UW Stevens Point Peruvian Mission Trip

by Sister Julie Ann on January 23, 2008

dsc09456.JPGOn January 7, 2008, Sister Mary Ann Spanjers and Sister Marlita Hensler, two Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity who once served in Lima Peru, met twelve UW Stevens Point students and one campus ministry representative at Jorge Chavez International Airport. This was the first leg of the Catholic dsc09470.JPGMission experience, a work el-centro-5.jpgof the Marianist Congregation, that led them to Trujillo for a preparation time with the catechists from the mountain villages. From there all roads rose up the Andes Mountains to sixteen pueblos.

More pictures can be found here:


We invite all involved to share their personal reflections of living in small Christian communities and reaching out in evangelization.

27 thoughts on “UW Stevens Point Peruvian Mission Trip”

  1. Seeing the pictures of this blessed experience we had together in Peru helps me to continue to reflect upon how much the people, culture, faith, generosity, climate… has touched my heart! It was such a gift to return to Peru with university students from my own country who desired to live among the people of Peru and share our Catholic faith.

    Renewing friendships with so many of my former university students from Lima and Trujillo who are now teachers, parents, and missionaries, living their faith in a profound way, brought tears of joy!

    The depth of this experience is difficult to express in words; the great gift of this life we share together in God’s love continues to unfold. I am so grateful for my community of Sisters; the U.W.Stevens Point Newman community; the people of Peru; and especially all those who were part of this experience with me!

  2. Laura Polkus says:

    I echo Sister Mary Anns thoughts on how it is difficult to express this trip in words. No amount of pictures, or stories we can tell can compare to the transformation that took place in our hearts while we were there.

    People keep asking me “HOW WAS PERU?” how can we answer that in one word? neat? cool? fun? I’ve thought about it a lot, and the word I’ve begun answering with is ‘healthy’. It was physically, spiritually, and mentally healthy. All parts of our hearts and souls were exercised to new depths of understanding, patience, and most importantly-communication.

    It was so ‘healthy’ to be a part of this experience with our Newman family, and especially Hermana Mariana and Hermana Marlita. God brought us all together in this experience for a beautiful reason, that I’m sure will continue to unfold the more we exercize what we learned on this wonderful trip!

  3. Carlos says:

    Siempre es bueno reconocer la mano de Dios en aquellas personas que Él pone en nuestro camino y una de esa personas es Sister Mariana. Que bueno fue volverla a ver a usted y a Sister Marlita, sobre todo porque el encuentro fue en medio de tanta gente que necesita una sonrisa, un mensaje de esperanza y la palabra de Dios tan excasa en estos caseríos. Que Dios la bendiga y la traiga de visita nuevamente y muy pronto.


  4. Laura, I do appreciate your struggle to describe this Peruvian experience! I love your “healthy” response! Franciscan spirituality is all about becoming “whole” “healthy” “holy”… it is discovering Jesus in each other and in ourselves; something you do very well Laura!

  5. Muchas Gracias Carlos por tus palabras! Mucho mas te doy gracias por su generosidad, fe, caridad, y carinno que compartiste con nosotros y la gente de la sierra! Es un gran gozo de tenerte como un amigo!

    Thank you so much Carlos for your kind words! Yet I am filled with so much more gratitude for your generosity, faith, charity, and loving friendship which you shared with all of us and the people of the mountains! You are a joy to know and have as a friend!

  6. Kat Stratton says:

    Putting this experience into words seems to be the struggle for all of us. It’s hard coming back into a culture that expects you to “do something,” something they can visibly see change in, like building a house. From the people I’ve talked to the first thing they want to know is “what did you do?” When I simply say we were there to be with the people, to live their life, to experience and care I receive many blank looks.

    I find it hard to explain the change I saw in the people of my mission team in my pueblo. How do I explain to people that I just became friends with them and shared my life as they shared theirs, and that was enough to connect us forever.

    I saw the most change in my crew leader, Gustavo. The same age as I am, we’ve grown up in two very different worlds. What he came to realize in my short time with him was almost up was something that many people all over the world are not half as lucky to see. He saw the wonder and gifts that God has graced us with as Americans to have helping hearts. He saw our ability to take the things we are good at, the things we love, the jobs we want to do in life and how we incorporate God and our faith into that.

