the God of the living, not the
was written to help families who were struggling with persecution and who lost loved
ones, to have faith and to assure them of a new life. Jesus reminds us that
fidelity in relationships are important, so that we may enjoy God’s presence
and each other now as well as on the other side of this life more than we could
imagine. Remember, in the preface for the Mass of the dead we say life has not
ended, but has changed.
St Paul got
it right for the Thessalonians. God has loved us and given us encouragement and
hope to strengthen us in deed and word, now. The Lord is faithful, God will
strengthen us as we direct our hearts to love of God and Christ and each other.
today to remember our loved ones who died. Our relatives and friends who
touched our lives, whose relationships we cherished and shared so much, folks who
may have suffered a long time or died suddenly. We miss them dearly because we
had a deep relationship with them. We may slowly learn to live with their
absence, but we will never forget them because we never forget love.
This is the
hope and the new life Jesus promises us in the gospel. Embracing to live the present
in relationship with others is a glimpse of the continued life with God.
The movie Coco
tells the tradition of the Mexican celebration of the day of the dead, not unlike
our all soul’s day celebration. It is a time to remember the loved ones who
died, to reunite with the spirit of the ancestors. In the movie if the dead are
not remembered, if the living do not believe they are alive in a new way, they have
what they call “a final death.” At the end of the movie, the character Miguel
says we never forget; because we are in relationship with them, we are all
family. Through Jesus and our faith and hope we know there is no final death
but life eternal that begins here on earth.
Rolheiser in his book, The Cross and Resurrection, said, “Love triumphs
over hate, peace over chaos, fidelity over despair, life over death, good over
Back to the
synagogue shooting—the next day, all across Pittsburgh there were already
banners and t-shirts that said, “stronger than hate.” A few weeks ago,
at the one-year remembrance gathering, the rabbi who was wounded in the
shooting said, “We are still here, faithful to the Torah, still praying, still
remembering, still doing acts of mercy, love and devotion, still people of
friends—life, faith and love are stronger than death, we are stronger because
we are people of faith, because of God’s fidelity and our relationships with
God, our deceased and each other. We are stronger than death.
This is the ninth and last in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.
Well, the day has finally come that we had to return back to the U S of A. We have landed in our beautiful city of Louisville. It’s bittersweet. I’m super sad to have left, but I know I have made memories that I’ll always keep near and dear to me. All of the wonderful people I met have truly impacted me. They all have a special place in my heart. I will especially miss Sister Sue, Yuli, and Kathy. They are cool ladies.
Before I discuss yesterday, I would just like to say one more time how much I love Sister Sue. We went out Friday evening to run some errands with her. On the way back she looked at us and said, “would you like to take a moto taxi home?” Oh, would we ever! We were ecstatic because this has been on our bucket list since we arrived in Peru and Sue had known that. We decided that they look like little beetles zipping in and out of the streets. The ride was as scary as we imagined it to be. I took a video of our death defying ride.
Yesterday, we had a relaxing day. We hung around the house and packed and took it easy. Of course, there was a nap thrown in there. What am I going to do without my daily naps now that I’m back in the real world???
At 5:30 pm the school had their 54th anniversary celebration. They treat it as a birthday. Their theme this school year is taking care of the Earth with a focus on the Amazon. Each grade did a performance that focused on this. They were so sweet! All the performances were very good and you could tell the students had put a lot of work into their skits. Some made me really wanna cry. One of the older grades showed the Amazon now and in 50 years. In 50 years there was nothing but one tree (a student) left standing. Then some of the students got up and spoke with such confidence and animation about the Amazon. I was very impressed with a third grade class who had their speeches memorized. They really performed with such strength. They pronounced their words very clearly. For how young they were, they had such confidence when delivering their speech by themselves to the audience. I could never have done that at their age.
I was freezing by the end of it. It was outside in the courtyard. Everything takes place in the courtyard. It got over about 8:30. At the end of the night, a huge birthday cake was brought out on the stage and the teachers were asked to come up. Happy birthday was sung while the teachers danced around the cake. Then cake was passed out to everyone! Then, more dancing took place. Just when my mom and I were planning our escape, Sister Yuli found us and pulled us into the dancing circle. My mom and I said we felt like stupid Americans trying to keep up with these Peruvian dances. Peruvians like to hold hands in a circle and go round and round with intricate foot work that foreigners have no chance of keeping up with. AKA my mother and me. Finally, when the circle broke and turned into a train of holding hands going around the court yard, I broke the chain and sneaked out. My mom didn’t get the hint and was left in the train that was sneaking through the left over people from the celebration. She looked at me and I laughed. Finally, she got her chance and joined me. She found us and said we needed to eat before the taxi came to take us to the airport.
