Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores, Letter from Piura, ca. 1980's




Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas
Transcription of Sister Rose Dolores Hoffelmeyer
Transcribed January 18, 2021
RDH: Today is a national holiday, and so I'm taking advantage of this feast of Saint Rose of
Lima in order to send this tape message to you. Sister Regina returns to the states tomorrow for
meetings with the council and also for a visit with her family. And since she's going to San
Diego to visit her brother who is sick, she offered to take something back to Bernice. And I
thought, "Well, what can I send?" I've sent ceramics, I've given things that are golden, and --I
don't know what else-- and things of silver. And so I thought, well, maybe she would just like to
have a conversation with me, although it's going to be one-sided. I hope that I don't bore you too
much. What I thought I might do is share with you a little bit of the place in which I work and
am working right now, and some of the activities of the sisters with whom I work. And because
last year was such a hectic year in so many ways and really historical for our community here,
especially the community here in Santa Julia, and I just finished typing a long report of the year,
a history of the year for the community. I thought maybe you too would like to hear some of
what went on here. It's all past history now, and so I feel a little bit more free to talk about some
of the things that happened. [00:01:34]
I'm living and working here in Piura, which is the third largest city in Peru. Although it's a little
over half a million people, the city itself and the barrios that surround it, this seems like nothing
in comparison with Lima, for instance, which is the grandest city or the biggest city in Peru, and
has some 18 million people in it today--in it and the barrios that surround it. But nevertheless,
Piura, although it is a pretty good sized city, retains much of the flavor and the feel of a smaller
city. Much of its population has come in the last 10-15 years, when many of the people from the
Sierra have come to the coast looking for a better life. Unfortunately, they don't find much of a
better life, but at least it's warmer and they can still subsist. Although, in this terrible economic
crisis, it's very difficult for them. Many of them live in the surrounding area, as some of you saw
in the television program that Francis told me about. Many of them live in straw huts or huts
made of woven mats of straw. And this is the first stage, they invade a section of the terrain
around the city and lay claim to the land. Sometimes they're driven off by the police, but that's
more common in Lima than it has been here. If they can maintain their time there, I think it's for
a year and are not driven off then they can lay claim legitimately to the land. And they begin to
improve their house little by little as they can. [00:03:38]
One of the places that I work, it's in a pueblo joven, or in a barrio in the northern part of the
city—on the way out of the city—the last one on the route to Chulacanas. I passed it many times
before when I was working in Chalaco, and of course never entered, but this area is one of the
sections that has grown up in the last 17 years. Many our family members or close relations that
have come close together, they go in and and set up their little houses, and then little by little

they improve them. One of the families that I've come to know quite well and that maybe may
have a couple of daughters that will eventually enter the community and are working with me as
catechists right now, this family had been living in Callao, which is the port city of Lima, had
apparently had a pretty nice house, and the man had permanent work. But because his mother
was alone and had responsibilities for a granddaughter, when the mother had died and the father
kind of disappeared, this family opted to leave everything they had there in Lima and come back
to this part of the country. They're living there in this little house, which is
still constructed of many different things. Part of it is a brick. [00:05:32]
The reason I stopped the tape for a minute is that the garbage truck was passing by. And you
could probably hear the clanging of the bell as it approached and knew it would be very
distracting, if nothing else. As it got closer to the house, as I was saying, this family lives in this
house constructed of cartons, of boxes of refrigerators or whatever, of brick. It has pieces of tela
that serve to divide the different rooms. And this is a better house than many of the people have
to live in. They're improving their situation a little bit. The man has worked. He is a kind of
traveling salesman. I don't know exactly what he is selling, but I know that he accosted me one
day when I was in the Mercado as he was entering the stores taking orders for something or
other. And so this family has improved their house little by little and added portions on to it.
Many of them started out with just one little room in one little shack, and that's how they grow.
What impresses me of this family is their interest in getting an education for their children. I
think that's pretty true of many of their families. It's discouraging for us, because we know that
many of them, even though they get a better education, would not be able to get better jobs. But
when I was in the house most recently, one of the curtains was open between the little sala, or
sitting room that you enter, and the next room, and I could see that they have a bookcase with at
least part of a set of encyclopedias and some dictionaries and other things. They help their
children. They have three who have graduated from high school now, the boy is studying in a
tecnico, and the oldest girl really would like to enter the community. Was talking with us
yesterday about it. And the second girl who just finished her high school last year, had earlier
asked me if it would be possible to have some kind of experience with us. She has visited in the
house before, and we're sending her this Wednesday for a three month experience in the center of
formation in Chulacanas. Hopefully, she too will make her decision for whatever state of life that
she wants to follow. This course in Chulacanas is geared to help them know more about the three
states of mind and to improve their sense of dignity as women in the church. [00:08:52]
It was interesting for me last week when I went to visit the the priest who is in charge of this
pueblos jovenes in the northern part of the city. And his parish is in one of the wealthier sections
of the city called Miraflores. He really discounts the Catholics of that section, even though they
come to mass, have the children baptized and so on. But aside from that, they really don't make
any contribution to the church and don't have any desire to work in the programs of the church.
And he has a great belief great interest in the people of the pueblos jovenes, but he's really

