Chicago Province Jesuits in Peru.
First off, my apologies to readers who may be disappointed with the paucity of posts on my Peruvian experience. One reason I haven´t posted in the past week is that daily language classes and the challenges of being in a new country, culture and Jesuit community have left me little time for blogging. A second reason I haven´t been able to post is that the juniores I´m living with are in the midst of studying for their semester exams and writing final papers, giving them the most compelling claim on the machines in the juniorado´s computer room. Posting will probably continue to be infrequent while I´m in Peru, but I´ll do my best to keep readers informed of particularly interesting or significant developments that occur during my time here.
One significant aspect of my experience so far has been having the opportunity to meet several Chicago Province Jesuits who have been living and working in Peru for decades. The Jesuits of Chicago and Peru have had a special relationship since 1958, when the Chicago Province began sending men and money to support what was then the Vice-Province of Peru. Since then around 45 Jesuits of the Chicago Province have been missioned to Peru, some staying in the country for a few short years and others remaining for a lifetime. For a short history of the Chicago-Peru connection, check out this article from the Chicago Province magazine Partners.
Over the past few days, the novices have had a chance to interact with several men from the Chicago Province who came to Peru in the 1960´s and have been here ever since. Father Bob Beckman was one of the very first Chicago Province Jesuits in Peru, arriving in 1960. Bob´s ministry in Peru has included long periods as an administrator at the Colegio San Jose in Arequipa, as director of the Centro de Espiritualidad Ignaciana in Lima, and most recently as parochial vicar at the parish of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, right across the street from the juniorado. Called back to province in the 1980´s to serve as rector of the Jesuit community at Xavier University, Bob left his heart in Peru and went back for good as soon as he completed his rectorate. A couple other Chicago Province Jesuits who arrived in Peru in the early 1960´s and have remained here are Jeff Klaiber and Matt Garr, who both came immediately after taking First Vows and spent most of their formation in Peru. Jeff has gone on to become a professor of history at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and is regarded by many as the foremost church historian in Peru. Matt was trained as an anthropologist and is now executive secretary of CEAS, the wing of the Peruvian Bishops´Conference that deals with social justice issues. The preceding Jesuits all came to Peru before or during the time of the Second Vatican Council and thus experienced the changes ushured in by the Council in a somewhat different context than their confreres in the United States. The Chicago-Peru relationship continued through the dramatic changes experienced by the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus in the mid-1960´s. Chicago Jesuits who came to Peru in the period immediately following Vatican II include Frank Chamberlain and Kevin Gallagher, who both met with the novices during the past week to share their experiences. Frank has spent many years working in Virgen de Nazaret parish in El Agustino, a massive pueblo joven (shantytown) established on the outskirts of Lima in the 1960´s. Kevin spent two decades working with Peru´s large network of Fe y Alegria schools and now resides with the Peruvian novices in Arequipa, holding the position of padre edificante held at Loyola House by our own Walt Farrell.
Speaking with the above men about their experiences was fulfilling on a number of levels. Each offered intriguing perspectives on the history, present and future of the Church and the Society in Peru. More importantly, in ways both overt and subtle, each conveyed something of the deep spirituality that has sustained them through their Jesuit lives. The good example and witness offered by each of these outstanding Jesuits has been very edifying to this novice, and for that I´ll be eternally grateful. AMDG.