The teachers were all going to a restaurant after the bday celebration to celebrate some more. Like you do. Sue is so caring and had us get there first. She’s also a lifesaver from saving us from our circle dancing. She said we couldn’t leave without having eaten. We also got our sangria first. Yum. We were getting it poured in these tiny glasses, and then Sister Yuli picked up her wine glass and said hmm I think I want it in this. I died laughing. You go Yuli! Oh how I’ll miss her. We had french fries and chicken, again! I’ve consumed a lot of chicken the past few days, but I’m not complaining. We literally ate and ran. My mom mentioned it might take 10 minutes to say goodbye to everyone, and Sue firmly said no, that we didn’t have time for that. Aye aye captain! We stood up, said our goodbyes as we were walking, and everyone yelling at us to have a safe trip. Adios, teachers!
Sister Sue and Sister Kathy had us power walking back to their house. Man, those ladies can move. I could barely keep up with them! And I have long legs! We got there with plenty of time to spare. The taxi arrived at 10 pm and we were off. She and Kathy walked us as far as they could and then we had to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. We hugged and all that sentimental stuff. After Sue and I hugged, she told me I had to come back. I agreed and said maybe to teach. And you know what she said? She said, “ya know, I’ve already thought about that.” That Sue. I love her so much. Brace yourselves for Lizzy in Peru part 2.
Thank you for following our two week journey through Peru! Adios… for now 😉 -Lizzy
This is the eighth in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.
Ok, I am finally getting around to writing about our Tuesday holiday adventure…3 days later. Please forgive me. There was no school on Tuesday because it was a national holiday for the Battle of Angamos. This was a naval encounter of the War of the Pacific fought between the Navies of Chile and Peru. There was no school so the Sisters took us on a little trip for the day. Whoo hoo! Partay with the Sistasss.
Sister Kathy got in very late Monday night. We met her Tuesday morning and she is just delightful. She is so sweet. She’s the one who lives in the mountains in San Miguel. She had to go home for the summer because her sister was very sick and passed away. Sister Kathy has also lived in Peru for 40 years. I’m telling you, these Sisters are very strong women. They are great role models.
We all had breakfast together and talked for two hours! Every breakfast we have homemade oatmeal with granola and fruit. I’ll never get sick of it. Sister Sue said that she was thinking today could just be a rest day and we could just hang out chill. Sister Kathy was excited for it because they didn’t get home from the airport until about 2 am.
Well, we had far from a restful day. Poor Sister Kathy. But it was a great day! And one of my favorite days here so far. The Sisters took us to a fort close to their home in La Punta, The Point. Which, is called that because it’s the tip of the peninsula. Don’t ask me what occurred at this fort. I told you how my history is. I just know that they used it to stop invaders. If you’re curious, you can research it. Sorz!
We had a Spanish tour guide. Halfway through he gave us a 10 minute break and then we lost him and our group. Oh, well. I had more fun doing our own thing.
After we visited the Fort we searched for some lunch. We came across a place that was still serving hot lunch. It was close to 3 pm and most restaurants stop serving their hot lunches for the day. Remember, lunch is the main meal of the day here in Peru. My mother and I shared Lomo Saltado, Jumping Lamb.
Once our bellies were full, the adventure continued. They took us to La Punta beach. We started our walking. Then these two boys walked by us and looked me up and down and said hello! And this other man who was walking his dog, looked at Yuli and gave her a sign which means to be careful and that we were in a bad part of town. Little Yuli grabbed linked arms with me and made us switch sides of the street. She kept telling Sue we needed to get out of this part. Then she had us all take a one of those “busses” to the beach. I never felt unsafe during any of this, but I guess better safe than sorry.
We walked to the waters edge. It was beautiful. I love the ocean so much. The shore line was all rocks and there were so many olas, waves. It was a bit chilly and windy, but I didn’t care. Yuli was throwing rocks into the water. My mom was like “oh! I want to throw a rock”. My mom picked up a rock and chucked it. It went soaring through the air and instead of dropping smoothly into the water, it went crashing into the boat, that people were posing next to for photos, and made a loud crashing noise. They all looked over at us horrified. Thank goodness she didn’t hit one of them. Yuli and I about fell over laughing. My mom is very clumsy and things like this stuff always happen to her.
There were also people paying to be taken out on these little boats that people were posing next to. Never would I ever do this, especially with the water being so rough. I swear they packed like 20 people into one boat!!!
After hanging out by the water for some time, we made our way back through the town. We came across an ice cream shop and decided we all had to get some! I usually don’t like fruity flavors in my dessert, but I got strawberry ice cream and it was so good! We also stumbled upon a little artisan market. My heart was very happy! I love buying local and looking at things people make. I’ve mentioned before that I am obsessed with succulents. There was a booth with all of these cute handmade pottery pots and succulents in them. I wanted to buy one so bad. I told the artists I couldn’t by one because I live in the US and were not allowed to bring plants back. Well, just so happens they had one pot that didn’t have a plant in it. AND it was my two favorite colors! It was meant to be. Then one of the artist was like “here”, and broke off a little ball from a cactus. He put it in a tiny bag and told me how to plant it and water it. So, I guess technically I’m not really taking a plant back to the US. Shhh don’t tell on me. The sisters also bought a succulent.
