Bishop to lead Peru pilgrimage

Sunday, July 22, 2018 - Updated: 7:05 pm

By William Cone Editor

Since the 1960s, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has had a missionary presence in Chimbote, Peru, serving those in need with medical and social services. Teams of Pittsburghers — clergy and laypeople — have been visiting Chimbote for decades to build and maintain the diocesan mission.

In February, pilgrims from Pittsburgh are planning to visit Peru to witness the work that they have supported for many years and continues to be done with their faithful support.

Bishop David Zubik will lead the pilgrims to Peru Feb. 21-27, arriving in and departing from Lima.

“From Lima, the nation’s capital, a world-class city of 12 million people, to our sister-diocese of Chimbote, where we have built an internationally-respected Catholic health care complex (maternity hospital, clinic, laboratory, orphanage and home visit outreach), we will experience the indescribable beauty and faith that is Peru,” the bishop said.

The group will visit and venerate the graves of St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres, the patron saints of Peru. Included are stops at the Iglesia Las Nazarenas, the church housing the 17th-century painting of Jesus, “Senor de los Milagros” (“Christ of the Miracles”), the Monastery of San Francisco and the catacombs, where the bones of more than 25,000 Peruvians are artistically arranged and prayerfully respected.

On the third day of the journey, the pilgrims will head north toward Chimbote along the Pacific seaside Pan-American Highway. They will stay three nights in an air-conditioned hotel near Chimbote’s new cathedral.

“One of the most exciting moments of this pilgrimage will be in Chimbote, where our diocesan-sponsored mission has served the poorest of the poor for more than one-half century,” said Dr. Patrick Joyce, diocesan director of the Office for Stewardship and a veteran of two mission teams, who also serves as assistant executive director of the Chimbote Foundation.

Bishop Zubik hopes to be joined by Peru’s papal nuncio, Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, and Chimbote Bishop Angel Francisco Simon Piorno.

“They intend to concelebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the people of Pittsburgh, for their long-standing and generous commitment to the poor, and to recommit to the future of this ‘bridge of love and hope’ connecting two continents, two nations, two dioceses, two peoples,” Joyce said.

The pilgrims will tour the Center for Social Works and the newly expanded clinic with assistance from Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bockheim, the two Dominican religious from Grand Rapids, Michigan, considered co-founders of the mission, who served alongside Msgr. Jules Roos, founder, for more than 50 years.

Msgr. Roos, who died in 2013, chose to be buried among his adopted sisters and brothers in Chimbote, and the Pittsburgh group will visit his grave. They will also have an opportunity to accompany the center’s health care and social work team on home visits into the barrios where the destitute live.

The pilgrims will head back to Lima, stopping along the highway to tour some native ruins, before boarding overnight flights to Pittsburgh.

An optional excursion to Machu Picchu can be added to the beginning of the journey (Feb. 17-21) for those interested in exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site. Peru’s most popular attraction, Machu Picchu features mortar-free limestone architecture on a high plateau in the Amazon jungle.

For information on the pilgrimage, go to http://bit.ly/Chimbote2019, contact Sue O’Keefe at 412-456-3065 or e-mail sokeefe@diopitt.org. The itinerary is subject to change.

Included is the cost of airfare, airline taxes and surcharges, hotels, all meals, private motor coach, professional translator and tour guide, and tours in Lima and Chimbote. Space is limited to 45 pilgrims.

Bishop Zubik explained that “From the pioneer missionary priests and sisters who arrived in the 1960s and stayed, to today’s volunteer mission teams, there is a love affair borne from Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.’ Come and experience this Gospel-inspired mission for yourself.”

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