Our Peru Mission: Peruvian AND Springfield Sisters

About the photo above: Hermana (Sister) Doris Terrell Jimenez, OP at prayer during her perpetual profession of vows in 2015. 

How It All Started

For sixty years the lives of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield have been bound to the lives of the people of Peru. Construction of the new convent and community center in Jarpa is one more milestone in the journey that brings us together. But how did it all start? Here we share that spirit-led journey through excerpts from Flavors of Hope, a history of our mission in Peru, by Sister Judith Hilbing.

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This excerpt from Sister Judith Hilbing's Flavors of Hope is annotated and edited for clarity, context, and brevity.

1980s and 1990s: Peruvian Sisters-Dominican Sisters of Springfield

By the 1980s there were nine North American Springfield Dominican Sisters serving in several locations in Peru. Over the decades, as young women came to the sisters seeking religious life, the women were referred to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who had a house of formation in Lima already. But some of the Peruvian women didn’t want to be Sisters of St. Joseph. They desired the Dominican life they saw our sisters living, and began to ask to join us.

“And so it was that the Springfield Dominicans, well established in Peru, began to dream of walking with young Peruvian women who were struggling to make sense, of their contemporary experience,” Sister Judi wrote. “The Sisters began to hope that they and their way of life could take root in a permanent fashion in the mission land of Peru by creating a religious community that would give expression to their Dominican charisms and goals. They believed that if in the future, North American women could no longer serve in Peru, there would be the great gift of a vibrant, prayerful community of Peruvian Sisters to walk with the people. The sisters envisioned a community of women who would service the marginated people, both in the mountains and in the ever-growing metropolis of Lima. As conversations and creative ideas grew, the sisters began to share their hopes with the sisters in the States. In preparation for the 1983 Chapter Sister Judith Hilbing wrote to the community in the United States:

“Naturally all this will be a giant step in faith—a conviction that God will send us young women and will not abandon us, no matter what… We foresee that the Peruvian women who want to join our community in Peru will be part of us in every way, but fully informed from the beginning that they will be formed to be a strictly Peruvian Dominican community…. We are excited about the personal vitality and new growth the Peruvian members will add. We see before us a whole panorama of possibilities and ask that you lift up daily these hopes and concerns in prayers.

“Then on March 6, 1986, a new era began in the history of the Springfield Dominican Community. On that day four young Peruvian women joined the Community in Peru.”

The four who entered that day in 1986 made their first profession of vows on March 18, 1990. Of the four, two eventually discerned they were not called to religious life. Sister Beatrice Vila, an LPN, is now the senior member of the Peruvian community. Her novitiate classmate and friend, Sister Margarita Valentin, an artist, jokester, and delighter in God’s beauty, brought much joy to the community in North and South America until her untimely death in 2017.

Here is a portion of a letter that the four women wrote to their counterparts in the States on that blessed March day:

We. the new Junior Peruvian Sisters feel tremendously happy to now belong formally to the Springfield Dominican Community! Today. on this day of our profession, you were present to us even though we do not know all of you. The heart doesn’t need that in order to love. We are grateful to God for having called us to belong to this Dominican family.

Sister Judith Hilbing

Sister Judi served for 25 years in Peru. She was principal of San Francisco Borja School in the Lima suburb of San Borja 1978-1984, then moved to the mission center of La Oroya, in Peru’s agricultural region, before returning to San Borja to oversee the religious education program for another year. In 1986 she became the founding principal of San Juan Pablo II, part of the Jesuit network of Fe y Alegria schools—Faith and Hope. The school was built in a squatters' colony on the outskirts of Lima, called an "invasion" or "pueblos jovenes"—a young city.  Four years later she was elected to the council for the congregation and returned to the United States.

Click here to make a donation to our sisters in Peru in honor of Sister Judi.

Ready to learn more?

Visit Our Mission Peru landing page to learn more about the construction projects and how you can help. 

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