Once we reached the end of the booths, we got a taxi and headed home. Sister Yuli told Sister Kathy she was in charge of making popcorn and she would go get beer. I thought she was kidding, nope she wasn’t. Once we got home, Sister Kathy made delicious popcorn, the old fashioned way. I went out with Sister Yuli to buy the black beer. I also saw where they buy their fresh bread. We picked up a Inca Cola for my mom and I to try. It tastes like bubble gum. We had a great time that night around the table. We ate popcorn and each had a glass of the typical dark beer.
And that’s a wrap on our Tuesday adventure. Thanks for reading! -Lizzy
This is the seventh in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.
Today was another adventurous day. We went to see some Inca ruins that are older than Manchu Picchu!! The name: Huaca Pucllana. Right in the middle of Lima city. It was built between 200-700 AD. And we got to walk on top of the pyramid!! Talk about wild. Jaqauline and Sonya accompanied us again. We’re pretty much BFFs now.
We were able to get a tour in English. However, the tour guide was not very attention grabbing and seemed to be a robot in human form. If you know me, you know history is not my strong suit. I think it is super interesting and fascinating, but it’s just like whenever someone starts talking to me about it, I zone out. It’s a problem. Especially, if they sound like a robot spewing memorized English info. No offense to our tour guide. So, I just kinda did my own thing on the tour- took photos and hung out in my own world. You know, the usual day in the life of Lizzy. I can’t really tell you anything our tour guide said. I know, I’m terrible. I got a lot of info from my Mom. Thank goodness she doesn’t have my problem of zoning out. She loves history and will literally read every plaque in a museum. She was in luck because there was a little museum to see after our tour. Another problem I have is reading history. Museums are hard for me. I have to reread something like 500 times and then even then I probably won’t remember what I just read. Y’all, it’s a real problem. Moral of the story: history and I don’t get along.
Anyways, the ruins were awesome- from what I saw, not heard. From my understanding this was a ceremonial ground. People would gather to celebrate fest days, discuss major events, and receive instructions from their political and religious leaders. Ok, yes I went back and looked at a photo I took in the museum of a paragraph explaining the ruins. See, I am terrible at history. I do remember that it was all adobe and they would sacrifice young women. Yikes. Also, since they were close to the sea they believed in a Sea God. Makes sense. They would have ceremonies where they would offer things to their God, like frogs, corn, and herbs… you know typical things like that..
The official language back then was Quechua. Sonya grew up speaking this language and can still speak it. How awesome is that?! She spoke some of it for us on Thursday. I loved listening to it. Sonya kept telling us a lot of what the guide was saying was not super valid. For instance, the tour guide was saying a certain area in the ruins was a kitchen. I told Sonya this and she was like no that’s wrong! She said the area was only used on special occasions to make certain drinks. I told her she needed to become a tour guide. She is very passionate about where she came from. She grew up in this culture of making adobe bricks. She said her family would make them and use cow poop as cement.
The tour guide also showed us some animals. She said they were Alpacas. Sonya was outraged because they were llamas!! She said this lady was bad and needed to stop lying. You go, Sonya! She told us how all the llamas were sick. She could tell by their fur and how skinny they were. She told us that they weren’t feeding them the right food and that this is not their natural habitat. They were in a small cage. In the wild they would be laying down and more relaxed. They’re also usually much larger. These llamas were skinny and small. I felt really bad for them. I wanted to open their cage and free them.
I thought it was interesting that these ancient ruins were in the middle of a city. It kind of took away from the beauty of it. The city literally built up around it. We also heard that only 17% of these ruins are real. The rest is a recreation. A little disappointing, but oh well.
I had a great time visiting the ruins. I think it’s fascinating the way these people lived and that some of it still survives to this day.
After we finished our tour we went to Kennedy Park. It’s a really pretty park in Lima named after John F. Kennedy. My mom also needed to buy some last minutes souvenirs so we popped into a store. We took a taxi back to the sisters’ house where we had a delicious lunch that was prepared by Sue. Like it was super good. I forgot what it’s called in Spanish. But it was like shredded chicken with a creamy sauce on top of potatoes, and rice on the side. They eat potatoes and rice every day. In Peru there are over 3,000 different types of potatoes. After we cleaned up, I took a much needed nap.
In the evening the associates of Callo had a meeting. My mom did the same thing with the associates in San Miguel. She took pictures and videoed their meeting. Her video camera didn’t die this time, BUTTTT half way through her videoing a message popped up on her screen and it said that her memory card ran out of storage. I starting laughing and everyone just looked at me, including my mom. I pointed at the screen and my mom had to awkwardly interrupt Sue mid-question again. Hahahaha. When she told Sue, Sue rolled her eyes. I lost it. My mom ran around frantically trying to find her other memory card. She finally found it and the interview continued. I told Mom not to worry because everyone was relaxed and calm. Everything always works out!
The meeting ended with delicious food. It was like a potato sandwich. In between the two potatoes was some type of chicken and vegetable mixture. This was followed by a type of cake that celebrates this month. As I mentioned before, the month of October, Peruvians celebrate the Señor de los Milagros. The Lord of Miracles. The color is purple and many people wear this color during this month. There is a huge parade where 30 men carry a huge statue of this image of the Lord down the streets in Lima. I wish I could see it. Apparently it is super packed and everyone throws flowers into the streets. There is a typical dessert called, turrón. It’s very good.
