Maria Montemayor volunteered at a children’s rehab centre run by the Siervas sisters in Peru. Photo courtesy of Maria Montemayor.

Encountering Santa Rosa

By  Maria Montemayor, Youth Speak News
  • January 15, 2016

I never imagined that meeting two nuns at a Chinese Catholic camp last September would lead me two months later to the home of my parish’s patron saint, Rose of Lima.

The two nuns, Sr. Jessica and Sr. Mónica, serve in a religious community called las Siervas del Plan de Dios (the Servants of the Plan of God). With missions in South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, the order consecrates itself to evangelize youth, culture and family, with special attention to the fragile, sick and poor. Sr. Jessica and Sr. Mónica are part of the Siervas in Peru.

After meeting the sisters, I started corresponding with Sr. Jessica, who mentioned that the Siervas band was holding a concert in November. She extended an invitation to me and said I could also participate in various community volunteer projects.

A number of factors motivated me to say yes to Peru. First, the sisters offered a secure place to stay. Second, the trip was service-oriented in a new environment. Third, it was a way for me to practice some Spanish I learned in university. But most important, I hoped to find a renewed sense of purpose.

Most of my time in Peru was spent volunteering at a school and physical rehabilitation centre for children and youth with physical disabilities. The centre is Catholic and served by Siervas sisters, teachers and volunteers. I regularly assisted a Grade 2 class with math and some basic word problems. During meal times, I would help feed some of the students.

During the trip, I also helped distribute food to the homeless, visited child burn victims at the hospital and visited the poor who live in the hills of San Cristobal. I also enjoyed attending the Siervas concert, a spectacular event.

Sr. Mónica promised I would visit Santa Rosa’s tomb after the concert. After much anticipation, on my 16th day in Peru, accompanied by Sr. Gisela, I was finally able to visit the home and the tomb of Santa Rosa de Lima at the centre of Lima. The home had been converted into a church and sanctuary.

I felt privileged to be there. I felt that Jesus and Santa Rosa had personally invited me to Lima to encounter them and to serve the community.

The garden beside the Santa Rosa home has a wishing well, famously known as the well where Santa Rosa threw the key to her chastity belt. On Santa Rosa’s feast day, many children write letters to the saint, which they throw into the well. The miracle is that the well never fills up, in spite all of the letters.

My letter to Santa Rosa thanked her for inviting me to Peru and asked her to watch over all of those whom I care for in Canada. In particular, I asked for her to intercede for my friends, family members and the youth who attend the St. Rose of Lima EDGE youth ministry, where I volunteer.

Lastly, I was able to visit the tomb of Santa Rosa, located in the monastery of Santo Domingo. The monastery hosts the remains of various saints and is a peaceful place to walk. But seeing Santa Rosa’s tomb was definitely the highlight of being there. Seeing the tomb, framed by flowers, was a reminder of how real Santa Rosa is in my life.

At the end of my trip, I experienced a period of missing Peru and the students I worked with. But I returned to Canada with new insight about trusting in God’s direction and trusting in my own ability to be of service, no matter where I go.

(Montemayor, 23, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in political science from University of Toronto.)

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