Life is an adventure for Hermana Mila Diaz Solano. You can see it in her smile, hear it in her voice, and read it in her every move. That sense of adventure served her well when she and Sister Kathlyn Mulcahy opened a mission in the remote Peruvian Andes in January 2000.
After almost two years serving in Jarpa and the surrounding villages, Hermana Mila acknowledges that the ministry of accompaniment takes time. “I am trying to know the people and their customs and faith through catechesis, conversations with the people, and working with the young people in the parish library,” she says. “It is a time to learn and adapt, as it is a new mission for me.”
“Learn to adapt” can also apply to the rugged living conditions in Jarpa. During their first days, Sisters Mila and Kathlyn contended with rain sloshing through gaping holes in the tin roof, visits from mice, and no running water. They gerry-rigged closets out of plywood and cardboard, and rotated two light bulbs from room to room as needed. AND, within ten minutes of their arrival, residents requested a liturgical service.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges of ministry in rural Peru, Hermana Mila recommitted herself to life as a Springfield Dominican when she renewed her vows last March. By the time she joined the congregation in 1995 she had already developed a desire for mission. The seeds of her desire were planted in La Oroya where she was active in her parish youth group and religious education program. “I accompanied the priests and sisters for Mass and celebrations in the surrounding villages,” Hermana Mila explains. “It was there that my missionary impulse was born.”
After joining the Dominicans in 1995 Hermana Mila worked in the family catechesis program in Canto Grande and at Hogar de Cristo (House of Christ), a shelter for the homeless. “At times we went out to the streets,” she explained, “offering food, and [helping] internally with cleaning and visiting persons in the shelter.”
Coping with the elements and with the sociopolitical realities of rural Peru, building relationships—and closets, sharing the gospel and sharing life: it is all part of the preacher’s work for Hermana Mila.
First published in JUST Words, Vol. 1. No. 1, 2001