The meeting got over late. Like 10 pm. Then sister Yuli put on music and had us dance. Sister Yuli is from Peru. She speaks a little English. But literally everything she says or does makes me laugh. Anyways, here I was in the middle of the Sisters’ living room with three Catholic Sisters and my mom dancing to the YMCA, Mama Mia, and Dancing Queen. I could not stop laughing. I was having too much fun to take any photos.
Another great day here in Peru. Buenas noches mis amores. -Lizzy
This is the sixth in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.
Oh. My. Goodness. What a couple of wonderful days we have had the past two days. I’m soooo exhausted, but I am making myself write this blog for my dedicated fans out there (wishful thinking that I have dedicated fans).
I will write about our adventures from yesterday, tomorrow. Does that even make sense? Sorry for the disorganization. It gets my OCD going too.
Today was great. I really enjoyed myself. We are back in Lima. Callao to be more exact. Today, was the 54th anniversary of the school that the Sisters founded here. We went to their celebratory Mass this morning. That makes three Masses I’ve been to in less than a week. But I mean who’s counting??? I got to see all the little cutie pies again. Katy and Elisabet were back in action. The Mass was very nice with very joyful and happy music.
After Mass, the sisters’ friend (Sonia) and her niece (Jaqueline) took us to Lima city for the day to show us around. We had a blast! Jacqueline just finished her certificate in translating. Her English is very good. Don’t worry, I was able to practice my Spanish with Sonia. I’m still not at Sister Sue’s level though. Maybe one day. I might have to live in Peru for 40 years though.
Every church we tried to see, didn’t really work out. Ugh. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. We tried to see the church for Santa Rosa De Lima, Saint Rose from Lima. That church was closed, but the courtyard was open very shortly until we were kicked out. In our brief time there, we saw the poso, or well, for you non Spanish speakers. Everyone writes on a piece of paper their wishes and throws it into the well. Then the worker guy came and kicked everyone out. He said it would reopen at 5. But like sir, why are you closing??
After Saint Rose, we went to the church of Saint Martin de Porres. That church was closed for restoration. So we saw the entrance and hallway. Ok, we also saw a small chapel. Sonia did some investigating and found out that this church has a soup kitchen for elderly people. They serve 120 people every day. It’s all run by volunteers. This soup kitchen has been taking place since Martin de Porres started it. AMAZING. Saint Martin de Porres’ parents were slaves, and because of this when he became a priest they gave him the worst jobs. He was also known for being kind to animals and feeding mice.
While walking to another church, we came across tons of stores that sell different saints, rosarys, candles, images, etc. Basically, every Catholics dream store. I wanted to buy a little tiny statue of Saint Martin de Porres for my priest AKA my boss. What??? No, I’m not sucking up at all. The first shop we went into the lady told Sonya it was 10 soles. I went to buy it and she told me 25 soles! Sonia told her, “no, you told me 10.” To which the lady was like “what? Who told you that???” And Sonia was like “ok, bye girlfriend!” Ok, not really. She was more so like ok bye we are going somewhere else. You go, Sonia! Way to advocate for us dumb tourists who get taken advantage of. No, really I appreciate her. From then on out, we hid outside the store or around corners and Sonia would go in and ask prices. Then, we would pop up and get the local price. Teamwork makes the dream work people. Am I right or am I right? Shout out to Sonia. I love her. We found a different store that was selling the statue for 10 soles. Success.
One thing Peruvians believe in is wearing little image like pin of saints when traveling. This is to protect you while traveling. Well, just so happens I found my gift for my high school youth group. Cue me on the street picking out 36 of these little things. My kids better appreciate me. Each one only cost 1 sole, which is like .33 cents in the US. Super cheap, and super great gift if I do say so myself.
It was a great idea until all the other street lady vendors started bombarding me asking me to buy off their boards. Seriously, at one point we were enclosed in a circle by them. I was causing a lot of attention on the street- something I like the least. I am a very sensitive person and I felt really bad I couldn’t buy from these other ladies. I wanted to buy one from each, but for the sake of time, and my company, I had to be tough and stick to the task at hand: picking out 36 little images from one lucky lady.
We were going to visit the church, Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles), buttttttt the line was SUPER long. Like, two hours long type of line. So, add that to the list of churches we didn’t see. The reason the line was so long is that this month, October, is the month of Señor de los Milagros. The whole month is dedicated to Him. The color for the month is purple. There is even a special cake they use to celebrate the month! It’s called Turron. Some of the stores were offering samples of this delicious pastry. We may have tried it a couple times… it’s good, ok?! Anyways, Lima goes all out for the Lord of Miracles. There is a day in the beginning of the month where the streets are closed, and there is a huge procession down the main street. Apparently, it is super packed and everyone is throwing flowers at the men carrying the statue of Señor de los Milagros. I would love to see it sometime. It reminds me of the processions in Spain.
