Those of you who followed my “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” posts know of my unhappiness in Camiri, Bolivia. After a fruitful and rewarding two years in Cochabamba, I found myself in Camiri doing next to nothing. As much as I loved working in the missions and Bolivia in particular, I was finding the enforced idleness taxing, to say the least.
I visited with the Bolivian provincial (who happens to be German), but he was unwilling to rectify the situation. I tell wrote to my provincial in New York, who basically said, “There’s plenty of work here and in Peru. If you’re not happy where you are, come back.”
As a result, in June, I flew back to the States. In July, I flew to Peru to see what work might be available there and then back to Bolivia to get what little I had there.
I am now living at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., close to most of my family in Northern Virginia. I am helping out at the Franciscan Mission Service and doing various projects for other groups to keep busy.
The friars of Holy Name Province are having a meeting in January (called a chapter), at which we will vote for a new provincial or give the new provincial another three years in office. All indications are that the provincial will be re-elected. After that, there is a meeting called a congresus, where assignments are made for the next three years.
All indications are that I will be assigned to Peru at the congresus, but, of course, that depends who is elected provincial at the chapter.
Ideas for Peru
In thinking about what I might do in Peru, I have been thinking a lot about a town in the Amazon rainforest named Satipo.It is an easy eight-hour drive from Lima over good roads. (It’s actually a delightful drive, leaving Lima, climbing up the Andes, passing over the top at 14,000 feet and then climbing down into the Amazon Basin.) We have a friar who has been working in the Satipo area for decades.
Here are some things I took into account:
(1) In today’s more ecologically aware world, there is global concern for the future of the Amazon rainforest.
(2) The General Chapter of 2009 commissioned an order-wide, inter-provincial project on the Amazon Basin (mandate #24).
(3) I understand that there is no Center for Ecology in the order. We have centers for history, scripture, etc. but not one for ecology.
(4) There is a young professor at Siena College who is a member of the SFO and who has founded a Franciscan Ecology Center.
What if we could tie these together to have Satipo be the southern extension of a Center for Ecology based at Siena? We could tie it into the order’s Amazon Project and with the worldwide concern for the rainforests, we should be able to find grant money.
We have rooms available at the mission house at Mateo Pumacauhua in Lima. It would be an easy matter to pick up visiting groups from Siena or wherever, lodge them overnight at Mateo, and then drive the next day over the Andes and down into Satipo. If they leave by 8:00 in the morning, they can be there by 4:00 in the afternoon.
There are a few students at Siena each year are looking to volunteer their time for a year after graduation. The Franciscan Mission Service, with its three-year program, is too long a commitment for them. These students already know Spanish and have spent time abroad and have cross-cultural experience.
The church at Satipo, which is staffed by the friars from the San Francisco Solano Province, has some 80 communities within its parish. There would be ample work available to these students.
I think if we had a program in Satipo two or three Siena graduates per year might be wiling to volunteer. Their stories could be publicized in the Siena Magazine to promote the mission and generate excitement among the Siena community and among the friars.
If we could arrange for a couple of FMS missioners to go to Satipo, we could use them to oversee the Siena volunteers. The friars would oversee the whole project.
This is a very “blue sky” idea. I have only begun investigating a few of these possibilities. It does, though, seem like an interesting ministry in the Amazon rainforest working to preserve the ecology.