Des Moines County Catholics help Peru parish realize dream of new church

Justo Chumpitaz, a member of Santa Rosa de Lima Parish in Lurin, Peru, holds keys to the parish’s new church to give Bishop Carlos Garcia. The photo was taken July 3, the day of the church’s dedication. About 1,000 people attended the dedication Mass.

By Celine Klosterman

Thanks partly to Catholics in Des Moines County, members of Santa Rosa de Lima Parish in Lurin, Peru, have a new church.

Peruvians celebrated the July 3 dedication of the church, which replaced a tiny building in a developing town about 20 miles from Peru’s capital, Lima. The parish serves about 10,000 Catholics, said Craig Fenton, chair of the Des Moines County Catholic Stewardship Council.

“The whole town is so happy with the church,” said Nora Migone, a former Santa Rosa de Lima parishioner who now lives in Georgia. “This was a dream of ours.”


She said donations sent by Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville covered part of the $180,000 cost of building the church. “It was a big help.”

The Iowa parishes have been sending donations totaling several thousand dollars annually to their Peru parish “twin” since 2006. Santa Rosa de Lima has used those contributions for the most pressing needs, including replacing its crumbling rectory and buying a used car for the pastor.

Santa Rosa de Lima appreciates the financial help because parishioners often have little money to contribute to the parish, Migone said. The few job opportunities parishioners can find — often in factories or farms — pay just a few dollars a day, she said. Peru’s gross national income per capita was $4,160 in 2009, according to UNICEF.

Still, over several years, Santa Rosa de Lima parishioners were able to raise most of the funds for their new church. Local Catholics volunteered to help construct it on the site of their previous church, a wood, tin-roof, earthquake-damaged building that was too small for comfort, Migone said. The parish’s priest celebrates Mass daily in the new worship space and twice on Sundays.  

Hearing about improvements such as the new church in Peru helps Des Moines County parishioners focus on the universal Church, Fenton said. “It’s important that Catholic parishes are not only U.S.-oriented.”

That’s one reason Ss. Mary & Patrick, Ss. John & Paul and St. Mary parishes began setting aside for Santa Rosa de Lima a small portion of their weekly collections — initially, a third of 1 percent of the collections, and later, 1 percent, Fenton said.

To raise additional funds for the Peru parish, the Iowa parishes also have held bake sales and sold purses, scarves, baby shawls and other accessories knitted by parishioners of Santa Rosa de Lima.

Iowa Catholics ceased the latter effort after about a year, though, because of the cost of shipping the handmade items from South America.

Santa Rosa de Lima parishioners have used donations from their twin parishes to help cover the cost of medicine, food and retreat fees for Catholics, Migone said.

But one of the Peru parish’s largest expenses was replacing a “dangerous,” earthquake-damaged rectory with cracks in the walls and holes in the roof, Migone said. Santa Rosa de Lima relied mostly on funds from Iowa Catholics to build a new pastor’s residence in 2007, she said.

After the pastor’s car was stolen, the parish used funds from Des Moines County parishioners to replace the vehicle so he could travel to visit parishioners.

It’s rewarding to know Iowa parishioners have helped improve people’s lives by supporting a parish in a foreign country, Fenton said. “We’ve found this to be a very worthwhile experience.”

New church impresses Burlington parishioner who traveled to Peru

Santa Rosa de Lima Parish’s new church shows vision and determination can overcome a relative lack of resources, said Barb Miller. A member of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, she saw the church in its early stages of construction during a week she spent in Peru in 2008.

While waiting for that church to be built, Santa Rosa de Lima parishioners packed their parish hall for Masses, Miller recalled. “The people absolutely overflowed. Some of them stood outside.”

Catholics often invited her to pray the rosary with them, and their homes were filled with crucifixes and religious artwork. Weekly classes for altar servers and religious education programs were very well attended, she said. 

But Miller, a social worker, was overwhelmed by the physical needs she saw in Peru. Social services exist, but people don’t always know how to access them, she said. One young woman in pain from a car accident apparently was unaware of a medical center she could visit.

With money from Des Moines County parishes, Miller paid for three wheelchairs to be built and donated to Santa Rosa de Lima to loan to parishioners in need. She also brought donated hygiene items, vitamins and supplements to distribute and visited homebound Catholics with Nora Migone. Migone is a former Santa Rosa de Lima parishioner who has served as a liaison between the Des Moines County parishes and their “twin” parish in Peru.

Many homes Miller saw had dirt floors, and blue tarps for walls and a roof, Miller recalled. Middle-class residents lived in cinderblock houses with cement floors. “There was very little indoor plumbing.”

Des Moines County Catholics have expressed interest in organizing a team mission trip to Peru, she said. “There are some wonderful people in our parish who would really like to help.”

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