Peruvian children grow in faith and education
Father Joe Walijewski was known for his strong sense of compassion towards children who struggled with poverty and risk. Many stories depict his dedication to helping them. In the Voyage Comic, “Champion of the Poor: Father Joseph Walijewski,” two heartbreaking pages describe how God inspired him to help the needy. One day, outside his residence in Villa El Salvador, Peru, he encountered hungry and homeless children. This experience led him to realize, “From that day forward, I knew God was calling on me to start an orphanage!” This revelation guided the rest of his life.
That is indeed what this saintly priest set out to accomplish. The initial gift came from none other than Pope St. John Paul II. Ongoing support came from his many friends within the Diocese of La Crosse. Today, in Lurín, Peru, Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II is a thriving place of faith, growth and hope for so many. Part of the promise of new life comes from the fact that Father Joe provided the children not only with food and shelter. From the very beginning, he also ensured that they were formed in the Faith and educated in the classroom.
Any child welcomed into Casa Hogar was guaranteed financial support to allow them to participate in the local schools to the fullest extent of their growth and maturity. The same occurs today under Father Joe’s inspiration. School uniforms and books enable a certain level of pride in joining the other students. They also obscure the struggles of their family life and foster a sense of belonging.
After school, the house parents assume roles as tutors, helping each of the eight children in their charge to grasp the material and complete assignments. They are serious about their role in assisting them to learn as much as possible and grow in knowledge and understanding. The activities of the house also help them excel in sports and arts. That activity elevates the worship they give to God during Holy Hours and Mass throughout the week.
Visitors to Casa Hogar are greeted by smiling and joyful students who express their warm welcome through loving hugs, joyful songs and even skipping across the campus. These are the hallmarks of the benefits offered by the church and the school. Despite carrying their struggles, sometimes deep within and in painful ways, the students at Casa Hogar are equipped with educational and formational tools that help them cope and give them hope. Thank goodness Father Joe offered his yes to God’s call.
Today, in Lurín, Peru, Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II is a thriving place of faith, growth and hope for so many.
Father Woodrow Pace
Director of the Office for Missions and Vicar for Clergy
Published in the January/February 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine