Monday, March 12, 2018 - Updated: 11:59 pm
There was rejoicing Feb. 18 across the bridge of love and hope that links the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the people of Chimbote, Peru. That’s when a new two-story clinic building was blessed during ceremonies led by Bishop Angel Francisco Simon Piorno of Chimbote.
Representing the Diocese of Pittsburgh during a Mass and blessing service were Gretchen Roos, a member of the Chimbote Foundation board, and Msgr. John Kozar, a Pittsburgh priest who has been involved with the mission for many years.
The new clinic, Nueva Posta Medica, part of the mission’s Center for Social Works, greatly expands the capacity for treatment and services to the poor of Chimbote, Roos said.
“The old outpatient clinic was designed to serve approximately 25 to 30 patients (daily) with a limited number of services and attended by one part-time physician,” she said. “The new facility increases the patient capacity by at least five times over the original building. It provides 10 clinical suites — up from four — and includes space for new and expanded services, such as cardiology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, gerontology, dentistry and audiology.
“Beyond the practical significance, the new clinic sends a message to the poor of Chimbote that we will continue to love and provide for them and offer them the same dignity, compassion and respect accorded those who can afford to pay for necessary medical services,” Roos said.
For more than 50 years, the diocesan mission has worked to meet the urgent needs of the poor in Chimbote. Roos’ uncle, the late Msgr. Jules Roos — affectionately known as Padre Julio in Chimbote — co-founded the mission. Her father, the late Ken Roos, brother of Msgr. Roos, designed several of the mission’s buildings and helped provide critical supplies from the United States.
Besides the clinic, the mission supports a maternity hospital that recently celebrated its 98,000th birth; a home visit program; and the Msgr. Jules Roos Children’s Center and Shelter for abandoned, abused and orphaned children.
“I know that he and my dad are smiling down on us and would be very grateful for the support from so many to provide these expanded services,” Gretchen said. “My uncle wanted nothing more than to ensure that every expectant mother in Chimbote had a safe, clean place to give birth with proper medical care, and to improve the health and well-being of as many of the poor of Chimbote as could possibly be served.”
She carried a letter to Chimbote from Bishop David Zubik that was read aloud during the blessing service by Bishop Piorno. In it, Bishop Zubik thanked God for the generous gifts of so many, including Msgr. Roos; Dominican Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bockheim, co-founders of the mission; and center director Teresa Salinas Altuna.
“To all who have gathered here today to celebrate this extraordinary milestone in the life of Centro de Obras Sociales, I am with you in prayer and spirit,” Bishop Zubik said in the letter. “I look forward to a time in early 2019 when I intend to return to Chimbote. Then together we can rededicate this important Catholic health care mission as a ‘bridge of love and hope’ between the people of Chimbote and Pittsburgh.”
Msgr. Kozar, who is president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and former head of the Chimbote Foundation, credits the many donors in Pittsburgh and elsewhere who have faithfully supported the mission.
“There should be a feeling of ‘humble’ pride in knowing that our charity is making a big difference in bringing good health care to the poor and doing so in such a Catholic environment,” he said. “The economy of Peru improves, but much poverty remains, and the center does what the government cannot do: it uplifts the dignity of all, especially the poor.”
The Mission Milestone Investment campaign, begun in 2015 to raise an additional $1 million for the mission, is about $35,000 away from its goal, said Dr. Patrick Joyce, diocesan director of stewardship. The MMI sought to build the new clinic, replace equipment, expand the home visit program and provide resources for the orphanage.
Part of the mission’s generous support comes from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, in which student ambassadors devise fundraising programs to assist the mission. Families at Blessed Francis Seelos Academy in Wexford recently donated $3,000 for Chimbote.
“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of our donors in keeping this mission alive,” Gretchen said.
“If the Pittsburgh donors did not exist, the new clinic and this incredible medical support would simply not exist.”
More information on the Chimbote Foundation and the mission is available by calling 412-456-3085, or by visiting www.chimbotefoundation.org.