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Immaculata Community Members Teach English to Students in Peru

Group of students standing in front of school

On Thanksgiving Day 1922, three Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters set sail for Lima, Peru at the urging of Emilio Lissón, the Archbishop of Lima. They were the first American religious Sisters to come to Peru. Their mission: establish a private school with the assistance from the IHM congregation in the U.S.

The Sisters’ dedication, hard work and tenacity paid off when they founded Villa Maria Academy, which opened in March of 1923 in Miraflores, south of downtown Lima, Peru. Over the years, they ventured into various communities in South America and built a network of IHM schools located in areas for the working poor, the middle class and the wealthy.

Sister Annette Pelletier, IHM, Ph.D., theology professor at Immaculata who spent 12 years in IHM schools in South America, noted that the success of these schools arose principally from the high demand for a qualified bilingual workforce.

On the road to San Pablo School, Manchay. Pictured L to R: Sister Annette Pelletier, Marie Shurer, Pete McHugh, Lauren Kolenda, Daisy Frias, John Carter, Billy Lorenzo, Daisy Quiroz-Renteria, Lydia Currie, and Sister Rose Mulligan

Today, learning English is mandated by the Peruvian Ministry of Education. Therefore, every school, both public and private, must include English instruction in the curriculum of elementary and secondary schools. Sister Annette, who is proficient in Spanish and English, stated “The aim of this mandate is to enable students to have the basic communication skills to function in any workplace that requires knowledge of English.”

Over the years, Immaculata’s students have joined the IHM Sisters in Peru to teach school children English, and education majors have conducted student-teaching there. According to Sister Annette, Immaculata University began the service trips to Peru to teach English as “theology-in-practice at the service of the Church and expression of the historic link between Immaculata and our missions in Peru.”

This summer, a group of students traveled to Peru with Sister Annette and Sister Rose Mulligan, IHM, professor of chemistry at Immaculata who has gone on the service trips multiple times. They worked with the high school students at Villa Maria Academy and with fourth and fifth graders at San Pablo School in Manchay, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Lima.

Recent Immaculata music therapy graduate, Daisy Frias ’23, was among the students who participated in the summer service trip. She admits that when she signed up, she wasn’t sure what to expect. “I knew the trip was about service, but it ended up being much more,” she said.

Frias was one of the bilingual students who used her Spanish-speaking skills to work with the younger children. She spent extra time working with the children who were having difficulty understanding the lessons on the first try.

“My highlight of the trip was the people,” Frias pointed out. “The Peruvian people embraced us with such kindness that was like none other. Wherever we went, I felt welcomed and accepted, which really allowed me to embrace the trip.”

Because she witnessed people hauling drinking water long distances, managing with limited electricity and walking instead of driving, Frias was motivated to continue serving others in her own community and is now volunteering at Patrician Society, a local food pantry in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Group in front of fountain.

IU group visits the Plaza Mayor, in the heart of colonial Lima.

Breanna Kratz ’23, another Immaculata music therapy graduate, also participated in the service trip. Although her Spanish was limited, she helped elementary students practice English pronunciation and learn common conversational phrases. She also worked with high school students at Villa Maria to enhance their English skills. In the process, she learned what their college aspirations are and described to them what college life is like in the U.S.

For Kratz, just soaking up the environment and embracing “all the little things of Peruvian life” were the most inspirational experiences of the trip.

Each evening, the Immaculata students, along with Sister Annette and Sister Rose, gathered for a prayerful reflection on the events of the day and shared how the experiences with people of other cultures invited them to grow. Sister Rose understands that working with people in another country can be life changing. “Our minds, hearts, and views get stretched when we are immersed into a different culture,” she added.

 

 

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