After six years of prayer and waiting, the Diocese of Chimbote in Peru had the joy of receiving their first Conventual Franciscan missionaries from the Province of Saint Anthony in Kraków. We opened our friary in the town of Pariacoto on August 30, 1989.
Our mission was the pastoral care of four rural parishes (Pariacoto, Yaután, Cochabamba and Pampas Grande) in the Black Mountain Range.
Our pastoral plan included the formation of Christian communities, a school for catechists and visits to communities more than 2000 meters above sea level, with very bad roads, nearly all of them accessible only by horse or mule.
The peasants soon won our hearts and we were happy to bring them to Christ and see the growth of fraternal relationships among them. The seed of the good news was growing in the hearts of the peasants and the witness of Christian life sprang up in communities, especially in children and young people.
Unfortunately it was not a good time for Peru: terrorism planted and cultivated the weeds that, with the involvement of outsiders, would stain the land with the blood of martyrs, of Miguel, Zbigniew, and two weeks later Alessandro Dordi, a diocesan priest, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chimbote, and with the deaths of many other Peruvians and foreigners.
I felt intense sadness and deep pain then, and it is still difficult to narrate all that I experienced in the death of my brother friars. I was not in Pariacoto at that time; I was at Poland when I learned of the sad news on television. Over the years I have seen that God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:9), but He is present even when he is hidden by the circumstances of death. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much.” ( Jn 12:24)
They killed the two friars –my brother missionaries– without any compunction; the murderers apparently wanted to obliterate our pastoral projects.
But God has His ways and the cross of Christ is always life! The lay people committed themselves to the Gospel with renewed zeal, and were purified and fortified in the faith.
Th e poor sick people called Zbigniew “our little doctor”; they tell all the ways he helped people get better. In a way, he did as Jesus did: He laid hands on them so that they recovered their health and lived. (cfr. Mk 5:23)
Children and young people just loved Miguel. They still visit his tomb and hold in their hearts the things he taught; with their songs they make a prayer of praise and gratitude to him.
Finally, I share with my dear readers the thanks I give to God because He gave my two friar brothers the extraordinary grace of martyrdom. Th ey left us the legacy of fidelity to the will of God, their witness to the truth which led them to surrender their life and shed their blood for Christ and for the souls that He entrusted to them. It is admirable how they carried out our great goal of mission to its last consequences:
“Let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.” (Gal 6:10)
* Photo: Fr. Jarek along with the brother martyrs