    Maybe it is something many of us at the Newman center take for granted. Many of us have always had Christ as part of our lives, and have always incorporated that into everything else we do. But for a person who is just starting to truly understand his faith to come to the realization that Christ can work through your passions in life, it’s beyond words.

    So I guess that’s what I did in Peru, I touched one person’s life to show him how God can work in everything he does.

    And in return a seed that was planted in my heart way back in high school is beginning to take root and grow. A need to be with the people of another culture, to experience, to care… God guide me and give me the grace to follow your will in my life.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing from your heart Kat! While I agree with all that you write, I must add that you touched more than one person while in Peru! Many of the Peruvians commented on how open you were and on how much you were enjoying being part of their lives! Everytime I saw you, you were glowing! The presence of God’s love in your life poured out of you!

  8. Teresa Collier says:

    Adjusting to life post-Peru has proven to be a challenge, not only for me, but for several (if not all) other students who traveled with me. The experience I had there has taken every post-graduation plan I had and shaken it to the point of being unrecognizable. While having my plans turned upside down isn’t exactly something I look forward to, it is a sure sign that God is actively working on my life every single day.

    I remember a conversation our group had together while we were preparing to go into the mountains. We all talked about how we were feeling about the trip so far, what our struggles were, and what our victories were. The only thing I could think to say, was “Gosh, I just feel so…full.” The people of Peru, the missionaries we worked with, the people in our group, Sisters Maryanne and Marlita…EVERYONE was there to just fill each other up, with care, love, compassion, peace – each person had something amazing to offer, something with which to fill my heart.

    It’s hard being back in “reality”, where we often feel like we have to do life alone – like we have to try to fill ourselves up without help from others.

    Praise God for using every single experience to open our eyes to how much we need Him, and how much we need each other.

  9. Teresa Collier says:

    Gracias a todos quien nos daron bienvenidos tan carinosos. La experiencia que tuve en Peru fue increible y me faltan palabras a describir como me han afectado.

    Es una cosa buena y bonita cuando personas de otros paises pueden juntarlos a trabajar para Dios, aunque hay cosas como idiomas y diferencias en culturas que pueden hacer problemas.

    Estoy alegre que pude ir a Peru y que estaba una parte de la Mision Catolica. Siempre ustedes van a tener un lugar en mi corazon. Gracias para todo. Dios te bendiga!

  10. Terry, you sound a bit like St.Paul after being knocked from his horse (or blinded by the light). You know that I can relate very well with all you are experiencing… you are so clear in expressing your experience of the true Christian community being alive, supportive, serving, loving, in need of God and each other…
    Be assured that God will continue to guide you and enlighten you as you desire to follow Him! Your faith and energy is contagious!

  11. Jaime says:

    La experiencia de la fe, es un experiencia de encuentro porque trae en sí misma la alegría de la vida… Gracias Mariana por ser reflejo del amor de Jesús, tu presencia siempre nos ha dejado la huella del amor de Dios.

    La Misión Católica tiene varios carismas y entre ellos de manera especial, la presencia de dos Religiosas Franciscanas, Mariana y Marlita, que con sus dones han sabido despertar nuestro compromiso cristiano de todos quienes las conocen.

    Gracias Mariana por los días compartidos, durante tu presencia en el Perú, gracias por el Reencuentro, gracias por tu amistad.
    Que María nuestra Madre bendigan tu vocación y la Misión que tienes ahora.

    Recuerda que el Perú siempre será tu casa, donde tienes muchos amigos y recuerdos, casa que siempre estará orgullosa de acogerte entre nosotros.

    Que el Señor te bendiga,
    Con gratitud y cariño.


