What distinguishes the city of Juliaca, other than its proximity to the famed Lake Titicaca with its floating islands of reeds? Unfortunately, nothing very good. According to guide books and Peruvians alike, Juliaca’s heavy involvement in the black market, a strong criminal element, a general unattractiveness, and an unmistakable feeling of oppression make it a city best bypassed whenever possible. (Click here to take a ride around town: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_3wbSy8W3I.)
Luckily, our Church has chosen not to bypass but to illuminate this dark city with the light and love of Christ. We have both a church in the heart of Juliaca and a mission in its nearby “altiplano,” or high plains. (Fun fact: for their altitude of 12,500 feet or 3,800 meters above sea level–and not for the “bells and smells” of high mass–they’re our “highest” churches.)
Santa María Magdalena
Our church, Santa María Magdalena, was formally established in 2009. But before that, the church community had developed organically through the efforts of Padre Juan Carlos Revilla, rector of Cristo Redentor, the church on the grounds of our seminary in Arequipa (see above map). Juan Carlos knew Juliaca fairly well since his wife had grown up there. Twice a month, he brought seminary students north on the five-hour bus ride to engage in pastoral visits. For their part, the seminarians were eager to put into practice what they had learned in their classrooms and to be known as a church engaging in social work as well as ministering the holy sacraments.
Bit by bit, the community developed into the present church. In a former colonial-style home, it sits on ample property with a serene chapel and spacious work rooms ringing an internal courtyard.
Today, under Padres Luis Vizcarra Quispe (Rector) and Justo Maqque, the church is a beacon of Christ’s healing and life-giving love, offering regular Sunday services, a youth and young-adult ministry, Sunday school, a prayer ministry, pastoral visits, and a ministry for children with disabilities.
Esquen Tariachi Mission
Have you ever been enjoying an after-church social time at the entrance of your church, when you’ve had to pull away your plate to keep some llamas from sharing your food? That was the scene at a recent visit to our mission in the high plains outside Juliaca when a few of these fluffy friends broke away from the herd being led out to pasture.
Our mission of Esquen Tariachi is located about 40 minutes outside Juliaca in the chapel inside one wing of a large working hacienda that houses llamas, cattle, and goats.
The chapel was being used only a few times a year by the Catholic hacienda owners to celebrate special saints’ days, but three years ago an agreement was reached to allow the Anglican church to use the chapel on Sundays in return for keeping it clean and maintained.
What a treasure! The terracota-colored brick floors, warm wooden seating, and facing sets of stained-glass windows, plus thick walls that hold in the night’s cool temperatures, offer a pleasing place for worship.
Good acoustics allow this youth-led music to soar throughout the church.
The chapel brings together an eclectic congregation of more sophisticated families and young adults who have driven from Juliaca to the “country” church along with indigenous Quechua speakers who have walked the miles from their adjacent properties in their distinctive native dress.
And the nearby foothills are put to dramatic use during Holy Week, when the youth reenact Christ’s Passion after dragging a heavy wooden cross to the summit.