When You See the Southern Cross: An Attempt to Bring Together Two Parishes a Half a World Apart

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Wenthe, George
Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology
Father Paul Habing is a missionary priest serving the village of Nufioa in the altiplano, high plains, of southern Peru. He and I were born about four years apart and grew up about four miles apart, but we did not become acquainted until a few years ago. I was helping with a Confirmation retreat, and he was home for his annual visit and had come out to hear confessions and celebrate the Mass. Some years earlier our parish, Sacred Heart in Effingham, Illinois, had adopted his mission, San Pedro Parroquia in Nufioa, southern Peru as a sister parish. He had thus celebrated the Masses at least one weekend every year at Sacred Heart, and although I knew who he was and a bit about him, we had not met personally. With both of us having a few minutes free while the previous activity was concluding, I introduced myself and told him how much I admired what he was doing, since I could never picture myself making that commitment. Rather than a simple thank you he replied instead, “George, I admire the priests and lay ministers who work in this country; its something I'm not sure I could do.” The quiet humility of this man almost overwhelmed me. Since that time we have developed a friendship, and I still quite admire him for his dedication and fortitude in spreading the Good News in a less than comfortable environment.