A new parish. Five new postulants. And 17 sheep.
It’s been a busy time for the Messengers of Peace in Colombia.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said the community’s superior, Msgr. Luis Mesa. “The Lord is the one who is leading this.”
Founded in 2005 with the guidance and support of Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, the Messengers of Peace is a religious community dedicated to praying for peace in Colombia and around the world. Members perform works of peace through ministry to the children, elderly and poor of Colombia. The community, which began in Villa de Leyva, receives financial support through the Annual Catholic Appeal and archdiocesan Mission Office.
With a continued growth in vocations — now at 18 members — the religious community is looking toward its newest endeavor, taking on pastoral leadership at Nuestra Señora del Amparo Parish (Our Lady of Protection) in the town of Arcabuco, near the community’s monastery. The parish serves about 5,000 people, and includes a main church and eight smaller mission chapels.
Msgr. Mesa was installed as pastor at a Mass on July 14, during Archbishop Carlson’s visit with the community. Bishop Luis Felipe Sanchez Aponte of the Diocese of Chiquinquirá appointed the community to the parish. “(We’re) putting it in order and fixing it up and bringing the people to God,” Msgr. Mesa said. “I don’t exactly know what the Lord has in store, but the Lord wants us to do this, so we’re going to do it well.”
The Messengers of Peace also welcomed five new postulants, increasing the community’s rank to 18. Of that number, 13 are professed and three are priests. All are native Colombians. The community also has 25 aspirants hoping to join the community someday. Inquiries have come from other parts of the world, including countries in Central and South America.
“God is sending us vocations,” Msgr. Mesa said. “We don’t do a lot of vocation promotions. A lot of the young guys, what they want is something really solid. They want a life of prayer and work, and they want a monastic commitment.”
As it turns out, God is sending them sheep, too. Seventeen, to be exact. With a $5,000 grant from the Archbishop’s Charity Fund, the Messengers of Peace have started a program with the intention of giving the sheep to people in need to use as a source of income. The first three sheep were distributed at the monastery last week.
Female ewes and male rams could be used for breeding.
“It’s a way to give (recipients) a little wealth and get them on their feet,” Archbishop Carlson said.
The Messengers of Peace also minister at Talita Kum, an orphanage in Tinjaca. The community has a house in Villa de Leyva, Casa Crisgina, where seminarians live and study Spanish and where a food pantry and clinic are operated.