divided because he has his parish. He's also a chaplain of the huge hospital of the state. He also
has one to at least four or five of these pueblos jovenes, and then he goes out into Campo with
his catechists to sections to help teach the people who are living farther out. So, and he's not a
young man. So, he's really divided. Yesterday he was telling the people at mass in Los Meninos
that from now on, he would not be able to say mass every Sunday there. He would have to divide
his time between there and Primavera, because the priest who had been helping him, the Jesuits
who'd been helping him, had been moved from the city. And so he would try to offer mass at Los
Merinos every other Sunday, except for those weeks when he had to give his time to marriage
encounter programs. Or if, for instance, when the bishop is planning to come soon to visit his
parish, he won't be able to come. And it turned out it will probably be another month before he
visits Los Meninos. But when I was visiting with him, and I had a real sense of his confidence in
the people in the barrios, what he was saying to me is, those people really have nothing but their
faith, that they really cling to their faith, and they do more in spreading the word of God than
these people here around my parish ever think of doing. And I can't count on these people for
hardly anything. Sad, isn't it, but it's a testimony. He said, they have everything they want. And
they don't have much interest in, in the people who don't have anything. [00:10:49]
The Archdiocese of Piura y Tumbes is located here in the northern part of Peru, and has a
population of close to one million in total. About two years ago, the Archbishop finally got an
auxiliary bishop to help him with the work, especially in the area of Tumbes. And Monsignor
Augusto lives there in Tumbes and is in charge mostly of the work there. The people in Piura, as
in many parts of Latin America, although they're about 98% nominally Roman Catholic, suffer a
great lack of faith formation and education in their faith. Of course, this is due in large part to the
scarcity of priests and religious serving their needs. I read some time ago that about 60% of the
religious working in Peru still are foreigners, and remember, I told you in Chulacanas that was
very evident. There were about 14 different countries represented there. In this area, there's a
great scarcity of priests. There are about 37 priests serving a population of, as I said, about a
million people. And many of those priests are, are concentrated in in the cities. There are about
11 or 12 parishes here in Piura itself, in the city of Piura, and also a seminary, and although there
are only about three priests who actually give their time almost completely to the work there,
there are others who who are engaged in doubled ministries, teaching in the seminary, maybe
acting as officials of the Caritas, which is the food distribution program that's International, but
also have large parishes to take care of. Because of the lack of priests and religious to help the
people, to instruct the people, and because of the terrible economic situation that has existed here
in the country for some years now, the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the evangelical
groups are trying to take advantage of the absence of the clergy and religious and are coming in
and just bombarding the people, often giving large sums of earth, large amounts of food,
attracting them with programs, setting up mini factories or helping the people in various ways,
all of which is very good. But it's also almost a means of buying them away from the traditional
church. And because many of the people have faith that is rooted in knowledge, and because of

