Celebrating 50 Years in Peru By Sr Eileen Rabbitte

Sister Martina Kim with Betty, her former Spanish teache,r and Korean friend enjoying the atmosphere of celebration

Sister Martina Kim with Betty, her former Spanish teache,r and Korean friend enjoying the atmosphere of celebration

For one Columban Sister Joan Sawyer, 50 years was a whole lifetime. For many more of us Columban Sisters here in Peru, the past 50 years have come to life over and over again in extraordinary ways this year. For us here right now, the November 11 celebration was the final one in a series of celebrations of joyful memories, heartfelt gratitude and deep emotions.

The call long since had been made to us all, ‘November 11 is the date, keep it free.’ Much planning and communication, thanks to Internet, filled our Inboxes with ideas, corrections, suggestions, more suggestions, you name it.

Finally, all roads led to Sol de Oro for the big day. Joined by our Chile community, Kathleen M. Riordan and Angela McKeever, and Anne Carbon from CLT and Eileen Roe, both of whom had been missioned in Peru, we all shared in a special lunch on November 10, hosted by Anne representing CLT. Thanks to our congregation leaders for this special gathering of Columban Sisters. Then it was back to anticipation of the big day, the next day.


Buen Pastor Parish church which holds around five hundred people seated was packed to standing room only. My guess is 800 to 1,000 friends and well-wishers who had travelled from as far away as the Peruvian Andes of Ancash, Ayacucho and all our missions in the wider Lima Metropolitan area. By 3:30 the church was packed and everywhere we turned we were greeted by friends recalling memories going back over 50 years and forward to 2012. Memories of the four brave young women who answered the call of Pope John XX111 for missionaries to come to Latin America:

Joan O´Donovan, Majella Ryan, Victoire Ryan and Joan Casey, the tiny seed you planted like the mustard seed, has grown to a huge tree and its branches are laden down with fruits beyond imagination. Following in your footsteps we, Columban Sisters on mission still in Peru, were privileged to drink in the Spirit which was so palpable during the Mass and which spilt over to the beautifully decorated Patio where the celebration continued.


The first Columban Sisters’ community in Peru – November 1962

The Bishop of the Diocese Mons. Lino Pasizza joined by Tony Coney, Director of the Columban Fathers and many of our Columban brothers, other priest friends, and many very dear sisters friends shared with us and hundreds of our Peruvian friends young and old, in a most inspiring Mass of Thanksgiving. Naturally, Sisters took their part in sharing our history, welcoming and thanking the people from the pulpit!!

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Local musicians Grupo Sembrar play as the Entrance Procession begins with Sister Sabina Choi and two youth leaders

Sister Eileen Rabbitte delivers the homily

Sister Eileen Rabbitte delivers the homily

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Sister Young Mi initiates the Intercessory Prayersand and later a local couple bring forward the Offertory gifts

It is very difficult to put into words the Spirit, the joy, the emotions and why not say it, the many affirmations that mingled and were expressed with deep appreciation to each and every sister as we continued the celebration. We had talked about five hundred people. When I saw the crowds I hoped for a multiplication of the loaves. I think it happened as everyone seemed satisfied. However, unlike the miracle in the Gospel we had no need of baskets for the leftovers!

Peru, blessed with so many cultures of dance, music and costumes, shone forth in all her glory as many friends supplied the entertainment in song and dance, delighting all present.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to each Columban Sister who, in one way or another, formed the commissions that put all this in place. I know that it was all a labour of love and so I refrain from mentioning individual names.

As the beautiful sunset gave way to the Lima night sky, people gradually, expressing their gratitude and happiness, took their leave. Thanks again to good planning, the Patio was quickly restored to its proper order. And then, with joyful hearts we made our way back to our center house. We sat around taking turns opening and taking note of the many gifts and floral arrangements received, and sharing a great feeling of thanksgiving and relaxation that a wonderful celebration was had by all.

November 12, the day after was special too. The Columban Fathers invited us to lunch with them in their Center House. We were happy to have the opportunity to share a meal with our Brother Columban Missionaries. So that was nice. Their thoughtfulness and the very precious plaque presented to us were a fitting ending to our Jubilee Celebration. Then it was back to our missions and reality once again.

Sister Eileen Rabbitte on behalf of all of the Columban Sisters, Area of Peru

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