Sonia took us to the center of Lima. She called it the corazón de Lima. The heart of Lima. There were tons of souvenir shops around. I think my mom bought the whole city. JK MOM LOVE YOU. We had a great time looking in all the stores. We planned on entering the Cathedral, BUT you had to pay to enter. Can you believe that?! Only free on weekends. Strike four on seeing inside a church.
We ate lunch at the famous chain restaurant that serves chicken a la brasa. I’m not sure what that translates to in English. Sorry. And I forget the name of the chain restaurant. Sorry again. Anyways, it was nice to sit down after all our walking we had been doing. I pulled out my gifts to look at them. Well, it appeared that a series of unfortunate events had taken place. Remember that tiny statue I bought earlier of San Martín for only 10 soles? Yeah, well, somehow his head during our walking journey got decapitated and was floating next to his body in the little plastic bag. Dios mío. Sonia reassured me that we could glue it back on.
Sonia and Jacqueline are both beautiful people. Sonia was telling us how much she was enjoying herself with us. She said it’s the first day she’s had off in a long time. And it’s the first day in a long time she’s had to herself to hang out with friends and have fun. She started crying. My heart could not handle it. She also told us that these memories she’s making with us today are special and memories she will always keep with her. She said it has been a great experience and she will take so much away from our day together. She also said that she will always hold a piece of us in her heart. Gah. Why are the people here so sweet?? She said it much more beautifully than that, and it was in Spanish, which always makes it more beautiful.
After our short lunch break, we were back on the streets of Lima to do some more shopping. This is what we did the rest of the day. Folks, I am worn the heck out. Shopping is exhausting. My mom and I passed a local street artist. Uh oh. We always have to buy from local artists wherever we travel. It’s just our thing, and maybe it’s becoming a problem. I really tried to haggle with him on the price. He wasn’t taking it. He gave us two and knocked 10 soles off the final price. Fine, whatever. You’re a poor artist. I get it. My mom feels for him because she is an artist too. The paintings were done with water color. They are amazing.
They also took us through Chinatown. Let me tell you, there was a ton of people. It was chaos. Absolute chaos. People were rushing around in a hurry and others were stopping to look at things. There were tons of individuals on the street selling clothes, food, you name it. I have no words, really. I’m still in shock.
It was 6:30 and it was time to go home. We had been out since 11:30 am! Talk about a long day. And Jacqueline still had to go to class at 7. Poor girl. It was so kind of her to be with us all day. The taxi dropped her off at her university and then took us back to the casa of the sisters. We all sat around the kitchen table, Sonia included, and had our tea and snacks. We swapped our stories from the day. It was nice. I love being here.
After Sonia left, my mom and I had show and tell with the sisters of all the things we bought. They loved it all.
I showed them the statue of San Martin de Porres. Sister Julie got the glue out right away to glue the head back on the body. Julie kills me. She is absolutely hilarious. We are always laughing at things she does or says. Anyways, we got the head glued on. Then we noticed a little chip around his collar. We searched the tiny plastic back he was in and found the small black piece of paint! Yay! But then we lost it on the table. But then we found it again! We got the glue back out and glued the super tiny piece back on. This statue has a little halo that I don’t think is supposed to come off. Well, Julie yanked it off like she knew what she was doing. We all just stared at her and were appalled. She told me to leave it off when I travel on the plane. We were like what are you doing?!? She reassured us that it just stuck back in and demonstrated by shoving the halo prongs back into their respected holes. We were like ok all is well. Until Julie said, uh oh, I’m sorry. We were like what?! She turned San Martin around, and there around his back where the halo goes, was a noticeable size area of where the paint had been chipped. We all just died laughing. We got the glue back out and glued this tiny piece back on. We laughed for about a good 10 minutes. I still laugh when I think about it. Then Julie said she had an idea for how to protect San Martin when we traveled home. She went to the other room and came back with a toilet paper roll. She placed this over San Martin. But it only went half way down. We were rolling. All of us had tears coming down our faces. We told Julie to just stop touching the statue and leave it alone. Julie asked me to let them know how the statue is when we get home. Oh goodness gracious. It was a great way to end the night.
Tomorrow, Jacqueline and Sonya are taking us to Lima again to see a different part. We are going to see some Inca ruins that are apparently older than Machu Picchu. Be jealous.
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts written by Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Kathy Williams, director of communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. Elizabeth provides a fresh and witty travelogue of their trip to Peru September 29–October 13 2019.
Yesterday, we returned from the mountains. Can I just say how very sad I am to have left that beautiful place. I fell in love with San Miguel. I could honestly see myself living there. Don’t worry it’s not gonna happen…at least any time soon. We had such an amazing time. It’s hard for me to put into words the impact these people made in my life, and in just a short amount of time. The people were so unbelievably kind and welcoming. Everyone we met acted like they had known us for years. The way of life there is so different and really puts things into perspective for you. The people live so simply, but in their hearts they live so deeply. They have such beautiful souls. I obviously cannot tell you every detail about the past 5 days we spent there. I mean I could, but then you would be reading a novel, and I don’t think y’all want that. So, I will try my very best to summarize our experience. TBH it will probably still be a novel. Sorry not sorry. It’s 5 days packed into one post. Only the dedicated fans will read all the way through.
