Gratitude expressed for diocesan 'bridge' to Peru

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Annual dinner recognizes generations of support for mission

John Franko
Staff Writer

Only in Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik said, could 700 people come out on a Thursday night to show compassion for people 3,600 miles away.

"This is our community," he said. "This is our church, a Church Alive."

Bishop Zubik reflected on the long-standing bridge of support between the Diocese of Pittsburgh and its mission in Chimbote, Peru, during the 46th Annual Peru Mission Dinner Oct. 13 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel.

The gathering also honored the late Father Jack Price, longtime Chimbote supporter Henrietta Gardner, and the late Thomas and Florence Sobek Claybaugh, who were also longtime supporters of the mission.

In reflecting on the efforts of Msgr. Jules Roos, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Mich., and others who have served in Chimbote, the bishop recalled his own visit to the mission two years ago.

"Every day it is in my eyes and in my ears, the healing power of Pittsburgh reaching out to the people of Chimbote," he said.

One of the joys of the Chimbote mission, he noted, is how it has drawn the interest of young people in the diocese.

In the past year, school and religious education students in the Chimbote Ambassadors program have raised some $42,000 for the mission. In all, the program has raised more than $519,000 in the past 10 years.

It is further evidence, Bishop Zubik said, of the generation-to-generation connection that will support the mission well into the future.

"Here in Pittsburgh, there in Chimbote," he added. "Both the Church Alive."

Several dozen student ambassadors were in attendance.

WTAE-TV news anchor Mike Clark was the master of ceremonies for the dinner. His son, Anthony, a student at St. Maurice in Forest Hills and a student ambassador, led the assembly in reciting the Hail Mary in Spanish.

The special guest for the dinner was Bishop Angel Francisco Simon Piorno of Chimbote. His remarks were translated by Dr. Eugene McCarthy, a member of the Chimbote Foundation's board of directors.

Bishop Piorno lauded the diocese for its tradition of support for the people of Chimbote.

"Pittsburgh has always been in the hearts of the people of Chimbote," he said. "They've seen the effects of the support you have shown them."

He spoke of the new orphanage that will soon be dedicated and of the hope the mission brings to the marginalized, adding, "I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Other guests included Msgr. John Kozar, a priest of the diocese who serves as president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine.

This year's attendance was an increase of more than 110 over the 2010 figure.

The Social Works Center (Centro de Obras Sociales) in Chimbote is a regional multiservice health and education facility that includes a maternity hospital, outpatient clinic, clinical laboratory, and education and specialty care programs.

The doctors and staff treat an average of 17,000 patients and deliver some 300 babies each month.

Chimbote is located approximately 250 miles north of Peru's capital city of Lima. Once a honeymoon resort, it is now considered one of the most impoverished cities in the country.

More information on the mission is available at