After 10 years of work in the field of education, in Chiclayo, I was assigned to Pisco, in Peru, as the pastor of a parish. I had not settled into my new missionary appointment when I was confronted with a series of restrictions, confinement, fear and uncertainty. I had envisioned the city of Wuhan as being far away and therefore, I thought that the unknown, lethal virus would soon pass. But I was wrong. The virus came and began to spread great havoc.
After 15 days of social confinement, I reacted and, overcoming my own fears, I, together with the other missionaries, set out to establish a dining room to assist the poor. Many times, the poor had knocked on the door of our house asking for food. It was the voice of God that urged us to do something for them.
We began this project without having a single dollar in our pocket. We called on our parishioners who are present on the various social networks to share and express their solidarity with the poorest in the city. Since then we have not stopped. But, given the complex rules of health and safety that we had to follow in preparing food , we also launched a campaign to remodel the dining room. A raffle was held and we raised the funds that were needed to cover these costs. Finding building materials amid confinement was not easy because most of the stores were closed. However, this beautiful project continued to move forward. The first provisional dining room, which, at its peak, was preparing and serving 400 meals on a daily basis, gave way to a large, safe space with all the basics needed to provide good service. It is also equipped with a bakery, which will soon begin to function.
I have not ceased to be amazed by the great solidarity that has been shown by the people of this area and by some institutions, such as FamVin. I have only words of gratitude to God and to those who shared what little or much they have with the poorest. Not a day goes by that we do not receive something for our dining room. Since then, the face of the COVID-19 has also become the face of solidarity. This lethal virus (which, like the venom of the snake, has its lethal side and its good side) has awakened a network of solidarity among the people of this community. The dining room, named Federic Ozanam, is a visible sign of the solidarity of the Pisco community and also a sign of God’s love, which has arisen in the midst of the storm.
I must also express that this great solidarity, which we have experienced during this time of pandemic, has not only manifested itself in the sharing of material things, but also in the presence of many people who have committed themselves to preparing food and to reaching out to poor men and women in their homes or to those living on the street.
Thank you, FamVin, for extending your hands in solidarity with the people of Chiclayo and Pisco.
Fr. Ricardo Cruz, CM, Perú
This article was originally published as part of the series “Lessons Learned During the Pandemic” in the Famvin website.