St. Rita sends delegation to Peru for martyrs’ beatification

| December 10, 2015 | 0 Comments
Santo Matires in Chimbote, Peru, is a sister parish of St. Rita in Cottage Grove. It is named for three missionary priest martyrs whom a guerrilla group killed in 1991. A delegation of six from St. Rita traveled to Chimbote for the martyrs' Dec. 5 beatification. Courtesy Amy Schroeder

Los Santos Martires in Chimbote, Peru, is a sister parish of St. Rita in Cottage Grove. It is named for three missionary priest martyrs whom a guerrilla group killed in 1991. A delegation of six from St. Rita traveled to Chimbote for the martyrs’ Dec. 5 beatification. Courtesy Amy Schroeder

Six parishioners of St. Rita in Cottage Grove traveled to Peru for the Dec. 5 beatification of three martyrs with ties to St. Rita’s “sister parish.”

In 1991, a guerrilla group killed missionary priests Friar Miguel Tomaszek and Friar Zbigniew Strzalkowski, both Conventual Franciscans, and Father Alessandro Dordi, who were serving the Diocese of Chimbote, Peru.

A fledgling Catholic community in Chimbote took the name Los Santos Martires — the Holy Martyrs — in their honor, and in 2001 developed a relationship with St. Rita’s parish.

Attending the beatification “was a very humbling experience,” said Amy Schroeder, St. Rita’s pastoral associate for youth faith formation.

“I am encouraged by their [the martyrs’] witness and their strength,” she told The Catholic Spirit in an email. “They chose not to abandon the people God sent them to serve in that dangerous time, and, for me, it’s a beautiful encouragement to keep serving and trusting God in all situations.”

Sister parish

The pilgrimage for the beatification was Schroeder’s third trip to Los Santos Martires, and she said she has built many relationships there. The parishes regularly communicate and pray for one another.

“We share our faith and our cultures,” she said. “The community there is very impoverished, and we also help to support them financially when we are able to help with projects.”

An image of Polish Conventual Franciscan Fathers Michal Tomaszek, top left, Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Italian Father Alessandro Dordi, are pictured during their beautification Mass at Chimbote stadium in Peru. The three priests were killed by insurgents in Peru in 1991. CNS

An image of Polish Conventual Franciscan Fathers Michal Tomaszek, top left, Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Italian Father Alessandro Dordi, are pictured during their beautification Mass at Chimbote stadium in Peru. The three priests were killed by insurgents in Peru in 1991. CNS

The delegation from St. Rita also included Ron and Bev Hatler, Barb Schultz, and Greg and Beatrice Vasterling. During their trip, the group visited the sites of the martyrs’ deaths, Schroeder said.

Los Santos Martires has several relics of the martyrs, including blood, rocks and dirt from the street where they were killed, Schroeder said.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass of beatification, which is a step toward sainthood.

Bishops from Poland and Italy were among those in attendance at the stadium Mass.

Father Strzalkowski, from Tarnow, Poland, trained as a mechanic before joining the

Franciscans and taking final vows in 1984. He left for Peru in November 1988, two years after his ordination.

Father Tomaszek, from Lekawica, Poland, took final vows in 1985 while studying in Krakow and was ordained in 1987 before being sent to the Polish Franciscans’ new Peru mission in July 1989.

Both priests were abducted Aug. 9, 1991, by members of Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group, during a Mass at their mission in Pariacoto, in the Andes Mountains. They were stabbed and shot for “impeding the armed struggle” and being “lackies of imperialism.”

Father Dordi, 60, from Gromo San Marino in Italy’s northern Bergamo Diocese, had worked since 1980 as a member of the Paradiso missionary community and was shot Aug. 25, near Vinzos, when guerrillas stopped a pickup truck taking him to Mass with two seminarians.

The Chimbote Diocese launched a canonization process in 1996.

Two decades of violence

In his homily, Cardinal Amato said the priests had been “loved and respected” for caring for the sick, as well as helping cultivate crops and build roads.

He added they had had “no enemies” and had left “a message of fidelity to the Christian missionary vocation,” thanks to their “serene ability not to abandon God’s plan, despite the real danger of death.”

Shining Path, a militant wing of Peru’s Communist Party, launched an armed struggle in 1980 to achieve a proletarian dictatorship, but was criticized by other communist groups for its brutality against peasants, trade unionists and local officials.

Up to 70,000 people were killed by insurgent and government forces during two decades of fighting in Peru’s Ayacucho, Apurimac and Huancavelica regions, according to a 2003 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

“The beatification has brought much hope and a renewal of faith to the Diocese of Chimbote and the whole of Peru,” Schroeder said.

— Catholic News Service contributed to this story

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