Dinner honors works of Christ in Chimbote, Peru

Thursday, November 07, 2019 - Updated: 4:33 pm

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Joan Kilgore got a first-hand glimpse of what it means to live out the call to be “the hands and feet of Christ” when she traveled to Chimbote, Peru, this past summer as a member of Mission Team 6A.

“Truly the work of Christ and discipleship is present there,” she said.

Kilgore was among those who witnessed the remarkable work of the Center for Social Works in Chimbote during the 54th Annual Peru Mission Dinner Oct. 24 at Duquesne University. The dinner is the principal means of support for the Center for Social Works, which consists of a maternity hospital, outpatient clinic, clinical laboratory, pharmacy and home for abandoned children. It also sponsors a home-visit program aiding “the poorest of the poor.”

“What you are doing in serving the poor of Chimbote is exactly what Jesus requires of his disciples,” said Auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid, reading a message from Bishop Nicola Girasoli, apostolic nuncio to Peru. “It is noble, good and necessary.” The statement was a personal message to the people of Pittsburgh on behalf of Pope Francis.

A highlight of the dinner was recognition of the 100,000th birth at the maternity hospital. It came Oct. 20 at 4:35 p.m. In noting the milestone, Bishop David Zubik spoke of how the mission continues to be a reflection of what it means to be pro-life, from conception to natural death.

“Tonight, we celebrate the generosity of you,” he said. “Not in dollar figures, but in the priceless value of the families you have helped and the lives you have saved.”

Honored guests included Dominican Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bockheim, who co-founded the Center for Social Works with the late Msgr. Jules Roos in 1966. 

“Our sincere thanks for helping us to be the hands and feet of Christ in Chimbote,” said Sister Margaret Mary.

Bishop Waltersheid talked about traveling to Chimbote with a Pittsburgh delegation last February. He described it as being more than just a sightseeing trip, but as an opportunity to walk in the presence of the Lord as his ambassadors.

“The Pacific (Ocean) on our left, the mountains on our right and the joy of Christ in our hearts,” he said.

Through an interpreter, Father Juan Roger Rodriquez, vicar general of the Diocese of Chimbote, delivered a message from Bishop Angel Francisco Piorno of Chimbote.

The evening also featured Chimbote Ambassadors from Catholic schools and religious education programs, who displayed fundraising programs at the reception prior to the dinner. Also present were student recipients of the inaugural Mike Clark-WTAE-TV Travel Award. Clark has been a longtime supporter of the mission.

Sarah Lenkner, a nursing student who was a member of Team 6B, described her experience in a video shown during the evening. “I now have had my heart opened in a way it couldn’t have been opened before,” she said.

Grants will be expanded to allow teachers and facilitators of religious education programs to travel to Peru next year, Kilgore said. By expanding them, she noted, more people will have the opportunity to “become part of the story” in recognizing the mission. “They will go, witness and come home” to tell about it, she said.

The cost per person for those traveling to Chimbote is approximately $1,500.

Emcees for the dinner were Dr. Patrick Joyce, recently retired director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship, who is a member of the Chimbote Foundation board, and former KDKA-TV anchor Jennifer Antkowiak, who is the new diocesan executive director for community relations.

They filled in for Clark, whose son, Matthew, was killed in a tragic fall while hiking Sept. 28 in Colorado.

Joyce read an emotional letter from Clark. “Matthew was a joyous young man who loved life and loved people,” it read.

Clark said he was proud of the nine students who were pioneers of the scholarship program. “Forever they will carry the story of Chimbote with them,” he said.

Information on the diocesan mission and the Chimbote Foundation can be found at www.chimbotefoundation.org, by phone at 412-456-3085 or by e-mailing chimbote@diopitt.org.

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