Sharing Faith with the Afflicted
February 13, 2013
by Fr. David Farrell, C.S.C. '64
"Jesus toured all of Galilee. He taught in the synagogues, proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom and cured the people of every illness." (Matthew 4:23). From Gospel passages such as this one, we learn that healing people's illnesses - spiritual, physical and mental - was a part of Jesus' mission of bringing faith and the Kingdom of God to people.
Among the institutions and programs of Holy Cross for sharing faith among the poor in Perú is Yancana Huasy, which in the language of the Incas means "House of Work." Yancana Huasy works to address the multiple physical, cognitive and mental limitations and disabilities which exist in disproportionate numbers in our parish on the outskirts of Lima.
The most dramatic disabilities are cerebral palsy and other permanent brain and neurological illnesses, mental retardation and Down syndrome.
Inseparable from these health conditions are the complex human, family and social situations of the patients and the demands that the illnesses and disabilities place on the whole community.
Particularly in the case of severe disabilities that Yancana Huasy treats daily, there are also what I have come to see as "life sentences" for the patient with the disability, the parents and the loved ones who live with and must care for the disabled. The necessary organizing and structuring of their own lives around the life of their disabled family member is indeed a "life sentence."
The labor of Yancana Huasy does achieve some partial reprieves from the life sentences for those with truly severe disabilities. One of the most startling of our successes recently is that of a young man with cerebral palsy who studied in Yancana Huasy since childhood and recently gained admission as a regular university student, majoring in business administration at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. This young man already has his own small retail business. In the course of his family's struggle for dignity, self-sufficiency and the rights afforded to all citizens, his mother has become an effective public advocate for those with special needs, in addition to being a small business entrepreneur herself.
Before Yancaca Huasy had the professional capabilities that it possesses today in the medical and rehabilitation fields, it was a community of men and women who were brought together by Holy Cross and guided by an ideal and a purpose.
The ideal was that every daughter and son of God possesses an innate dignity and worth as a member of the Kingdom of God, which must be recognized and respected by the family, other persons, the local community and broader society.
The purpose of the community of Yancana Huasy, derived from the ideal, is to identify, confront, educated/prevent and to change the perceptions and the treatment of all persons with disabilities.
The daily services, human caring and community concern help to lighten the burden and improve conditions for Yancana Huasy patients and their loved ones. The reality of not being left alone to cope with and overcome disabilities creates the conditions in which faith can grow - faith of knowing that there are others in the community who are there for them.
Through this education in the faith, Yancana Huasy has evolved from creating a new social perception to providing the best professional support available for countless children and adults with disabilities. This is good news - even a new life - for patients and their families inserted into the surrounding community. In this experience, we daily see crosses that are transformed into signs of hope.
Fr. David Farrell is President of Yancana Huasy, the Director of the Instituto Patoral de la Familia, Steward of the District of Perú and Director of Policlinico Parroquial Hermano Andrés. All are in Canto Grande, Lima, Perú.
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