A Life Given to Giving Life - Fr. Peter Woodruff
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (Jn 10:10)
More than 30 years ago a Peruvian woman dedicated to working with the poor of her country drew my attention to a text in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)
Soon after, my friend died in the service of her people. Ever since then I have tried to work so that others may have life. Aware of successes and failures in this, I am trying to live out that mission to be, with Christ, a source of life to others.
I am in charge of a parish of about 60,000 people, half of whom have moved here in the past 10 years. They have bought small building blocks in the housing programs that invade what was, for over 3000 years, fertile farmland. Most have electricity connected but are still organizing the installation of water and sewerage. Most of the roads have yet to be paved.
The challenge for me is how to be with the 14 communities of the parish so that together we develop the participatory model that the people want and that is supported by the bishop and the clergy of the diocese.
On another front, three years ago I enrolled in a program for a Master of Arts by research only, through the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University, and have upgraded to doctoral studies. Continuing with field work part-time, I hope to finish writing the thesis next year.
The thesis is about the possibility of the Andean migrants to Lima recognizing and integrating creatively key elements of their ancestral heritage into the ever emerging urban culture of the capital city.
I have homed in on the Andean communal sense of life and I hope this project might foster a revaluing of the Andean heritage that has been consistently put down for 500 years.
I believe that in so far as millions of Peruvians become openly proud of a heritage that is key to who they are, a mighty life-force will be unleashed. I hope the finished thesis might provide me with the raw material to help others come to a greater awareness of the possibilities within them.
Fr. Peter Woodruff first went to Peru in 1967 and has retired to Australia.