their great need, real need for food and for clothing, etc., many of them have turned to these sects
and other religions that have come into that the territory. [00:15:15]
There are many Catholics who want to help to combat this, as you know, I've been working with
what is called an evangelization program. Evangelizacion Dos Mil, or Year 2000. But the people
have been crying for help, information of their own faith, because they themselves often don't
have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions of the Catholic faithful, were really incisive,
bombarded by the Protestants that are coming in. So one of the things that I'm doing is working
with a program that the Archbishop has mandated for the Catholics who really want to improve
their knowledge of the faith. It's an interparochial program, to give instruction in the Bible and in
the realities of the faith or the doctrines of the faith. We just started it about two weeks ago. And
we're hoping that each year, we'll be able to add other courses. We have an outline that goes for
three years. I think that will really be necessary, or I hope that it will be necessary, to repeat these
two introductory courses that we're giving this year, this August, from August to December, that
we'll be able to give these courses another time next year, so that the people who have heard
about them now, and who want to enter them, will be able to start the program at that time. I
don't think it will be too late. And since the first two courses this year are introductory, and we'll
continue with the introductory courses for the New Testament, and also for other doctrines in the
faith next year, I think if we repeat those four courses a number of times then we'll have a really
strong base of Catholics who can help their parishes. And always the major problem in realizing
a program like this is lack of money. Although we don't need much of it, we do need to pay the
priest who are giving extra time in this program and help to pay for the electricity that we use at
nights because, often enough, we have to depend upon a motor or a generator, because the light
or electricity in the city is so unreliable. And the gasoline is very expensive. We want to buy
Bibles, and the new catechisms. I have trouble lots of times going back and forth from English to
Spanish. But we want to buy some of those books and sell them at minimal price to the people,
so that they will have them in their hands when the priests are teaching them. And also so that
they can use them as points of reference later on. [00:18:45]
So, one of the things that we're doing is applying to programs in Germany and in some of the
places in the States to help us to gain some funding. I'm going to use some of the money that
Mary Ancilla sent this past December, and that I still have on hand to help buy some of those
books. Eventually I'll be able to pay back most of that money. Although, depending on how
much they cost, because the people who are coming often are people who either have retired
from their work, or maybe are unemployed looking for work, but want to give their time and
helping the church, or they're mothers of families who go out to evangelize on weekends. And
they certainly don't have money, because they can hardly put food on their tables. So, you might
want to keep that in your prayers, this program in your prayers if you would, so that we can do
all that we can for Catholics who can help their fellow Catholics, and from there, help the church
to stay strong among its people. [00:20:09]

Here in the house, I live with an interesting group of people. It's sometimes hard for us to gather
together because of the diversity of the programs that we're engaged in. Janet and Ruth work in a
program that is archdiocesan, Pastoral de Salud, it's an office that has been formed and is meant
to help the people be trained in the basic principles of health. Janet had her year of sabbatical
about three, four years ago, got an additional degree--she is a nurse--got an additional degree in
international health, and so has contacts with international health programs and came back
knowing very well that you can't practice the 20th or 21st century medicine of the United States
here in Peru. She's a great advocate of natural medicine, and she has organized promontories de
salud, or promoters of health, in almost all the parishes here in Piura, and in many of the parishes
in the Archdiocese. She also is in charge of programs that work with the food kitchens in many
of the smaller caserios, and some of the areas here in Piura itself. What else does she do? Also,
this program is gaining some funding to help what they call small working programs. [00:22:06]
One of the things that she and Ruth are really excited about is that a group of women in one of
the really poor areas were able to find us here in Piura and have been trying, wanted desperately
to have a panaderio, or bakery, so they could make bread for the area and sell it for as cheap as
they could. And they got the money from the state so that they could buy an horno, oven, and
fermentation, whatever you call it. It's a big container. And they bought--one of the women here
in Piura that has a fabrico, or a factory, that works in metal helped them in making the stands,
and tables, and things that they needed, and charged them cost value really for what they did.
And she also helped him a lot transporting things in her truck. And so that program is off and
running now. There are about 12 women who work in it, and they're now in the process of taking
turns on a three shift basis. Some of them prepare the batter. Others come back after it's raised
and form the bread and get it baked, and the others come in to do the selling and merchandising.
That's been a successful program. One of the other programs is the taller, or the workshop, that
makes those silver articles that I have sent to Bernice and Francis, and they have had success too.
They now have a contract with somebody in Argentina who buys the silver products and sells
them abroad. So that's off and running and is giving employment to eight or 10 men there.
[00:24:19] in two different areas where the men make brooms and sell them in the cities, have
contracts with some of the different cities around about. So they will buy them for the people
who clean the streets, and that's also a working project. To the east of us, near Sullana, where
there is a lot of fruit grown, they have set up a workshop or a factory to make marmalade of
different fruits. And I see that it's being sold in various stores here in the city. And I think their
hope is to export it to other areas too. So these are very important projects, because although they
each one only gets work to about eight or 10 persons, it's an incentive for other people to try and
to set up some of their other programs too, and to see that it is possible for a group of people to
come together and do something to help themselves and help the people around them. One of the