  12. Querido Jaime,
    No sabes la alegria de pasar los dias en Trujillo y la sierra contigo y su familia! Estoy tan orgulloso de ti y tantos de mis ex-alumnos de la universidad Champagnat! Ustedes me inspiran como viven,ensenan, y comparten su fe, amistad, y el amor en Jesucristo y su iglesia Catolica!
    Te doy gracias por estar tan presente en todo el tiempo que estabamos alli! Ya sabes que mi corazon esta con ustedes Peruanas!Siempre les guarda en mis oraciones! Seguimos unidos en la “Mision de Dios”!
    Dios te bendiga con mucho amor,
    Hna. Mariana

    Dear Jaime,
    It is hard to express the happiness of spending time with you and your family while we were in Trujillo and in the mountains! I am so proud of you and so many of my former students from the University of Champagnat! The way you live, teach, and share your faith, friendship,and love of Jesus and his Catholic Church inspires me!
    I am very grateful at how present and helpful you were the entire time we were with you! You all know that my heart is with the Peruvian people! Know that I always keep you close in my prayers. Let us continue, united in God’s Mission!
    May God bless you with much love,
    Sister Mary Ann

  13. Erin Yudchitz says:

    What more can I say that hasn’t been said? As I continue to reflect on this experience — missing the country, the people, my companions on the journey — I find that I’m opened up to a gratitude deeper than I have ever experienced before. I also think perhaps I’m in the wrong America!

    I have wanted to travel to South America for so long, but I thought I lacked the courage and aptitude to plan a trip myself. I can see now that it was a matter of going on God’s time, when I could have a more enriching experience by sharing it with others (particularly Sister Mary Ann and Sister Marlita) and by putting faith at the center. It was worth the wait.

    Like Teri, I can’t help but feel FULL — even in my longing for Peru. I never knew I could miss a dirt road so much! Every moment, every memory, brings me joy beyond words. This experience filled a hole in my life I didn’t know I had, and deepened my living in ways I didn’t know possible. I am so very blessed.

  14. Dear Erin,
    I’m so glad that you allowed God to choose the right time for you to experience Peru! You were a blessing to walk with on this journey! Missing dirt roads could have something to do with being in direct contact with God in creation. We are more part of the earth than we are of cement sidewalks, especially when we share the dirt path with others from both South and North America. Thank you for writing!

  15. Maureen Hennigan says:

    I have a hard time putting into words the way I feel when I think of my trip with the Newman Community to Peru. I have never experienced a trip where I had to put complete trust into God and have him guide me in everything I did and said to the people.

    Sharing faith with the people in Trujillo as well as in the Andes Mountains was enriching for my own faith life. I learned so much from the people of Chagapampa. We went to spread our faith but I saw so much in the people already. Their warmth and welcoming attitude made the entire experience a joy to be a part of.

    God works in such mysterious ways and I am still trying to figure out everything from this trip. But what I do know is that God creates a bridge between people and cultures and when there is nothing left to share there is always God.

  16. You are a great “bridge” created by God Maureen to help connect people from different cultures. It was a joy to be part of this journey with you, your openness, friendliness, and faith invited the Peruvian people to be welcoming, open, hospitable, and share their faith with you! May we all continue to strive to be God’s bridge with others!

  17. Holly Nickel says:

    Sister Mary Ann, I’ve been on many different trips that have all taken me to wonderful places abroad. I’m grateful for every experience that I’ve been blessed to have, but I would like to say that going to Peru with you and the rest of the Newman Crew was the best one!

    I never thought that I could be so moved by just one trip as much as I was moved in Peru. Your friends who we had a chance to meet while we were there with you are some of the kindest people I’ve met.

    I felt honored to be one of your friends that got to travel back with you to Peru. Seeing your face light up as you said hello to dear friends, brought I tear to my eyes. It’s easy to see that you hold all of them in a special place in your heart, just like we hold you in that same place in our hearts!

    I had never been so challenged both mentally and physically before. I’ve never gone that long without a shower or not having a bed, or electricity, but I survived and I feel like such a stronger person now because of it I literally had to give myself up to the Lord and trust that he was walking beside me.

    As you know, it was very hard for me to leave and go on this trip while my dad was back home going through surgery and then the recovery process.

    I’d like to tell you that all of his tests came back negative and my dad is doing really well. Praise the Lord! I’m very glad that I went on this trip because I feel as though it taught me to trust in the Lord in a way that I think I never thought I was capable of.