Thursday, we left for San Miguel by plane. It actually was not a tiny plane like I had imagined. It was a very large plane. Three seats on each side and only an hour and a half flight. When we arrived to Cajamarca, a family met us in order to help us get to the “bus station”. I say “bus station” because one, it was not a bus, it was a 15 passenger van, and two it was not really a bus station at all. It was a tiny space that could fit a couple “buses”. The family who met us was sweet. They brought us coca tea. This helps with altitude sickness. A lot of people often chew on the leaves themselves. Hopefully, I do not get drug tested back in the states, because it apparently shows up on the test that you have done cocaine. Wowza…
The ”bus” ride was interesting. Very windy and uphill all the way. Sometimes the road would disappear and it would just be like dirt and gravel. Or the road would be cracked and broken with a mini waterfall running through it. But man, it sure was beautiful. We were literally in the heart of the mountains. The houses are right on the road. They are adobe houses. They look run down, but this is what people know and are used to. To them it is normal. They call this area where all the farming is, the campo. We saw tons of chicken and cows. We even saw some donkeys and pigs. I really enjoyed looking at everything. We would soon come to find out that people walk from the campo to San Miguel. A lot of the children walk two hours both ways to get to school. On market day, Sunday, the people from the campo walk anywhere from an hour to two hours to get to San Miguel to sell their produce. Really puts things into perspective for you. The women from the Campo wear these traditional dresses and hats. I LOVED it. The men also wear the hats. It’s actually very smart because it keeps the sun and rain off of you. Everyone washes their clothes outside in buckets or by the river and hangs them up to dry outside. There are no washers, dryers, or dishwashers. And the water is cold. Call me dirty, but I only took two showers in the five days we were there. The reason being that the water is cold…Shew that will wake you up AND make you thankful for having hot water at home. AND make you feel like a spoiled brat. I’m telling you people, the way of life is different there.
When we arrived to San Miguel, it was dark and rainy. Not a very nice welcoming, but none the less we made it! Padre Cayo (Father Cayo) the associate pastor of San Miguel parish, insisted that we stay with him. He goes by Cayo. This man never stops working for his people. He is so kind and welcoming. We ate all of our meals with him and the cook, Carolina. The other priest, Padre Juan (try to keep up with all the names here), was in a remote village for a few days having Mass for someone who had recently passed. These remote villages in the Campo don’t have priests. In San Miguel, they have a cook for the the priests because they are always on the go attending to people in their community. Like seriously- Always. On. The. Go.
Ok, next order of business. I am going to talk about all of the beautiful people we met.
Carolina is an amazing cook with a beautiful spirit. She told all of these stories with such animation. Of course, it was all in Spanish. I didn’t understand every detail, but I got the gist of it. I honestly just loved listening to her talk. She also says things so poetically.
We got to know Carolina over the course of our five days there. She is married and has four children. She moved to San Miguel from the coast. They only planned on coming for a month because her son was sick and needed the fresh air of the mountains. Well, now they have been there 8 years. Her youngest just turned one. She is the sweetest, most cutest thing in the world. Her name is Jessia. Pronounce the J as an H.
Carolina has been through a lot. She could have a negative outlook on life, but she doesn’t. When she was 3 her Dad died. Her mom remarried to man and he already had two sons. Her stepdad did not care about her because she wasn’t his daughter. He wouldn’t pay for anything for her or her mother. At 7 years old she started working. She would try to sell things on the street. Whatever money she made, she would give half to her mom and keep the other half for herself. Despite all of this, Carolina has such a beautiful outlook on life. She tells her children that while they may not have much, they have life. And that is more than enough to be thankful for. God gave them life and that is a beautiful gift.
One morning while we were eating breakfast, she asked my mom and me if either of us had had an operation. We were like yes….? She said to be very careful because she had a dream that one of us had had an operation, and we needed to be careful with our medicine and our diet with that medicine. Hmm ok. Very scary. Trying not to freak. But she said not to worry, just be very careful. Hmmm ok Carolina, sí. She also said that my mom and I were going to have a very good year. Ok, that’s better news. She said she sees things through her dreams. I really believe that some people have a gift like this. She said she got it from her grandmother. Her grandma can see things by looking into people’s eyes. She said she never seems it out, it just comes to her in her dreams. She asked us if a recent family member had just passed. We said no not really. Then she started describing this family member and said that they were watching over our house while we were gone. She said they especially we’re watching over a small box that had jewlrey in it. I immediately got goose bumps and became speechless. My beautiful grandmother, who I am named after, died 7 years ago. She left me a beautiful jewelry box with her perl necklace in. I keep all my jelwrey in it. Tell me that is not magical. She said to not be scared because it was a good presence. She also told me that I would be taking another trip soon where I would meet a lot of people. She said I still have so many dreams to fulfil. She’s right, I do. I don’t know about the trip part though. I don’t know where I am going. Maybe she means I’ll be moving there. Haha jk…?
