Solidarity and Hope in the Pandemic

On Sunday March 15th, the Peruvian President  addressed the nation and announced a complete and immediate quarantine across the country requiring all by essential services to remain in their homes as a response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.  This new and dramatic reality required a quick response guided by our Christian faith and the charism and spirituality of the Augustinian Order.  To walk together promoting unity and solidarity was the only way forward.

In order to come to face with the pandemic we formed a working group with the local municipal mayor and other authorities. Fr Gioberty Calle, O.S.A., the pastor, was named to help guide the Commision charged with the distribution of food baskets that the central government had sent to the local municipalities for distribution amongst the most vulnerable families.  It required visiting each and every house to insure the the aid basket was delivered promptly and not be lost in possible corruption schemes.  In all 2,500 emergency food baskets were shared in a parish that consists of 4,500 families, scattered in 20 small villages as well as the main town of Morropon.  It required walking each day over 5 hours, to reach all of the homes.  The people were filled with gratitude and thanks that the parish took the leadership role in the distribution of the baskets since there is a close link between the people and the Augustinian community that has been present in Morropon more than 50 years, and that link gives the people assurance that all the food baskets would get to all those who were poorest.  Because of all of the corruption scandals that have come out in recent years in Peruvian politics, the people have lost faith in their local governments to be transparent and so the role of the parish was key to ensuring that the food reach them.

At the same time as the food baskets were distributed, we also knew of the need of animating the people in their faith, even when the church doors were closed.  To begin Holy Week, in coordination with the local police, the pastor had a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through all the streets of the town.  The people kept to the social distancing norms and came and stood by their doors, or looked out their windows to pray a prayer and make the sign of the cross as the real Presence of the Lord, and their Good Shepard, passed in front of their homes.  It was a gesture of faith much appreciated by the people.  During the procession which lasted 2 ½ hours, prayers and reflections were offered through a sound system placed in the parish truck.

One of the groups most vulnerable in Peruvian society are the one million Venezuelan refugees who have gotten by simply by selling things on the streets.  With everyone in quarantine, they have been especially hit hard. So on April 28th, we organized a special mission of solidarity towards the 52 Venezuelan families living in Morropon sharing with them food supplies to help in this moment of great crisis.  It took 6 hours to reach all of the families and share in solidarity.

We have also begun a program of mental health in collaboration with a local university and the students of psychology who are in their last year of academic preparation, in order to offer a listening ear and guidance of how to confront in a healthy way a crisis that is outside of the control of everyone.  In the uncertainty of the present times, we are convinced that our Christian faith, which calls us to solidarity and mercy, can give an answer to the great mystery of suffering that the families are experiencing.

In this month of May, we are very aware that we are not orphans, but that the Lord is at our side, and through his mother Mary, we feel that warm embrace.  We know, as the prophet Isaiah tells us, “I will never forget you.” (Is 49,15) 

United in solidarity we have been able to walk with our people, in this time of suffering, as a sign of hope.  

Fr. Gioberty Calle O.S.A., Vicariato San Juan de Sahagún de Chulucanas, Diócesis de Chulucanas, Perú