projects that was not successful, and the group had great hope for, was a carpintero, or a
carpenter shop for young men in one of the barrios here in Piura. And they started out again with
about eight or 10 young men, and they were able to help them by the first wood that they would
need, and then they got funding from one of the state programs to construct the house or the
brick building in which they would work, and to put the techo on, the roof on. And they worked
through all that. They had a professional carpenter hired to to teach these eight or 10 young men
the profession. But unfortunately, little by little they lost interest. One of the things that they
started out to make as their principal project was to make coffins, wooden coffins. Because the
high mortality rate, there's always a demand for these coffins. But they didn't have a good
method of publicizing their work, and they had a whole succession of problems. The man who
was hired to teach them got discouraged with them and quit his job. And then they got another
carpenter, and he worked for a while with them, then he got discouraged with them, and then
they had to get somebody else. And then there was a robbery, and some of the tools were stolen.
And anyhow, it was kind of a disaster. There are only two of the young men left, and they're in
another taller learning from two men who have set up their own taller. But Ruth was really
discouraged with this project. [00:27:49]
Because of the nature of their programs in this office of salud, the two of them, Ruth and Janet
have to do a lot of follow up work. And they visit all of these groups of women and men who are
promoters of health throughout the diocese once a month. So that takes a lot of time in itself.
They also visit the talleres and try to give spirit and life to them. They helped organize retreats.
That's what they're doing today in Tumbes, which is a good six to eight hour trip away from
here. They'll return about the middle of the night to Piura, and hopefully they'll be able to get
some rest. One of the things that I have said to them is they often work weekends and days like
today which are very honest, that they don't really take their time off during the week following,
and I think they're going to burn themselves out. [00:28:55]
And as I've said, I work with the office of evangelization, helping to give some guidance to the
Peruvians who were left in charge when our sister Elena Mack, who was the director of the
program left last year when she was elected to our council in the United States. And so although
I don't know much about the courses that they offer, I've only made two of them. They respect
my advice, and I help with some of the planning and I have to hold down the prices because we
don't have much money to operate on. Before Sister left, they had received a good sized grant
from the German bishops for this program, and we have used up the first part of that money and
have not yet received the second quarter. [00:30:02]
These programs really have given life and spirit to many of the people, and it's these people in
many of the parishes who are now asking for the courses to deepen their faith. Courses in the
Bible, courses in doctrine, and things like that. But I think that the two programs work hand in
hand, and so I feel good about that. The other Sisters and then also Peruvians, sister Trini, who is

a very good friend of mine, and who worked with me in Chalaco earlier, is a full time student in
a school to train teachers, that kind of a normal school here in Peru. She's in her second part of
her third year. It's been great joy for me to see her growth and to see how she has really taken a
liking for her studies. Although they're really demanding, too. She also helps a little bit with
catechesis, and on the weekends, she goes with me to Los Meninos sometimes, and she also
works on Saturdays for an hour and a half or so in a program for young people in the parish of
Santa Rosa. [00:31:28]
Mabel is a young woman who is in her second year of vows and works as the person in charge of
the catechetical program for First Communion in Santa Rosa and in the two barrios that are
attached to it here in Santa Julio and also in Nueva Esperanza this year, she also opted to teach
about nine hours a week, something like that, in one of the secondary schools. It's a great
contrast for her because this school, whose name is Mater Admirabilis and has a large statue that
those of us who went to convent of the Sacred Heart know very well. This school is in a rather
rich section of the town. And the girls who are in it are pretty spoiled, and really hadn't had much
training in their religion. The woman that Mabel succeeded as teacher there, teacher of religion, I
think was teaching more psychology and I don't know what else but not very much religion or
her version of religion, more than the real thing. So Mabel has had a pretty tough time there this
year. Of course, the students have resisted her demands that they put in some time. And she's
trying to get them interested in helping out in their parishes. And of course, they haven't ever had
that kind of an experience. Pretty soon she's going to have a retreat for them. And she asked the
Office of Evangelization to help her with that, so it will be interesting to see if that has any real
results. [00:33:26]
This year, we also have living with us right now, a novice who is in her year of experience. She
is a technical nurse, not an RN, and was a little bit older when she entered the community. And
she's also going to be working with Janet and Ruth for pastoral salud. So she just came the end of
July, and will be with us until December. Hopefully she will make her vows in March. When I
returned last year, one of the first things that Janet told me about was that she accepted in
January, I think it was, to be secretary general of Caritas. The Archbishop had asked her to take
charge of it because there were apparently a good many corrupt activities going on within that
organization, and he wanted to do some housecleaning. First of all he wanted to make sure that
some of the accusations he was hearing were true. So she accepted the charge. That led to
various difficult situations for her. One of the things that happened to her was that on the 23rd of
May, before I came back, she was picked up by the Police and taken for an interrogation, by the
National Police of Peru. The charge was that she was involved in siphoning off some of the
[inaudible] from a truck that was bringing them from Caritas in Lima to Caritas Peru that several
of the bags of wheat had disappeared. Well, she, of course was not responsible, but they
questioned her for two hours and denied her the presence of lawyer during that time, so it was a
very scary experience for her. And that wasn't the end of it, of course. They brought suit against

