Santa Rosa de Mazan

In 2001, Denise and John Sheahan and a few parishioners investigated the possibility of establishing a "Sister Parish" relationship with a parish in Peru, South America. John had ventured to  Peru 40 years prior and through his studies as a professor of Economics at Williams became much involved with the country and the poverty that existed. Working through the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas the wheels were set in motion, and a relationship with Santa Rosa de Mazan in Peru was established. 

Approval for the twinning of the Parishes was granted by the Parish Council and the Pastor in 2002.

With the new year there has been a change in the leadership of our ministry for Santa Rosa. Denise Sheahan has stepped back from her position after seven very productive years. We have been fortunate to have Martha Dailey, a parishioner, jump in to take over the work. She will be building a committee to help her in this effort. If you have an interest, please contact her.

About Mazan ...

Santa Rosa was, and still is, an emerging parish on the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River in Peru. This parish is centered in the village of Mazan, a city with a population of 4,500. As the capital of a district comprising 56 native communities with a combined population of over 12,000 people, Mazan functions as the center of varied regional activities.

In 2001, the regional Bishop consecrated a new church in Mazan. This church is the center of efforts to serve the spiritual needs of this dispersed district. 

Mazan is one of the 16 parishes in the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Las Amazonas, a sprawling missionary territory along Peru's border with Columbia, Brazil and Ecuador. The vicariate is centered around Iquitos, a regional capital 50 miles by boat from Mazan. Most of Santa Rosa's parishioners live in one of the 56 communities scattered along the banks of tributaries of the Amazon. This is a very remote region and the means of communication among the communities is by word of mouth. The primary means of transportation by the natives of the region is by dugout canoe traveling along the Napo River.

The Parish is completely rural, and one could say that all the parishioners are peasants. They live off of fishing, or fish farming, or farming of small plots of land. There are very few that have other occupations such as teaching or government work.

An indication of the economic situation can be seen when one realizes that one American dollar can purchase 36 loaves of bread, 7 tomatoes, or one catechism.

The basic nutrition is not balanced, so it is a cause of malnutrition. It consists basically of fish, manioc root, or cassava, bananas, chicken, some pork, some fruits of the region, rice and beans.

The literacy rate in the provinces of the Vicariate shows that there has been a  significant reduction in illiteracy. In the Mazan mission, 80% know how to read and write; however there is always much need to broaden on/or improve the literacy programs putting emphasis on women's literacy.

Much of the above is from a 2002 article in the Catholic Observer written by Father Bill Pomerleau, of the Observer staff, and also from a document prepared by Dominick Szkatula former head of the missionary team at the Santa Rosa Parish.

The Amazon Religion

The Amazon religion is more a lifestyle than a structured religion. The people express their beliefs in rituals, songs and dances, in the festivals. examples: the "Aya karana" (the remembrance of the dead through a ritual of communion- food), the viewing with the prayer-dance, the party of the Wayos with sacred drink. The religious place of excellence is the mother-earth, where the community lives rooted, and the jungle where the myths and rituals are born. One can always notice and integration of the culture in religion: dance, food, drink, family, community, festivals, songs.

They do not practice the proselytism of their religion, but easily exhibit ecumenical attitudes of respect for all expression of religion and intercommunion with any other neighboring or dominant religions.

The Catholic Religion

In their efforts to communicate the gospel message, the Vicariate has adopted a concrete face that has impacted the mentality of the jungle for more than fifty years of its presence. It has been created in their minds, and continues to present in them, an image of a powerful Church with financial resources, knowledge and abilities in almost all fields. During many years, they have turned to the "mission" to receive all kinds of help. Since the Amazon culture is very traditional, the founding of mission posts has introduced, at various points, elements of "progress and development" awakened in people eagerness and desires to have the same. In this phase of being the exclusive promoters of doing better, thanks to the means and technological abilities, it remains in the minds of the people that the mission can and should respond to their most urgent needs.

In Mazan, the population consists of 80% Catholics, however, the practicing are about 5%.

(From the writings of Dominick Szkatula, former head of the missionary team at the Santa Rosa Parish)