It was in 1989 that the first Conventual Franciscan mission in Peru was established, and precisely in Pariacoto
The three Franciscan friars of that first mission were Fr. Jarek Wysoczanski, Fr. Michal (Miguel) Tomaszek and Fr. Zbigniew Strzalkowski, all from the Province of St Anthony in Krakow, Poland. After only two years of intense activity a group of terrorists belonging to Sendero Luminoso abducted and then executed Fr. Miguel and Fr. Zbigniew on 9 August, 1991. They were, respectively, only 31 and 33 years old. Fr. Jarek managed to save himself only because he happened to be in Poland for his sister’s wedding.
However, this mission of evangelisation that the two martyrs had initiated did not die with them, as the Maoist guerrillas had wanted. Other friars came and took their place, committing themselves to evangelisation and pastoral work, and to the development of material and economic aid to the poverty-stricken population.
FATHER JAREK’S RETURN
After 20 years from that tragic massacre of his fellow friars, Father Jarek – who is today general secretary for the animation of missions for the Conventual Franciscan Order – has returned to Pariacoto with a delegation from our charitable organisation.
This is not the first time he has returned to Peru after those tragic events, but this time the memory of the episode is all the more pressing in his soul. In fact, the date of his visit to Pariacoto is no mere chance. It took place in August 2011, exactly 20 years after that fateful 1991.
“I am still haunted” – the Polish friar has revealed – “by the same questions I asked myself at the time, even though the intensity is different now: Why did God spare my life?
What does he expect from me?
What is my path in life?”
Maybe there is no final answer to these questions, however, a closer look at Fr. Jarek and his lifestyle reveals that these enigmas do not oppress him, but are a source of strength for him.
They have inspired him to work with ever greater commitment toward the common good and for the poor. They have placed him on a path open to hope and charity, with joy.
Proof of this is afforded by the way the people of Pariacoto welcome their old friend who has come to visit them again. It is afforded by the reciprocal esteem, merriment and bonding that still exists, after so many years, between him and them.
The thought of all the good that the new School can do for Pariacoto sets his gaze alight, because our project is actually the realization of a dream he had cherished long ago with his martyr-brothers. After 20 years, that dream can finally become a sold bridge to a brighter future.
“Our strivings,” he says, “have always been in favour of the poorest of the poor.
This centre will become a reference point for the inhabitants of the territory of the mission, which comprises 5 parishes with 72 small communities spread around the mountains, up to 4,000 metres in altitude, for a length of over 1,000 kilometres.
To welcome and educate these needy children means to give them an important opportunity to build a better future”.