her in the court of law. And that hung over her head, because it was constantly put off the trial,
or the hearings were constantly put off. The lawyers that she was able to get didn't seem to afford
her much help. Finally, our superior here, she went to see the bishop again, and one of the things
that he said was that she needed to know that for sure the people who take positions of authority
are always going to have to suffer. Well, she did have to suffer a lot and we suffered with her,
the anxieties of that program. One of the things she said was that she'd never noted until then
how many times the Bible makes references to the state to justice until that period of time, and
that so many of her times of prayer, when she was using the Bible, she came across these
references. [00:36:57]
As you will know, the Sendero Luminoso or radical communist group, they have been trying to
take over the country. They're very active and very violent in many parts of the country. Things
have quieted down substantially since the capture of Abimael Guzman last September. But until
that time, there was a lot of activity, increasing activity here in the Piura area. Right before I
came back, the ex alcalde and a professor of Piura was murdered as he was leaving his classes
one night. And this caused a great deal of consternation, there have been a number of police who
were killed also. In July of last year, we ourselves here in the house began to notice that we seem
to be under observance too. There is a football field or a soccer field across from us, and
frequently, there seem to be people on the platform there, observing us at night, or as we walked
to mass or came back. We felt like we were being observed by some people, some young people
who were on the corners. So we always try to go two and two. About the middle of that month,
or the 20th or thereabouts, we received some pamphlets or flyers inside of our gateway one
morning urging us to observe the declared strike of the Sendero Luminoso for the 24th 25th, I
think it was, of July. We, of course, didn't intend to do that. And many other people were not
observing it either. [00:39:04]
On the morning of the 25th, it was a Saturday morning, several of us were still in bed, gratefully,
about 630 in the morning. But we were awakened very rapidly with the explosion of a handmade
or a house made bomb at our gateway. Janet and Ruth we're having breakfast in the dining room
and were protected from flying grass because of the walls that separated them. But often enough,
some of them would have been emerging to go buy bread or something in the morning. The
bomb, although it was a small one, was strong enough to blow out the windows in the two rooms
that faced the plant in the first floor, and some of those where the door that opens onto the chapel
area up above. One of the sisters called the other house on a walkie talkie. We don't have a
telephone here in Santa Julio, and Regina brought back walkie talkie so that we can
communicate between the two houses. And the sisters there called for the police to come. But
afterwards we, at least I, really laughed about what we were doing. Almost immediately, Janet
and I grabbed brooms and and Ruth to start cleaning up. We said it was such a typical North
American attitude. We started cleaning up the glass and sweeping and cleaning in general. And
the people who had gathered outside the wall in the gateway said, "Madres, don't clean that up,

