The view and the sheer scale are overwhelming: Lake Titicaca, high up in the Altiplano, the high plateau of the Andes, is 120 miles long and 40 miles wide. It lies at an altitude of 12,500 feet and is divided by the frontier between Peru to the West and Bolivia to the East. It has a maximum depth of 932 feet.
On the shore of this vast lake lies the Catholic Prelature of Juli. Almost 90 percent of the 450,000 people within its territory are Catholics, yet currently there are just 12 priests available to minister to them. That is scarcely an adequate number in this beautiful yet rugged, poor and underdeveloped region.
So it is that Father Clemente Ortega Obregón of the Parish of San Pedro de Juli has to minister to no fewer than 110 small villages and settlements, some at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. Altogether, his parish has 11 small churches and chapels, and where there is no church available he has to celebrate Sunday Mass in the local school. And where not even this is possible, then Holy Mass has to be celebrated in the open air.
Because of the extreme weather conditions in the region, nine of the 11 chapels are in need of renovation. At the same time Father Clemente wants to build more small chapels. In fact, he has already managed to complete two of these; now he hopes to be able to add two more each year and at the same time to renovate one of the existing chapels. The local people, most of whom are Aymara Indians, have promised to support him. “It is very important to them to have a church of their own,” Father Clemente emphasizes.
The great bulk of the work will be done by the local Catholics themselves, and they will even supply as much of the building materials as possible. But of course their financial means are very slight, and so the parish is dependent on outside support. Father Clemente has turned to Aid for the Church in Need for help, and we have promised him a contribution of $8,200 for this year (Project Code: 234-01-19).
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