Early morning on January 5, nineteen Pacelli Catholic High School (PCHS) students, parents & administrators packed about 35 suitcases, loaded onto a bus, and began their J-Term journey of servant leadership. Their destination? Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, the diocesan orphanage in Lurin, Peru.
But the contents of the three dozen suitcases were filled with far more than just the luggage of our missionaries. Students & parents from the entire Pacelli Catholic Schools community pulled together in the months leading up to the trip to collect supplies, necessities, and gifts for the nearly 70 orphans and host families in Peru.
Maxing out around 50 pounds each, the suitcases were packed to the rim with basic home goods, peanut butter, medical supplies, clothing, games, care packages, and more – a total donation of nearly 1,700 pounds collectively. Among the highlights of the donated items were the thousands of things collected by our students of all grade levels, K-12.
- 2,400 pairs of socks & underwear collected by the Pacelli Catholic Elementary Schools
- 220 jars of peanut butter collected by Pacelli Catholic High School
- 80 Christmas care packages & letters collected and assembled by Pacelli Catholic Middle School
Our PCHS students were fortunate enough to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they received something as simple as socks, let alone the pure joy they experienced in the hours spent opening their Christmas care packages – the first time they’ve received such a gift personalized to them from each of our middle school students.
Students also fully immersed themselves in the local culture and lifestyle by participating in daily prayer and mass, including a street mass, spent much time playing and interacting with the children of the orphanage, helping with building construction, visiting one of the largest orphanages in South America serving 800+ children, and meeting so many people with incredible stories of faith, love, and perseverance. They even got to visit the Villa El Salvador parish in the outskirts of Lima where Fr. Joseph Walijewski of the Diocese of La Crosse was pastor for many years before founding Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II in 1986.
“We saw first hand what life is like for families in a third world country. The poverty, the fear, the desolation. But we also saw miracles of faith, hope, and LOVE,” said Larry Theiss, principal of PCHS. “We met Miguel who founded an orphanage which provides food, shelter, and education to +800 street children; beat cancer; and recently survived being shocked with 220 volts of electricity. We met the last three sisters from the Third Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph who are still living in Peru. They have spent the past 50 years living in Lima and serving the women and families living on the streets there. We also worked closely with Msgr. Hirsch and his staff who do incredible work with the children at the Diocesan Mission-Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II. We went there thinking we would be the hands and feet of Christ to the people of Peru. Rather, we encounter Christ through their immense faith, hope, and LOVE. I am blessed.”
Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II, or Casa, cares for children from around age 4 through 17, as long as they’re in need, and even help with college scholarships and vocational training for the kids as they reach adulthood.
View more photos & hear from the students directly on the Pacelli Peru J-Term Facebook page.