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Sr. Emer  O'Shaughnessy

Peru Southern

When I was in secondary school I had it all planned out.  I was going to be a teacher, get married have 5 or 6 kids and live in a house at the foot of a mountain near a lake, (because I love hill walking and nature.)  This was no pipe dream; it was really my vision for the future.  So here I am today, a Sister of Mercy and a nurse!!!!  At least I got the mountain bit right as I am currently living 10,000ft up in the Andes Mountains in Peru!!!!  What happened?  Well I suppose, life did – God did.

I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and decide that I was going to be a Sister or to go nursing, or to work and live in Peru.  One thing led to another.  I like the image of exploring a house.  You decide to go into one room and having seen what’s there, you look for doors to other rooms, at times there can be a few choices.  Why do we choose one door and not the other?  I believe that circumstances and the guiding of God have a lot to do with it. 

So, what do I do in Peru?  Well I suppose you could divide the work into two main areas.  Firstly there is the pastoral side of things.  In our area there is only one priest.  In concrete terms it means that he might get to each village about twice a year.  So I basically work with the catechist in each village so that they might be able to celebrate a weekly liturgy.  I also prepare children and adults for baptism, first communion, confirmation and marriage.  I believe that spirituality is an integral part of our lives and so I am aware of what a gift it is to be able to share this part of the people’s lives here in Mache.  Their faith is strong and deep and they often challenge me and leave me blessed by their witness. 

Emer O'Shaughnessy

The other side of our work involves different projects.  Searching for ways by which the income of the families, their standard of living, can be improved.  These projects include a sheep project (which aims at improving the bloodline of the existing herds) a cheese-making project and an Internet café, helping out with medical supplies etc.  It is quite demanding but interesting and I love it because the people get the chance to fight for a better life. This really is the social side of things I suppose.  For me it is an important balance with the spiritual side.  There is no use talking about God if the people are cold, without shelter or food.  The people here really have a very low standard of living and working together we are beginning to explore more and more possibilities of improving it.  Next year we hope to begin a malnutrition project and an adult literacy scheme.  Many women were denied education for a long time because it was believed that the men were worth educating and the women not.  So as a Sister of Mercy I feel very strongly in working for the rights and opportunity of these women to be educated.

We are also involved in youth groups and have a local soccer team for the parish – which means I get to put on my supporter’s jersey and shout and roar when they play their matches!

With all this, there is the community life.  There are three of us sisters here in Mache. It is good to have our everyday life together of supporting, challenging and urging one another on.  The centre of our life together is our time to pray and share who we are, whom God is for us, where our work and the people are calling us to go next.

I am extremely happy in this life; I feel that this is where I should be for now.  I won’t even attempt to try to guess where I will be living or working in another 10 to 15 years – I have learnt something since my secondary school days!

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