Genaro, an example of faith and love for Our Lady in the Altiplano, Peru

An Irish missionary tells ACN about the love that the Peruvian people have for Our Lady and how Protestant sects take advantage of the shortage of priests in the country to aggressively convince Catholics to leave the Church.

“Oh Father, thanks for visiting. I need to speak to you.” These were the words that greeted Father David O’Connor, a missionary priest from Ireland, when he visited 85-year-old Genaro, in the Altiplano of Puno, Peru, a remote region 4,000 metres above sea level. To his surprise, Genaro then said to him: “I have decided to leave the Catholic Church.” Father David was shocked, for he knew that Genaro was a devote Catholic of great faith for many years.

Fr. David O’Connor praying for the people in Sandia- Huancané
Fr. David O’Connor praying for the people in Sandia- Huancané

Father David described to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) how Genaro went to the church for Eucharistic Adoration every Saturday. Genaro suffered terribly from poor health. Because of his arthritis he could not genuflect but would instead make “a huge profundo bow from the waist”. One Saturday, Father David remembers overhearing how intimately Genaro spoke to Jesus at Eucharistic Adoration: “He thanked him for his daughter who took care of him, for the parish priest who gave him a daily meal among other things. He then started to cry and asked to be cured as his sight was going, he was tired of his chronic arthritis and many other sufferings. When he could not think of anything more to say, he started to pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary. After about an hour, he stood up, bowed before the Blessed Sacrament and said: ‘Lord, I will come to you again next Saturday’.”

“I am tired of suffering”

Because of Genaro’s deep faith and trust in God, the Irish priest was surprised to hear that he was thinking of leaving the Church. Then, Genaro explained to Father David that he had heard a Protestant pastor on the radio promising that anyone who came to his church would be cured of their illness. “Father, I have been going to the Catholic Church for years asking to be healed and I am still very sick. I am tired of suffering”, he said.

Father David, a project partner of ACN, was aware that Protestant sects have been growing in Peru and throughout Latin America in recent decades, by aggressively trying to convince Catholics to leave their faith. But he also knew that they frequently attack the veneration of Our Blessed Mother. He didn’t know how toexplain to Genero that not even the best clinic in the country could cure his pain but being aware of his great personal devotion and love for the Mother of God, Father David told him, “But, Genaro, they don’t love Our Lady”. Without blinking, Genaro replied, convinced: “Ah, Ok I won’t go so.”

“I want my Catholic Faith, but it is not available where I am living”

Genaro’s story is just one example of the great love that the people of Peru have for Our Lady, especially the indigenous Quechua, who Father David mostly ministers to. “I think they often have a closer approach to Our Lady and the saints than maybe we have. I get the feeling that they have the simple idea that they can talk to a real person, in a very close and personal interaction”, says the missionary, who left Ireland after finishing a degree in computer science to become a priest in Peru, and is now incardinated in the Prelature of Huancané.

An elderly woman praying in front of the image of the Virgin Mary in the new cathedral at the center of Sicuani (the diocese of Sicuani, Peru).
An elderly woman praying in front of the image of the Virgin Mary in the new cathedral at the center of Sicuani (the diocese of Sicuani, Peru).

Despite this, as a result of the lack of priests in parts of the South American country, many have joined Protestant sects. Father David remembers asking one Catholic woman why she went to the sects’ services. “Because I want to hear the Word of God and you are not coming”, she replied to the priest. When Father David then asked what she would do if there was a Catholic presence in her town, she replied, “Of course, I would come back. I want my Catholic faith, but it is not available where I live.”

Luckily, Father David was there to minister to Genaro when he was going through a difficult time in his life. But this is not always the case.

Father David has a request for the benefactors of ACN. “Please pray for vocations, especially to the priesthood, for our difficult but beautiful mission in the Prelature of Huancané, Peru, so we can bring the truth and light of the Gospel to so many suffering souls.”

 

By Conn McNally.

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