Carolina told us that she can tell my mom and I have a positive energy about us. She said she can just feel it. And she thinks Jessia has the same gift as her. She gave many examples. I know it sounds crazy through writing, but I believe her. She said Jessia never goes to people and she was shocked the first time my mom went over to her stroller and she put her arms out to be picked up. She did the same to me. We bonded from that day on. She would just stare. Like I mean intently stare at you. Carolina said she was observing us. See below for a cuteness overload.
Padre Cayo was a great host. He made sure we had everything we need. He was very hospitable. He insisted we eat every meal with them at the Parish center. A little confusing, but there was a parish center and then the actual parish. Two different buildings. We stayed in the parish. We had our meals in the parish center. Every morning we ate breakfast ate 8 am, lunch around 1-2 pm, and a light snack around 7-8 pm. I don’t really know why I am telling you all this info. Anyways Cayo NEVER stops running around. He really cares about his community and is very helpful. His phone is always ringing. Also, he is a natural gardener. Most homes in San Miguel are built was a courtyard in the middle. The living quarters of the parish had a courtyard with beautiful flowers and plants that Cayo had grown himself. I loved admiring it. He also runs around and fixes broken pipes for people and things like that, you know typical priest things.
We met Padre Juan briefly Monday morning before we left. My mom squeezed in a quick interview and then he was off to another village to minister to the people there. I’m telling you those two never stop. He had to have back surgery a while back. He had slipped disks in his back from ridding on the rough roads for hours go get to different villages. (Apparently the roads are a lot better now). I mean talk about a dedicated priest who cares about his people. From the very short time we shared together, I could tell he was a special person.
We met another friend of the sisters who is named, Ana. Ana is joyful and always laughing. She gave us a tour of the Rehabilitation Center. This is a center that the sisters started and have kept up with. Amazing work is taking place there. The center is for people with physical limitations. My mom interviewed the physical therapist. What a sweet person. I know I keep saying that about everyone, but it’s so true. She said her biggest struggle is trying to get the parents to keep bringing their children to physical therapy. She said parents tell her they have tried everything and they don’t believe what she does will work, but once they start seeing the changes they keep coming. There are also superstitions about people who have handicapped children. When asked about her biggest achievements, she told us a story that made us all tear up. When we first got to the center there was a physical therapy appointment taking place. It was a little girl who was learning to grab things, and when we checked in on her later she was walking with the help of the therapist. The therapist told us that when this little girl first started she could not walk or say a single word. The mom had to carry in her arms. After a few appointments she started to learn to walk. Now she is walking and saying words. What a beautiful, beautiful story.
Sister Sue, who goes by Sue, was amazing on this trip. I have so much respect and admiration for her. As I have mentioned before, she has lived in Peru for 40 years. Well, she lived in San Miguel for two years and makes trips there to visit Sister Kathy and the town. Sister Kathy has also lived in Peru for 40 years. Talk about amazing. Sister Kathy was out of town while we were visiting San Miguel. She actually arrived late last night to Lima and is staying here for a while. Everyone loves Sister Kathy in San Miguel and I can see why now. She also does sooooooo much work in that town. She is always on the go.
I felt like I was with a celebrity in San Miguel with Sue. Everyone knew her. They would say ”Ah Madre Sue” or ”Madresita Sue” which means like Mother Sue or Little Mother Sue. It was awesome. They love the Ursuline Sisters in San Miguel. Everyone we met asked about Sister Kathy and when she was coming back.
Sister Sue is the best tour guide and translator ever. She is so caring and always puts other peoples needs before her own. She is very independent and such a strong woman. I love her so much. Shout out to Sue for being one of the coolest ladies I know. I think I will start a fan club for her.
Ok I’ll stop fan girling over Sue… for now. Sue took us to a place where they make the bread of San Miguel. It was legit. The ladies make the dough, roll it, and bake it in the oven. They pull it out of the oven with a long paddle thing. There is no sign marking that this tiny, delicious smelling room is a bread store. You just have to know about it. So mysterious. Sue told us that when the bread is ready, they put a broom outside their door. Sadly, there was no broom outside.
Sue also took us to see her friend, Martina, who is a weaver. Pretty sure we bought the whole store. Kidding, but we did buy quite a bit. It was all so beautiful and incredible that it was done by hand. She had us try on traditional poncho she weaved and hats. I was cracking up. She also makes scarfs, placemats, table runners, you name it. She invited us back the next day at 10 am to have coffee and to demonstrate for us how she makes her material. Like I said, everyone is so kind.
Another thing on our agenda was to attend the Associates meeting. There is a group of people called the Associates of the Ursuline Sisters. They are all over the world. Basically it’s a fan club for the Ursulines. Haha kidding. Kinda. They are lay people who want to be connected to the sisters through small groups, prayer and retreat. It’s a support group for people to stay spiritually connected. There is a group in Louisville. My mom just became an Associate in July!
