During July, 16 members of the Pittsburgh Diocese traveled to our mission in Chimbote, and two of them were repeat visitors. This was the third trip for Deacon Frank Szemanski of Prince of Peace Parish, and the second trip for Linda Piso of St. Mary of Mercy Parish in Pittsburgh. Both Frank and Linda say their experience in the desert city of Chimbote is something they won’t ever forget.
The People Touched Their Hearts
When asked why he’s gone on three mission trips to Chimbote, Frank says,
“It was a life-changing experience. I fell in love with the people down there, especially the orphans. Just the experience of going out into the barrios and being among the poorest of the poor … it truly was seeing God in their midst, seeing Jesus wherever you looked. It wasn’t so much what we did for them, but what they did for us. It really changed my heart on how I view people and maybe gave me a little more patience, a little more compassion toward others, because you don’t know where they are on their walk in life, whether they’re here in the United States or in Chimbote. But it was enough for me to go back, and I’d probably go again.”
One boy, in particular, a six-year-old named Patrick, stole Frank’s heart during his first mission trip several years ago. Patrick has remained in the orphanage for about four years because his father will not allow his adoption. During his three trips to Chimbote, Frank has forged a special bond with Patrick. Linda Piso recalls Patrick’s reaction to seeing the missionaries this year. “When Frank walked into the room after being gone for a whole year, Patrick saw him, and he called him ‘papa’ and ran into his arms! If Frank would stay, that boy would never leave his side,” Linda says.
A Transformation Powered by Love
This was Linda’s second trip to Chimbote, and this year she wanted her itinerary to span three weeks so she could be part of both team 5A and 5B — she loves it that much! She travelled down to Peru with team 5A for their one-week mission experience. She spent the second week touring Machu Pichu, and then returned to Chimbote to be the team leader for team 5B.
During the span of those three weeks, Linda was able to witness the transformation of another orphan living at the mission, one-year-old Jonathan. “This little boy was brought into the orphanage because he had been abused by his family. When people would approach him during the first group (5A), he didn’t want anyone around him. You could see the fear in his eyes.” She said it was obvious that he was afraid because he kept his eyes cast down and quickly pulled away from people. “He didn’t want anybody around.”
“When I came back for the second mission group, he was actually reaching out to them! He realized the love that was there for him and that he was in no harm. So, in just two to three weeks, he felt the love of the people there, not only the missionaries, but the staff. They really love those kids,” she noted. “That little boy is happy now. The bruises were healed and you could see that his whole person was being healed. He started to smile. It was nice.”
Mission Trips Changing Her Life
After going on the 2017 and 2018 mission trips to Chimbote, Linda believes it has changed the course of her own life. “Now I know I want to retire there,” she says. “I figured this is what I need to be doing, because I love it!” Retirement is only a few years away for her, and while all the details are not in place yet, Linda has started taking Spanish lessons to help her prepare. She admires the people of Chimbote, both the residents of the city and the locals who are employed at the Center for Social Works. While she is quick to point out the dedication of all the employees, both medical and support staff, Linda can see that there is always much to be done in order to continue serving so many patients. For instance, she and other team members in 5A and 5B helped to clean and paint a room that was needed for physical therapy. Linda was pleased that the volunteers could complete this task so that the staff could tend to other jobs.
Whether making home visits to people in the barrios, bringing babies safely into the world at the maternity hospital, caring for orphans, or providing clinical and lab services, the mission continues to serve the poorest of the poor every day. The Diocese of Pittsburgh has committed to support this vital mission that was established more than 50 years ago in the impoverished city of Chimbote, and we need your help.
How to Support the Mission and Upcoming Mission Trips
If you are able to make a gift to support the Center for Social Works, we would be so grateful for a gift of any amount. You can make a donation online here. Please know that 100% of every gift goes to the mission. The Diocese of Pittsburgh does not retain any of the funds. If you want to learn more about our mission trips, information is available on this website on the Get Involved page. For specific dates or other details, you can call the diocese at 412-456-3085 or e-mail us.
Deacon Frank Szemanski with his buddy Patrick, one of the orphans cared for at the Center for Social Works.
Team 5A on an outing with the translators. Back row left to right – John Beres, Deacon Frank Szemanski, Andy Thompson, Kimberly Thompson, Luke Aloi, Dr. Mara Aloi, Sharon Sparacino, Eric Draper. Center with Llamas left to right – Linda Piso, Rachel McDowell. Front Kneeing – Translators Carlo and Brigitte
2018 Mission Team 5B: From bottom to top: Sister Lillian Bockheim, Sister Margaret Mary Birchmeier, Joesph Auth, Mary Morgan, Palma Reardon, Marina Topa, Linda Piso, Mike Fitzgerald, Deacon Tim Noca
Dr. Marla Aloi providing care during one of the home visits.
A local woman and her children come to the medical clinic for check-ups.
Joseph Auth and Linda Piso working on the Physical Therapy room.
Homes made of woven reed mats in the barrio.