WebEd: Welcome, Cory, and thank you for taking the time to be online with me today. Your friend, Columban Sister Erisa encouraged me to I invite you!
Cory: It is a great pleasure to accept your invitation. The last time I was interviewed was for a job, but this is a nice experience to be interviewed online and for the Columban Sister’s website!
WebEd: You and I have not met yet so do tell me about your background.
Cory: Well, I am 34 years old and a professional Social Worker. Currently I am doing a Master of Social Management Degree at the Catholic University of Peru (PUCP).
WebEd: So you are really a very busy woman! Are you working at the same time?
Cory: Oh! Indeed I am! I am Head Coordinator of the Program Project and Development Solidarity Socio -SOLYDES in the district of Villa El Salvador here in Lima. This program started about 12 years ago. It is a private program initiated and run by the Teresian Association, Peru.
WebEd: When and where did you first meet the Columban Sisters?
Cory: I have known the Missionary Sisters of St Columban since 1999. At that time I was a student at the National University “Federico Villarreal” (UNFV). One day, Sister Anne Marie Smith, who for many years has been a consultant for the Confirmation Program, came to our classroom to promote the Program. I clearly remember her presence with us that day.
WebEd: What age were you then?
Cory: I was 19 years old but had not yet received my First Communion y. So I was really delighted by her proposal that I receive both First Communion and then later on receive Confirmation.
WebEd: And so you began the preparation for the Sacraments?
Cory: Yes, I did the preparation and then over a period of eight years I was able to help in running the program.
WebEd: You have kept up the contact with Anne Marie over the years since the initial contact at PUCP?
Cory: Yes. Ten years after we first met I brought her to my home to introduce her to my family. So my family now know the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of St Columban very well and especially Anne Marie. She has always been very kind and good to my family and the people here in Lima. She is a part of our life as well; we call her ‘Anita’ instead of ‘Sister Anne Marie’.
WebEd: How did the preparation for the Sacraments go? Was Anne Marie the catechist?
Cory: Oh yes! When I recall our time with her, we got a lot of encouragement from her. She so empowered us that we were able to organize activities with church groups and young people at the National University. She accompanied us in many ways, especially when we were frustrated over family situations or over personal problem and other problems. We found her a very good listener.
And through my experience with her, my image of God changed. I could feel God’s unconditional love and acknowledge what I had received from him in my life.
WebEd: Have you got to know any other Columban Sisters besides ‘Anita’ and Erisa?
Cory: I have met most of the Sisters here in Peru because I visit the Independencia community from time to time; also, Anne Marie always invites us for special Columban occasions, like Last November my friends and I went to the 50th Anniversary of the Columban Sisters in Peru!
WebEd: What kind of impression have you got from knowing the Columban Sisters?
Cory: I know they all have a good heart and share many things that they have with us. I am not talking about money and projects. They always welcome us in their place and their life and I feel a genuine simplicity from them.
Through my experience with you Sisters, I feel I am accepted within the Church and by my loving God. The Columban Sisters are very friendly and gentle; they offer much concern and loving care. Through what I have received from them all prepared me for listening and working with young people and doing so with true sincerity as well.
WebEd: Did you ever ask yourself why the Columban Sisters came to Peru back in 1962?
Cory: Let me tell you. We Peruvians are a Catholic people, most of us. I have been hearing about God and Jesus and the Church over the years but I had a very strict and conservative image of Jesus. And so, I didn’t expect that he would understand me. He was always there at the middle of the church on the cross. The truth is, before I met Anne Marie and other Columban Sisters, Jesus was never close to me in my life.
I did not know that he called us ‘friends’ and that he had a heart and spirit like us. Observing the Columban Sisters and especially Anne Marie, I kept asking myself: Why they are here? And, for what? Why spend their life here with us?
Then I realized that Anne Marie was always with us as a friend and that she and the other Sisters simply opened their door to me and invited me without hesitation or asking anything about my back ground. From them I have learned about our dignity as women and that we can share our gifts and talents for the church and the world.
WebEd: So until now your friendship with Columban Sisters continues…?
Cory: Sure. When Anne Marie came back from Ireland after a two year assignment in Ireland, she invited me and my friend to her community in Independencia. It was then that I met Sister Erisa. She had just arrived in Peru. I remember she couldn’t speak Spanish at that time but I was sure she could understand what we are talking about!
WebEd: Yes, she told me she remembers your first meeting very vividly…and was wondering to herself if she would ever get the language!
Cory: Yes, but then I was delighted to discover that the two of us were around the same age, and, had the same professional background: Social Work!
WebEd: Cory, I know that was really great news for Erisa.
Cory: And it happened too that nearly 6months later she asked me to help her design a questionnaire in Spanish to use with the young people in Ayacucho! Later on she invited me to Ayacucho where I was able to see her work and her vision ‘in-action’ for the young people there. Believe me, I was both glad for her and proud of her.
WebEd: Cory, without your expertize it would have been extremely difficult for Erisa to take those first steps in a new culture and among those young people. Yet, you knew she wanted so much to work with them and among them.
Cory: I realized then something of what it meant to be a modern missionary: first you really want to know what the youth really need and so you seek help from local people like me; you don’t presume to know without first learning more about the background and culture of Peruvian youth.
WebEd: As you know, Erisa will return to Peru fairly soon. So can I pose the question, if she asks you to continue helping her with her ministry among the Youth, would be available to participate?
Cory: Very definitely! Indeed, she, like the other Sisters, always respect me as a friend. I value these opportunities to work with both local and foreign friends to contribute to the education and welfare of our Peruvian Youth, our future!
WebEd: Thank you, Cory, for sharing with me today. Or should I say, Tu eres tan amabile! You know, as Christians we are all missionaries! Or, as Columban Sister Ita Hannaway, a long term missionary in the Philippines, has termed it: We are Missionaries hand-in Hand.