.- Forty Australian World Youth Day pilgrims made a special stop in Chile on Saturday to help rebuild a 200-year-old church that was totally destroyed in a massive earthquake three years ago.
“We have been bringing youth to help rebuild this parish ever since the 2010 earthquake,” said Matías Quer, Missions Coordinator for the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in Chile. “Although we have made a lot of progress, there is still so much to do.”
On Saturday the Australian pilgrims, accompanied by Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Terrence Brady, made a special stop in the province of Maipo near Santiago to lend a hand in the reconstruction of a two-hundred year old church utterly destroyed in 2010.
In February 2010, Chile suffered one of the worst earthquakes in modern history. The magnitude 8.8 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 500 people and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings.
The quake heavily damaged some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the region, including Maipo’s Immaculate Conception Church, which dates back to 1775.
Father Domingo Muñoz, the parish’s pastor, told the pilgrims that during the earthquake, the walls of his parish fell down, destroying all but one of the dozens of unique statues of saints that adorned the church.
As he walked around the reconstruction project, he explained that his church is the center of most of the social services for the very poor people who live in the area.
After an intense morning of repairing church walls and painting the exterior of the church, the pilgrims were greeted by local townspeople who had been busy all morning preparing a traditional Chilean lunch.
“We walked a few blocks away from the church and were received in a house decorated with Chilean flags, balloons, a band and wonderful hospitality,” Quer said.
Following lunch, local San Bernardo Bishop Juan Ignacio González met with Bishop Brady and Father Peter Hosking, S.J., the Rector of St. Aloysius’ College in Sydney. The Australians discussed their mission experience and presented Bishop González with a donation for the community and the reconstruction effort of the parish.
The day concluded with a Mass concelebrated by both bishops, Father Hosking and Father Muñoz. They offered the Mass for the World Youth Day pilgrims from Australia and for the pilgrims from Maipo.