News & Updates

IHM Sisters reach out in Peru

The Sisters informally call it, “the Ministry of the Doorbell.” In Peru, Sisters of IHM are serving some of the poorest regions in South America
Ancilla Maloney distributing food in Andes
Sister Ancilla Maloney distributing food packages to people high in the Andes Mountains.

The Sisters informally call it, “the Ministry of the Doorbell.” In addition to their planned mission services, their work in the Southern Andes Mountains of Peru, at any given moment, is determined by the people who walk to their door and ring that bell — any time, day or night. The Sisters answer the call — obtaining medicine for the sick and dying, helping homeless children find shelter, and providing whatever help is needed, many times for things and services we take for granted in this country.

Responding to the Pope’s call to minister to the world’s poor, the Sisters of IHM started their outreach in Peru in 1965 in Lima, the nation’s capital. Their mission included teaching at the Santismo Nombre de Jesus (Holy Name of Jesus) School, creating a Posta Medica (clinic) to meet the medical needs of the poor, setting up a Vespertina (night school) to teach those who worked during the day, and generally serving as pastoral ministers, social workers, and catechists in parishes and orphanages.

Today, two IHM Sisters, both native Peruvians, serve in Lima. Sister Dora Vizcarra is a psychologist working at Hospital de la Solidaridad (Solidarity Hospital) for low-income people. She considers it a privilege to walk with people who share their lives with her. Sister Denise Montagne recently returned to Lima to be close to her family. She teaches English as a second language and ministers to families in the nearby mountain areas.

Those who manage the parish in the Andes, eleven thousand feet above sea level, in a small city named Sicuani include Sister Eileen Egan who began her service in Lima in 1982 but has been working in Sicuani since 1992; Sister M. Ancilla Maloney who began her service in Sicuani in 1992; and, Sister Norma Poma Arpi, a native of Sicuani who began her service there in 2017. In addition to the many support services “The Minister of the Doorbell” brings each day, the Sisters lead communion services, conduct funerals, train catechists to provide religious education, prepare parishioners for the sacraments, distribute food, and work with youth groups. When the priests were busy on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Sisters were asked to bless the vans that bore the title Immaculata. Sister Eileen also offers weekly communion services for the local police, which has led to better relationships between the communities and law enforcement.

IHM Sisters in Peru work to find solutions. For example, because of a lack of secondary schools in the mountains, families would send the boys to live alone in Sicuani. However, the same opportunity was not an option for girls because of security concerns. The Sisters, always advocates for women, established a House of Studies to give girls a safe place to live and attend school. The Sisters of IHM also run an after-school program where children can get help with their schoolwork, enjoy art projects, and socialize. Another native of Peru, Sister Sister Giovanna Fuentes Bendivez, served in Sicuani this past fall/winter, helping abused children and young women and using her gift of music to play for Mass and lead the children in song on Saturday evenings.

The majority of the people the Sisters serve live in the two-mile-high area of the Andes Mountains – one of the poorest areas in South America. They are subsistence farmers since there is no industry. Many areas have no roads and no electricity, and most people there are living in adobe homes with one or two rooms, dirt floors, and a fire pit for cooking.

There are endless stories of need. Despite this, the people are hard-working, compassionate, generous, and warm-hearted. They are families, and, just like you, they want the best for their children.

It is only through the support of people like you that the Sisters can continue their critical mission to provide basic services to the poorest of the poor in Peru every time the doorbell rings! See more stories of IHM Sisters’ work in Peru or help support their mission.

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