by Msgr. J. Donald Gorski
More than two years ago my sister, Sister Caritas, wrote an article for The Catholic Miscellany with pictures showing a couple of the young people who bring us bread each day. We buy about a thousand rolls daily.
One of the boys is Carlos. He came here from a remote village more than 200 miles away. He arrived at age 16 looking for work with his cousin of the same age who was selling bread in our village. Carlos’ mother died, leaving him and his four younger brothers and sisters with his father who drank and was abusive. He then abandoned them. They lived with an aunt until she married and then alone with the father who reappeared now and then.
Carlos remained concerned about helping his siblings. Last year he made the long trip home to return with his oldest sister whom he put in school. She is 15 years old but looks more like a 10-year-old due to malnourishment. A few months ago Carlos returned again through the rains and floods. This time he brought the rest of the family. He walked for many hours and crossed rivers with the two youngest sitting on his shoulders. He came back to put them all in school, which begins here after Holy Week. I met them all after Sunday Mass recently and told him, “Tocto, you’re the ‘papa’ of all these children!” (His last name is Tocto, and it’s used like a nickname.)
I was amused when I heard someone talking about padres de familias (the fathers of the families) who are entering Family Catechetics. The person said that among the parents in one group was Tocto who is all of 20 years old and “father” of four children; he could pass for a 15-year-old. In Family Catechetics he’ll be taught how to prepare his own “children” for their first Communion.
In addition to selling bread, Carlos now helps us daily with all the people who come to the rectory. We, in turn, help him with his family. For instance, last week the youngest child had the beginnings of pneumonia. A quick visit to a doctor and medicine from our pharmacy solved the problem.
Carlos has actually built a little one-room house after the parish helped him clear the land. It has no floor, no electricity, no running water, no bathroom, and only one window (without glass or screen). Some might call it a shack, but to them it’s home, and they are grateful to have it.
A family in the parish has been very good to them. Carlos ate with them each day when he was alone, but now his sister prepares the meals. Tocto has gone back to school at night for he wants to finish high school. He says he wants an education, so he can enter the seminary and become a priest.
Love is a lot of things and takes a lot of forms. If what Carlos is doing for his family isn’t love then I don’t know what love is.
It’s one of the strange paradoxes of life — in the Gospels those deprived of almost everything in some ways have an advantage over the rest of us. Carlos has been deprived of material advantages, his father’s love, the physical presence of his mother, and yet has responded to all that with more love, maturity and dedication than most young people who have all these advantages. He could so easily have become a bitter, alcoholic delinquent. Yet his dedication puts most of us to shame. Maybe this is part of what Jesus means when he says, “Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted, excluded.”
For all of you who have by your prayers and help, nurtured and fostered that divine image in Tocto and so many others here, thank you. Our prayer is that the same Christ is becoming more and more visible in you as well.
P.S. Some people have asked about the young fire victim whose life was saved. I wrote about her in my last article. She’s doing great and came by recently with her mother to say thanks to me and all who provided help. She’s spending this year with relatives in the nearby town of Tumbes as conditions in the mountains wouldn’t be good for her recovery. I gave her a copy of the article and translated the part about her. She’s a very happy young girl who is grateful for the gift of life as she almost lost hers.
Msgr. Don Gorski is a priest of the Diocese of Charleston. He lives and works in Zorritos, Peru, where he ministers to the people through the St. James Society.
Want to help
To contribute materially to this mission, checks may be made out to the St. James Society and sent to Msgr. Robert Kelly – Missions, P.O. Box 1257, Folly Beach, SC 29439. The Society of St. James will forward the checks through their banking account in Peru, avoiding the Peruvian Post Office. Only one thank-you acknowledgment will be sent to contributors, and it will come directly from Peru.