    Thank you for being such a wonderful friend and guide. I really look forward to seeing you next week for the Busy Student Retreat!

  18. You are a faith-filled young woman Holly! You know that I admire how you did put your trust in Jesus throughtout the trip, especially knowing what your Dad was struggling with! Your attitude was so positive and open, you are an inspiration! I am thrilled that your Dad is doing so well! He continues to be in our prayers.

    Isn’t it amazing what we learn about ourselves when we journey with God! Thank you so much for being part of this journey! It will be great to see you soon!

  19. Kami Needham says:

    Simplify. That is the word we were given to ponder the days before we left for Peru. Never would I have imagined that living the simplified life would be so fulfilling. I believe it is that, that the Lord wanted to teach me. I often live my life filling every minute of every day and surrounding myself with countless posessions. But, the busy schedule and all those posessions have never brought me the love and joy that this experience did.

    They say you never realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. Once I humbled myself and trusted that having only Jesus was everything I ever needed, the Lord brought me so much joy and love. I trusted God to be my everything and supply me with everything I needed. The Lord worked so perfectly.

    He placed me in a village with girls that showered me with love even though we were faced with a language barrier. I will be forever grateful of the love that was poured out to me from these girls and the village of Jose Balta. With my trust in the Lord, he provided me with people to make me feel comfortable in a situation that could have been very uncomfortable.

    The love of the Lord is ALIVE in Peru!
    Thank you all for sharing in this experience with me!

  20. The love of the Lord Jesus is ALIVE in you too Kami!

    It is great to discover how living simply is so freeing! I admire all of you who made a leap of faith by venturing far away from your comfort zone, especially if you did not know the language! But, it is because of your faith relationship with Jesus that you received so much from this experience, and because of your openness to the people of Jose Balta! Thank you for writing!

  21. Sister Ann Mary Hart says:

    I loved reading all the comments of those who went on the trip to Peru. How faith-filled! It reminded me of Peter, James and John’s experience of the Transfiguration. They came down changed by the experience. I hear this same thing in all the comments I read. I pray that all of you continue journeying with the Lord.

  22. Your link with the change that took place in Peter, James, and John because of their experience with Jesus on the mountain is so appropriate for all of us who journeyed up the Andes mts of Peru Sister Ann Mary!

    As you observe, there is a deep transformation that has taken place in us upon meeting Jesus in the people of Peru! Thank you for your comments!

  23. Sister Marlita Henseler says:

    It has taken me awhile to get here, but finally I have! I have been sharing the visit and experience in Peru with so many others over the past weeks since we returned, and the words that easily come are “A BLESSING!”, a “FEELING OF BEING BACK HOME”, “A JOY TO SHARE WITH OTHERS” and many others just as positive.God was so good to invite me along to share in the days there, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the UW-Stevens Point students a bit as well. My prayer is that as the days pass this time we shared in Peru may continue to touch you as will be most beneficial for you and your growth in faith.I am looking forward to an April reunion!

  24. Sister Sean Marie says:

    What a beautiful experience…..to just be with the Peruvian people and see their beauty. love and simplicity. I’m sure you are all filled with more than you’ll ever be able to express. That’s the way things happen when God takes over. So store the treasure in your hearts and drop some pearls to others here at home in the days to come.

  25. Sister Marlita,
    It was such a moving experience to share this trip with you, it brought back to mind so many great experiences we shared as Sisters all those years together in Peru! Thank you once again for your openness, goodness, enjoyment of life, and depth of love!

  26. Thank you Sister Sean Marie for your loving support of all of God’s poor and for your kind words!

  27. Lisa Nikolai says:

    Peru was a live changing experience for me! I went there to discover God in everyday life. I most definetly found him. I saw God in every single person I met in Peru. The way that we were welcomed so completely touched my heart! I have never experienced anything like it! Every time someone asks me “how was Peru” a smile immediately comes to my face as I begin to tell them about the wonderful people I had the honor to meet while in Peru. I feel so very blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of this faith journey and I hope to always hold the lessons I learned in Peru close to my heart! Thank you so much Sister Mary Ann and Sister Marlita for making this trip possible and for introducing us to so many great people!

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