the police will want to see how it was and they will they'll want to investigate all the parts of it."
We were all very grateful that nobody was hurt. And although it was a cause of tension for us in
the next couple of months, because we didn't know if there would be another attack of some
kind. And we took extra precautions when we were going out to try not to be out at night. And
certainly if we, because we have to go to mass in Santa Rosa, which is about four or five blocks
away, and come back together because it often is dark by the time we get back. We never knew
exactly why the attack was directed against us, but I think most of us thought and still think that
it was because Janet was still in charge of Caritas and that this program does a lot to help the
poor. And Sendero has always tried to disrupt programs that try that serve the poor because they
want to cause greater animosity or greater discomfort among the poor so that they will join them
in their rebellion. Some other people thought that perhaps it was because Susanna, who was
living with us at this time, was teaching in one that was teaching in a college, or a High School
close by here in Santa Julio, and that the Sendero didn't like the influence that she was having
with the young people because they were also struggling to try to gain their attention, to gain
them as supporters of their cause. But whatever may have been the cause, it was it was certainly
a cause of tension for all of us in the months that succeeded. And some kind of funny things
happened. One night we were in the [inaudible], praying together, it was again a Saturday night,
and we were sharing the scriptures. And somewhere in the vicinity in the street, somebody set off
a discharge. It may have been like a firecracker which they use often enough for celebrations. Or
it may have been somebody shooting a gun, who knows, but all of us dived for safety in one way
or the other. [00:43:25]
Nothing much more happened as far as we were concerned until September. As you all know, on
September the 12th this Guzman was arrested by the police and so the President of the Republic
had called for a national day of thanksgiving on the 24th of September, which is also the feast of
Our Lady of Mercy. And had asked that Peruvians put out the Peruvian flag to demonstrate that
it is the only flag that has a right to fly in Peru. So I bought material and we had made up a flag
of the country. And that morning I put it on a standard flying from the balcony of the second
story. Meanwhile, we'd planned to go to Ayabaca for a kind of past time and the sisters had
planned that before I came back, but I had a bad cold and so I decided to stay at home because
Ayabaca's a very cold area and I didn't want to travel for eight nine hours and then be in the cold
and come back worse. So I was going to be here by myself and Maria was visiting from Chalaco
at the time and she stayed with me, and the night of the 24th we went to mass in Nuevo
Esperanza and when we returned to our surprise and horror we found some other pamphlets of
Sendero inside of our gate. So she called Regina on the walkie talkie, and Regina called the
police. And because she didn't have a car at the time, the other Sister was out in the barrios,
working still with prayer groups. She asked the police to come by the house and pick us up so

that we wouldn't stay here overnight. But we waited and waited and nobody came, so finally she
came in a taxi cab. We'd called a second time to say the police had not come. [00:45:33]
Gratefully, nothing materialized from that warning. They were unhappy with us, of course, that
we were participating or upholding the state, what they called the ancient regime. Kind of sounds
like the French Revolution, doesn't it. Shortly after that, the group that works against terrorism, a
place that was specially formed to work against terrorism, picked up a number of leaders of
Sendero here in Piura and in the northern part of the country, including three from the barrios
directly around us from Santa Julio and Nuevo Esperanza, one of whom was a professor and one
of whom was a person who worked in an office where he had access to a mimeograph. And with
that, really, things quieted down a great deal. Piura has had almost no activities of Sendero,
although some of the outlying districts including some of the pueblos there close to Chalaco had
seen activity of Sendero in recent months. But the police are
slowly but surely doing a mop of activity. [00:46:52]
One of our great concerns right now is that some of the people who are being accused of being
Senderos are not guilty. In fact, one of the priests from the Archdiocese here is in the jail in one
of the cities south and west of here, waiting trial accused of being a terrorist. His brother earlier
had been picked up and accused. And the accusation against this priest is that... The mentality of
the government, in this year is that anyone who even helps the families of those who are accused
of terrorism are themselves terrorists. They call them members of the group. And they support or
have help. And they picked up lawyers who have defended the rights of the people to have a fair
trial. They have picked up teachers and others who have picked up collections to help families in
need. This all makes for a very difficult situation, as you can imagine, because we all certainly
want to see the terrorists picked up, but we also want to see justice done. The Office of peace and
justice for the Archdiocese is very busy trying to help determine who seem to be innocent and
trying to help to develop cases in support of them, but it's a very difficult job. Just the other day,
the nephew of this Bishop of Tumbes was picked up in the headlines here in our papers and
certainly in Lima, who was picked up in Lima as a terrorist. And of course, in the paper itself, it
named the Bishop as his uncle... [00:49:03]
...and convicted of being a terrorist. But while he was in prison, this Bishop had denounced the
government authorities for torturing him. And so it is a difficult situation in the country. I felt
really badly for the bishop. They also thought maybe this publicity isn't all so bad because so
many families are suffering like injustices, and at least they know that not even a bishop is
immune to accusations or to calumny because of the activities of members of his family.
One of the things that has struck me as strange during the time of tension, and much more so
now is that with all of this life goes on, almost as usual. We eat, we sleep, we work, the sun is

