Mission Diary: the Winds of Arequipa

A Comboni Father Fugain Dreyfus Yepoussa from Central African Republic talked with us about his experience in Peru. “Each day I learn something new from the communities and the families that contribute and enrich my faith.”

When I finished my seminary studies in Kinshasa, (DR Congo) in 2015, I returned to my home country of the Central African Republic. When I returned, I worked in the Comboni missionary administered parish of Our Lady of Fatima located in Bangui, the capital of the country and also the area that has by far the largest Muslim population of the city.

During the one and a half years that I was at Our Lady of Fatima, as a Comboni Missionaries we shared a part of the parish compound with thousands of displaced people, due to the ongoing ethnic and religious unrest that has led to many deaths within the country. They were difficult moments, but also enriching because it allowed us to accompany and make common cause with these people who had lost everything except their hope in God.

When my ordination date to priesthood drew closer, I was asked to expression my preference for missionary assignment. In that moment, which happen to be 2016, my country was in the middle of a grave crisis and it was not easy for many Comboni missionaries to be assigned there, so I asked to remain in my country and “be missionary in house.” But my superiors decided differently. They sent me to Peru, a decision I received in faith.

After my ordination I prepared myself to go to Peru in South America. I spent one month in Madrid, Spain, awaiting my visa and took advantage of the time there to start studying Spanish.

I would eventually arrive to Peru in November 2017. The first thing I did was to continue my Spanish language studies at Catholic University in Lima, the capital.

After the language course, the provincial superior of the Comboni Missionaries in Peru assigned me to the Comboni community in Arequipa, which I received very well and where I integrated myself very rapidly into the Comboni community and parish life. I was assigned pastoral responsibility of five of the 12 communities that form part of our parish, which was a great task and challenge for an African missionary who just arrived to Peru. None of these five large communities that I was responsible for had a chapel and we had to celebrate the Eucharist in the open air below canvases or on sport fields. During these celebrations I not only have to deal with the dogs that roam the area, but also deal with strong gusts of wind, which is normal since Arequipa, located in the southern part of the country, is more than 2,300 meters above sea level.

My first year of ministry was a time of observation, listening and learning until I was able to acquire enough experience and knowledge about the reality of the people. I usually visit the families to get to know the members of the communities more closely and little by little, we have created prayer groups made up of at least four families, in which I usually participate.

Each Sunday I go by foot to the various communities to celebrate the Eucharist. After three years of ministry, I am very content to see the birth of small Christian communities where the people help one another and assist the needy in the community.

Since March 2020, many activities have been suspended because of Covid-19 and we have had to improvise our methods. Now we transmit the Eucharist by Facebook and with the youth we have virtual meetings as a way of animating them. We have also created groups of WhatsApp for the wider Christian community and each day we send a small reflection.

I am very happy with this missionary experience in Peru. Each day I learn something new from the communities and the families that contribute and enrich my faith.

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