Missionary priests invite young adults to service
By Nissa LaPoint
On a recent visit to Denver, priests from the Missionary Servants of the Poor of the Third World came not to raise money but to ask young adults to give up everything and serve the poor.
“We’re not here to raise funds,” said Father Vincent Minnelli, M.S.P.
At the invitation of Denver Auxiliary Bishop James Conley, he flew from Peru with Father Salvatore Piredda, M.S.P., to speak to a group of adults about their order’s new mission and the peoples’ need for Christ. He also spoke to young adults during a recent Theology on Tap lecture in Denver.
The missionary ecclesial movement was founded in 1986 by Father Giovanni Salerno, an Italian priest who followed the Augustinian rule. He started the community after a trip to Peru where he discovered people in desperate need of spiritual and material aid.
Since it’s founding, the order has been approved in Cuzco, Peru, as a “public association of the faithful” and includes four different communities. There are 12 priests, 85 missionary sisters, 11 missionary families, four contemplative monks, and 27 seminarians in the order’s minor and major seminaries. The order uses Thomas a Kempis’ book “The Imitation of Christ” as their rule.
While helping the poorest of the poor with their material needs is crucial, the movement is primarily devoted to the human and spiritual education of the poor and abandoned children in Peru and Hungary.
“There’s no comparison between giving food and giving Christ,” Father Minnelli said.
The sisters and priests run two orphanages in the city and have cafeterias in the poorest villages where they feed some 950 children. The priests bring the sacraments to the city and the most remote villages. The movement also runs schools, soup kitchens, medical dispensaries and workshops. Serving the children’s needs is important, but, in a place where priests and the sacraments are rare, the missionaries work to spread the Gospel.
Father Minnelli shared that once he was in the villages surrounding Cuzco when a woman approached asking him to hear her confession and give her the anointing of the sick. She was preparing to die, he said, and didn’t know when she would see a priest again.
“I could have given her 300 pounds of milk or medicine, but I could have never been able to save her soul unless I was a priest,” he said.
In the villages, the poverty and lack of education is severe. Many live in one-room mud huts where there’s no running water or restrooms. Immoral behavior plagues the people, Father Minnelli said.
The movement has witnessed an improvement in Peruvian life both materially and morally when the people begin to follow Christ, he said.
“We see things change when people start to believe in God and they understand they have to behave in a moral way,” he said. “Faith brings their culture into a higher level.”
The movement is open to helping young adults discern a vocation. For more information, see accompanying box.
Missonary Servants of the Poor of the Third world
Mail to: Opus Christi Salvatoris Mundi,