still shining, birds are still flying and singing. And it all makes for an atmosphere of unreality.
Because we know that while everything seems to be very peaceful and quiet and going very well
here, in some parts of the country, there was very great violence. Last week, there was an attack
on some indigenous or Indian peoples of the Amazon area that had collaborated with the
government. And Sendero killed about 58 of them, went from village to village. Now the federal
forces or the state forces are in trying to capture them. And we know that there's a lot of injustice
being done on both sides. One of the things that Peru is saying, in fact, de Cuellar, who was the
Secretary General of the United Nations, is living back here right now, denounced Amnesty
International, because they're always very quick to draw attention to injustices of the government
but say almost nothing about what Sendero is doing. Janet, on the other hand, feels very strongly
[inaudible] government and she suspects them of almost everything and so it makes a lot of
uncertainty in the country. I'm sure that our views represent what's going on in a throughout the
country. [00:52:10]
Now I'd like to share with you one of the funnier story stories of the year. As I said, things go on,
life continues regardless of what is going on in the political scene. And last year, in the end of
September, the first part of October, Esther, who lived in Chalaco, was to be operated and was
operated in the clinic of Roma, which is a private clinic here in Piura. And some of the sisters in
Piura had decided to take turns staying nights with her because the clinic was understaffed. And
this particular day of the first of October, Ruth left the house and went to the clinic. But as she
got off the bus, she stepped into a pothole, of which there are a great many. She fell very hard,
and was hardly able to get up but did so. And fortunately, there was a young man passing whom
she knew. And she called him to give her some help. So first of all, she sat on a bench for a little
bit. And then with his help, she walked to the clinic which was in the same block. There she
asked the receptionist to go up to the second floor and to tell the persons who were staying with
us there that there was a sister down below looking for them and they should come down. Julia, a
novice, and Trini went downstairs and found Ruth suffering a great deal. She could hardly work
and she had scraped her arm, but it was her hip that was bothering her the most. And of course
she couldn't go upstairs. And so they call the other house and asked for one of the other sisters to
come. So both Regina and Donna Jean went down, Donna Jean to stay with Esther and Regina to
take Ruth to another clinic to see if they could find a doctor who would take care of her, examine
her. [00:54:32]
Regina went to look for a taxi. And you'd have to know the condition of many of the cars about
right here. We all laughed one day when one of the taxistas said with horror that he had heard
that they throw away cars in the United States. And that's true. The cars that they throw away up
there many of them I'm sure land down here and keep on operating for some 10 years afterwards,
or more. Well as Trini [inaudible], the car which they took that night was old. And it began to
stop and start and didn't want to start up again, and the chauffeur got out of the car and put more
gasoline, they often carry a gallon of gasoline in their trunk, put more gasoline into the car. But

still, the motor wouldn't start. Regina was really preoccupied that the clinic was going to close
and so she decided to leave this car and go rapidly in another car. But she couldn't get out of the
car because the door was stuck. And she was trying to push it open and was tugging at it with
both hands and then the chauffeur got out. And he pulled on it from the outside. And finally she
was able to get out of the car. And she got a motor taxi, like a like a rickshaw in the Orient only
with a motorcycle that does a lot of work here in in the cities of Peru. And now she took one of
these motor taxis to the other clinic and met the doctor as he was leaving his office and asked
him if he would please wait because the sister was coming in the other car. And she explained
what had happened. Well Trini and Julia also wanted to take another car, but the chauffeur kept
insisting No, his car was going to start up and asking them to wait just a little bit more. And of
course, it was very painful for Ruth to move in and out of cars. And so Julia, nevertheless left the
car and went to look for another taxi. At the same time that she left the car, this old car started up
and start moving. And Trini looked behind and here was Julia, who was a little heavy, running
behind the car trying to get back into it. And I guess it was like a comedy. [00:57:07]
Well, she did manage to get into the car. And when they arrived to San Miguel, they asked the
chauffeur not to turn off his motor in case the medico had already left and Ruth wouldn't be able
to go in. But Julia went inside, she saw Regina, and she said that the doctor had said to go to this
other consultorio to have x-rays taken and that he would wait until they got back with them. So
that's what they did. Fortunately, Ruth did not have any broken bones, and her hip wasn't broken
but was badly bruised. And so he gave her some medicine and sent her to the house with a
prescription to get a lot of rest and not to try to move out of there for several days. [00:57:57]
We lost three North Americans last year, who returned to the United States. And so for the first
time this year, with the entrance of two young women in August, on August 15 of this year,
Peruvians outnumber the North Americans who are here in Peru. One of the sisters who went
back celebrated her 60th anniversary as a religious this year. And she began to suffer problems
with her back and arthritis in general with her knees. And so although she didn't want to go back,
it was really better that she did so, and she's living at the Motherhouse now, but still going out
somewhat. [00:58:54]
One of the other sisters who went back was a younger person, younger than I, who came down
just about two or three years ago and had been secretary for Mary Kathleen, before she came
down. Anna had wanted to come to South America for a long time. And the community had
asked her to stay on for quite a while in the United States. She was director of one of our high
schools was director of Hogan when I was working as counselor. And later on she was director
of one of the schools in Leavenworth. And then as I said she became Secretary for Kathleen.
And that was a big sacrifice for her because she finally got permission from Mary Kevin to come
down. And then when Kathleen was elected and the Sister who had served as Secretary for Mary
Kevin died of cancer very shortly thereafter, Kathleen asked Anna to stay on. Well, Anna,

