The Church in the jungle

Fr. Montalvo is a recent arrival to the Santa Rosa Mission in Guyana. Originally from Peru, he tells us he is thrilled to be working in Guyana, and he stresses the continuing importance of the Cross Catholic-funded school feeding program he helps manage.

“Fifteen years ago I said I wanted to work in Guyana. Now that I’m old, they finally sent me! I am happy here with the children – I love the work,” Fr. Montalvo says. “Peru’s jungle is similar to Guyana in climate, mosquitoes, and the life – it’s very, very poor. Here, I travel to small communities and carry a backpack with items for Mass. People will stop and ask, ‘what do you have,’ thinking I have food. They are very needy people. Just like Peru… As a farmer’s son, it doesn’t take a lot for me to get used to the poverty and the need.”

There’s certainly a lot of poverty in the jungles of Guyana. The river is the main highway, and it’s normal to see children paddling dug-out canoes to school. I can’t help wondering what they must think of the strange American visitors who are fascinated by something as mundane as a boat ride – a mode of transportation that has become crucial to Fr. Montalvo as he connects with the community.

Fr. Montalvo visits Santa Rosa school children during their Cross Catholic-funded lunch.

Fr. Montalvo visits Santa Rosa school children during their Cross Catholic-funded lunch.

“Our goal is, in the short term, to visit every family (of the children in the feeding program)… Even with the language barrier, people know you care when you visit.”

Fr. Montalvo’s work is about more than just improving children’s nutrition. “The spiritual needs here are many – especially the absence of sacraments; for example, marriage. Because of the lack of priests, there is a need for the word of God.”

Please pray for Fr. Montalvo, Fr. Humberto, and the whole Santa Rosa Mission as they bring physical and spiritual nourishment to Guyana’s neediest families.

-Tony M.