January 04, 2013

Contemplating the Dear Neighbor

"Contemplating the Dear Neighbor" is not going to be a day that is easy to explain.  We went by bus this morning to Canto Chico, a neighborhood outside of the central part of Lima.  Little by little, Peruvians coming to Lima have widened the city's borders.  These new settlements are called "invasions."  The people claim a plot of land, plant a Peruvian flag, and begin their new home.  The homes begin as huts made of straw mats and are built of something more substantial one room at a time as money allows.  In the background of the picture below, taken from the roof of our formation house in Canto Chico, one can see the tiny, one room beginnings of someone's dream home being built on the hill.  The homes at the front of the picture most likely began like that years ago.
Canto Chico from the roof of the formation house
Notice the rebar protruding from the roofs of many of the homes.  One of our sisters said these are signs of hope; they are a sign that the family hopes one day to build another floor.

Jill, Nancy, Agrepina, and Sarah visit with some
of our dear neighbors
Our sisters took us in small groups to visit families that they have gotten to know living in the formation house during their time as novices.  The sisters, although no longer novices, continue to return to the neighborhood to tutor, to visit with families, etc.  The families welcomed us with great generosity into their homes where they shared their stories and often a bit of something to eat with us.  They are a people very creative in their survival and very strong in their faith.  

We reflected today as we shared around the realities of all of our ministries, that while we serve the dear neighbor, it is actually they who serve us in all that they teach us and all that they call us to be and to do.  One group shared that the neighbor with whom they were visiting said to them, "Pardon my poverty."  The group said that their response should have been, "No, pardon our wealth."  We asked ourselves, what would it be like to welcome these families into our homes, our lives?

I wrote a poem during some silent reflection time about the experience in Canto Chico, about the experience of the poor, and, really, about the dreams of each of us:


They'll take the land that no one wants
and build their hopes there.

The grand dream but a sliding dirt mound,
becomes a straw mat hut, 
a foundation,
a room, one at a time.

Planning, designing,
sometimes actually building

into reality what wasn't before,
but what could be.
What is.

The sisters watching enjoying the dancing of one of another dear
neighbor, 12 year old Liz, who might one day make a great
Sister of St. Joseph
Sister Mary Luz shares this around some of her reflections of our time:  Somos mujeres embarazadas de Dios, de nuestra cultura y todo lo que brota de esa experiencia es nuestra Identidad como mujeres, como religiosas, como iglesia.  Que somos diferentes y desde esa diferencia puesta en comun es una riqueza que brota para vivir en comunion respetandonos unas a otras.  Una de los desafios que encuentro es conocernos mas escribirnos mantener comunicacion con cada una para crecer en vinculos.

My translation:  We are women pregnant with God, with our cultures, and everything that flows from our experience is our identity as women, as religious, as church.  We are different, and from this difference is a commonality that is welling up to live in communion and respect with each other.  One of the challenges that I find is to write and maintain communication with each other and grow the bonds between us.

It has been an amazing experience to be here with peers, sharing, learning, growing together.  We have many questions about how we will carry this experience, how we will continue to build relationships, and how we can continue being the "Congregation of the Great Love of God" for and with the dear neighbor and all of creation.

Yoli, Lucia, and Amy doing a Japanese dance
done by fishermen.
Lest you think the day was all seriousness, we found time for some Japanese dance and even an evening of Bingo both led by our Japanese sister Lucia.


  1. Querida hermanas,

    What a joy it is to see your faces and to feel the energy across the miles!!! I love it!!!! I am with you.

    Yesterday was the first opportunity I had to read the blog because I had limited Internet access for several days. It is wonderful to see your faces and I can hear your voices as I read what you have written....

    It is a privilege to know each of you and to get a glimpse of what you are experiencing together. Last year in LA at our February CLG meeting, Maria Rubina planted the seeds to have the meeting take place in Lima....and there you are. She is dancing with you and delighting in every bit of what is happening there. Thank you for taking the time to do the blog and to give us a taste of the richness of this gathering. You have been and will continue to be in my prayer daily.

    Con carino,

  2. I have appreciated using your blog Sarah and your scribe abilities. I would like to suggest that when we next have a gathering like this that the event not be on your blog but create a blog specifically for the event so everyone will be able to contribute as an editor. My intention saying this is that I have found such blogs to be engaging because of all the perspectives that compose it. For this event the Peruvian Sisters and their perspectives have been such a large part of the gathering but were not able or didn't add any direct content.

    Debbie - Albany

  3. A Glimpse into the Future?
    These days here in Peru as the “newer” members of the community have been days of living our future. I am wondering if these days are not what we have been spurred on by the Core Group to pray and contemplate. If these days are a sign of what we will or can become when we are united together it fill me with joy and hope. Our differences have been many but respected. We have listened and been challenged by one another. We have grown in our capacity to say on the conversation when we have been tempted to walk away. Ever present in our minds, hearts and in reality has been our dear neighbor, especially those most in need. For me, visiting and speaking with the people of Canto Chico has been a highlight of this trip. We asked ourselves what can we do to create a more balanced, just world.
    In all of this: our conversation, journeying, prayer and sharing, I wonder if we are not birthing the future. I ask myself,” How will I, how will each member create the life conditions among us that will be transformative for the future?”

  4. Thank you for sharing this gathering of Spirit animated women. You are a blessing to the Church.

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