although she had wanted to come for so long, had a hard time adapting to the situation here in
Peru. And Mary Kathleen really needed her still as secretary, and so she went back to reassume
that position there. [01:00:20]
And before that, maybe six months before that one of the other sisters who had been here for
four or five years, also went back and is working with Spanish speaking people there in the
States. The despedida, or the farewell party for Rose Celine was to be on the 23rd of January.
And we had all been invited to come over to Negritos for the celebration, to say goodbye to her
and to have dinner with the sisters there. As some of you know, one of the really sad things that
happened for our house took place that day when four of us from Santa Julia got off the bus to go
to Negritos. When we were walking to catch the other bus for that little trip, some one man came
up to Trini and offered his sympathy to her. And she didn't know that her father had died early
that morning, very suddenly, it appears to be a cerebral hemorrhage. And so she was shocked of
course. Two the other sisters came by shortly after that with a car and Joan picked her up and
took her to her family home. Maria was driving the small pickup truck from Piura. And she
didn't know about her father's death until she arrived in Negritos. The rest of us went by the
family home to offer sympathy, but then went on over to Negritos to, quote, celebrate. Of course,
there was a pall over the celebration. And after we had dinner and had given our farewells to
Rose Celine, we returned to the home of Trini. And the sisters came back two Piura that night
because they, of course, hadn't brought clothing with them. I stayed on because I had planned to
stay the weekend in Talara. The others returned the next day for the funeral. [01:02:48]
Those are some of the highlights of the year past. And something of the environment and the
situation in which I live. Hopefully it wasn't too boring for you. Bernice, I'm going to ask you, if
you will, to take these two 60 minute tapes and make one 90 minute tape for Fran. And I don't
know whether Mary might find it interesting to have a tape also, since she was so interested in
one I did in Chalaco. And she has been very good in helping our mission since that time. I was so
pleased to have the letter from Janice that she wrote there at your house. Gave me a little start I
must say to find her writing a letter from your address when I hadn't heard from you for so long.
Until I could open the letter I was really concerned that maybe something happened to you. But
it's really glad that she took the time to write, and I'm going to drop her a note too. I love you all,
and I'll be writing. Bye.

Dublin Core


Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores, Letter from Piura, ca. 1980's


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; Peru; Piura;


Sister sends an audio letter home to Leavenworth from her time in Peru. She describes life in Piura, a small city, and some of the families she has met and worked with. She talks of her work with a program designed to help provide some religious education to the local Catholic community. She mentions other Sisters working in programs related to health, food kitchens, and helping locals start businesses or find employment. She also describes the challenges of working in this area. There were relatively few priests and religious for the land area and population served. Electricity was often unreliable, and there were times of political and civil unrest, notably leading to a small bomb left at the gates of their home.


Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores


Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






All rights belong to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth






Audio Letter


Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores


Early 1980's

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores


Digital Sisters Files

Original Format

Cassette Tape




Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores, “Hoffelmeyer, S. Rose Dolores, Letter from Piura, ca. 1980's,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed July 14, 2024,


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