A chapel after 21 years

Fr John Hegerty from Peru reports.

In the September 2011 issue of The Far East, the front cover image showed myself and parishioners standing where what is now the chapel of 'Christ the Saviour'.

What follows is a small progress report to say thanks to the many Columban benefactors who helped make this dream a reality.

The new chapel was first used on November 21, 2011 for the sacrament of Confirmation of 40 adults from all over the parish who had just completed a three month preparation to live in the Spirit of Jesus as adults. Archbishop Jose Rios, a retired bishop who lives near us, did the job in his inevitably flamboyant style. The chapel was packed with families and a multitude of curious neighbours having a first look. The mood was buoyant, to say the least. Since then there has been midnight Mass, Confirmation of youth by our local bishop, Lino Panizza, weddings and baptisms, and the regular Sunday Masses and lay-lead Liturgies.

The almost-finished building is spacious and full of natural light. The doors and windows, that were absent for the Confirmations but have now been installed. For now we are using the old pews and altar from the multi-purpose hall next door that previously served for all functions. One day we will have the luxury of a new sound system, proper lighting, decent chairs, a real altar and a Blessed Sacrament chapel. For now the walls and ceiling are all white, the steel beams are a dark blue, and the doors a dark brown.
The effect of this beautiful building on the local faithful is clearly evident. They talk about it with pride and make suggestions among themselves as to cleaning, maintenance and future colours. Their motivation for planning Masses and liturgical celebrations is high and they are more willing to be creative. Even the previously indifferent neighbours show more interest and are more communicative.

One of the challenges we had was with the split-level roof. Where this crosses at the highest point we left a five foot gap running the whole length of the building to allow in natural light. This also serves as ventilation allowing the hot air of summer and sermon to escape. But waiting on the outside are the beautiful birds with an eye on the irresistible blue steel girders, plus the ever present, all pervasive dust. The answer is a foot of wire netting atop four feet of supposedly unbreakable clear plastic, thereby ensuring all desirable entrances and exits are blocked.

A memorable, though tragic, incident that occurred during the building was when a message arrived of the death in his Andean village of the uncle of two brothers and a cousin working on the project. They discussed family obligations with the boss and decided not to travel because of both cost and time. Some days later a second message advising the brothers that their father, on returning from the funeral and all the traditional social rituals, had fallen off the mountain track that joins the two villages. This time there was no discussion and work stopped for two weeks while the three men met their obligations towards their deceased father.
This chapel, a 21-year-old dream, has become a reality thanks to the generosity of Columban supporters and the continual efforts of the local community. In the name of those many grateful people I say thanks and blessings to all who have helped make this dream a reality.

The first stages of planning and fundraising for the chapel was reported in an article:
'Brick by brick’ published in The Far East, September, 2011. 

Fr John Hegerty SSC has been a missionary in Peru since 1971.

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