We met with the Associates of San Miguel and they are the sweetest ladies. They all told me how sweet and cute I was. I mean they’re not wrong. They also told my mom her hair seemed like Gold. They’re not used to blond ladies. Anyways, my mom interviewed the whole group. Part of her job. You know, the real reason we came on this excursion. Well, you will never believe what happened. Actually it’s not hard to believe if you know my mother (sorry mom). And it’s really weird because 10 minutes before it actually happened, I thought you know what would really be unfortunate? If my moms video camera died in the middle of this interview. And people, I am not kidding, her video camera died. Cue the awkwardness of my mom having to stop Sue mid question to tell her the video camera died, and then Sue having to translate to all the ladies what had just occurred, and then all the ladies talking at once and asking what batteries the video camera took, and then one of them running off to a store to get the batteries, and then sitting in awkward silence for a while with them staring at my mom and me laughing at how stupid we are because this stuff always happens to us, and then the ladies started chatting amongst themselves, and then said lady returning because that store didn’t have batteries, and then the ladies all talking at once suggesting a new place, and then same lady leaving again, and then more awkward silence and staring at my mom and me while we continued to laugh, and then chatting amongst themselves, then said lady returning with batteries, and then the interview was back in progress. Cue sigh of relief. I’m pretty sure the ladies didn’t care at all. I tried to reassure my moms with this fact. They all seemed relaxed and they got to talk to Sue, who they love. It was fine.
After the interview we all had tea together and a plate full of desserts. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t finish the plate, because I definitely did. Meanwhile the other ladies wrapped up their leftovers in a napkin and put them in their purse. That’s a thing they do here. To be clear we didn’t eat dinner that night because we were all stuffed. We finished the evening with dancing. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed myself. Even Sister Sue was out there cuttin’ a rug. They tried to teach my mom and me a traditional dance, and I pretty much just failed at it. Oh well, there was no judgment and I had a blast. It was a beautiful night. Only in Peru do you make memories like these.
On Sunday, we went to Mass TWICE. That’s right, I am extra holy. Just kidding, I’m really not. We went at 11 am and then again at 7 pm. At each Mass, Padre Cayo announced is and welcomed us. I just stood there awkwardly and smiled. Of course everyone could see where we were standing in the pews. I could never blend into the crowd here in Peru. To do that I would need to shrink about 3 feet. Joking. But seriously, I have yet to meet a Peruvian who is taller than me. I am also very pale. After the 7 pm mass, Cayo put my mom and Sue on the spot. He asked them to come to the front and say a few words. LOL. I was dying that my mom had to do that. I’m not sure why he didn’t call me up, but I’m sure glad he didn’t. My mom did well though. She just have a short thank you speech to the everyone. Sue translated and then she gave her own thank you speech. We saw some ladies from the Associates group and other people we had met on the street at church. I honestly could not remember anyone’s name because we met so many people. But they all said hi and we got several photos. They all wished us well, told us how nice it was to meet us, and to have safe travels. Gosh, they are sweet!! Have I said that yet???
Before 7 pm Mass on Sunday, a friend of Father Cayo stopped by to bring him coffee. She sat with us a while and had coffee with us all. She was very sweet. She literally laughed at everything my mom said. She said it was because she couldn’t understand a single word she was saying. My mom was speaking English, and she would just laugh. It was so funny! She asked when we were leaving. We told her we were leaving the following day. She said she would find us and bring us some of the coffee. Wow. I’m just blown away by the kindness of these people. And I tell you what, she did find us the next day. She called Cayo and she found us at the bus station right before we left. She said she tried to catch us at the parish center but we weren’t there. She brought us the coffee! We got a photo together. Angelica was her name.
Monday morning we saw the Comedor at the Parish Center. The parish started this wonderful thing. But Sister Kathy has a lot to do with it. As I mentioned before, a lot of the kids come from the Campo to school. They walk anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. They don’t have enough time to walk home for lunch and if they brought their lunch it would be cold. It’s very important to have a hot lunch because it’s chilly and usually raining in the mountains. The comedor is like a soup kitchen. Children pay 50 cents everyday to get a hot meal. The meals are cooked by the mothers from the campo. There are several groups of moms and they are on a rotating basis. Each group only has to come about twice a year. The moms also walk two hours each way every day for the week that they signed up to cook. Father Juan said it took a lot of work to get it all organized. He has put a lot of time and energy into it. He has meetings with the moms where he brings a nutritionist and a physiologist to help with the well being of the children. It’s really an amazing project. The little kids come at 11:30 and the older kids come at 12:30. We got to see the moms preparing and cooking the meal. It was amazing. They peel potatoes so fast, and they do it with a knife! Maybe I should live in the campo for a while to get these life skills down…
A few random thoughts: 1) They only drink instant coffee or concentrated coffee. I may have to rethink my living there in the future. It was a struggle. 2) I have eaten enough bread and rice to last me a life time. We ate bread at every meal and rice at almost every meal. We even had rice for breakfast once. They eat whatever is left over from the day before. 3) I am very thankful for warm showers and washing machines. 4) Five days without internet was very refreshing. 5) Live simply and you will enjoy life more.
I think that’s a wrap. Of course there is a ton I left out. If you have made it this far, bless you.