Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Father Flynn evangelizes in Peru from Peru

October 20, 2021

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

PERU – In the midst of a pandemic, Father Francis J. Flynn continues to minister to the faithful a continent away.

When he was ordained a priest in December of 1969, Father Flynn said his desire to spend time in the missions. He was first assigned to Mollendo, Peru in 1973, where he was stationed with Father Andrew J. Amyot. Over the years, Father Flynn has made several trips back to Peru, often every other year, and currently stays in touch with his former youth group through WhatsApp – a smartphone/tablet application that allows for video meetings, text messaging and voice conversations.

Father Flynn calls Peru regularly to check-in with a different person each week and see how they are doing. One of the former members of his youth group and his family had COVID. They weren’t sure if he’d survive. Father Flynn celebrated Mass for the young man, and the youth group attended virtually. The young man recovered. Father Flynn and the youth group also organized a collection and sent money, since the young man was out of work and had no money for food.

The situation in Peru is “bad because of the variant,” Father Flynn said. The people of Peru, Father Flynn said, are “doing a lot to support each other. The hospital there is full, there are no beds, and they are running out of oxygen. A lot have died.” Many people that Father Flynn saw during his February 2020 visit have passed away, some who were in their mid-60s, and had underlying health conditions.

“They didn’t have in-person Masses for over a year,” and Father Flynn has offered Mass for them via Zoom.

During his first year in Mollendo, Father Flynn spent three weeks each month in that community and one week each month in the Caylloma Mountains. He worked with Father Paul Hagan there, covering a large area. Father Flynn came back to states in 1981 and later received permission to go as a Maryknoll Associate to Bolivia from 1984 to 1987.

When he came back from Peru, Father Flynn said he wrote down “all things that he did but shouldn’t have and reverse.” noted Father Flynn.

He said he “worked off that list in Bolivia.”

There, he became part of a pastoral team with a Maryknoll priest, who orchestrated social activities, a priest from Iowa, a priest from Nebraska who worked with street kids, a religious sister who worked in the city, and lay people who worked in co-ops. Once a month, they shared “pastoral theological reflections,” which he described as a “powerful, big addition.”

In the smaller group, Father Flynn said the group would bring “together what you were doing – each working on something different – how does it work with evangelization and our mission.”

Father Flynn’s parish was divided into 16 zones, each comprised of zones. They had a special Mass on Palm Sunday, which began with the whole parish uniting in a huge field and processing to the church.

It was here that Father Flynn became acquainted with Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC), small communities of families and individuals united by their faith and faith sharing. They provided instruction in the parish zones.
“People would share the message in the meetings,” he said. “[It was a] wonderful experience of BEC.”

Father Flynn became involved in youth encounters in Arequipa, which was the second largest city in Peru at the time and located up in the mountains. They were geared to 18 to 30 year olds. He recruited a few young people from his parish to go.

It was a “three-day, intense experience,” Father Flynn said. “They came back and were enthused.”

The youth encounter program continued to grow in his parish. Eventually, half the participants ended up being from his parish.

“It changed the tenor of the parish, musicians and singers were involved in Mass – guitar, mandolin, drums, tambourines,” he said.

There was a chorus, and a local music teacher became the director.

“Sunday night Masses were lively and packed. The majority was young people. It was a pastor’s dream,” said Father Flynn, noting everything sprang forth from the Mass and led to the Mass. “Youth came for hours before Mass to play music and practice and socialized after.”

Every encounter had a priest and talks given by peers. It started Friday and ended on Sunday with Mass. Day one was an encounter with self, face to face with who you are and want to be. The young people received letters from their parents. Day two was an encounter with Jesus; there was a bonfire and Confession. Many times, Father Flynn explained, the young adults had not been to Confession since they made their First Communion. He can remembering hearing Confessions all night. Day three was an encounter with the Church and the world. To maintain the experience, the young people were supposed to start or join a group with like-minded people. They started a youth group in his parish to keep that experience alive.

Parents attended a Mass and welcomed the youth back home in Mollendo when they came out of encounter. It was a reconciliation experience for some, Father Flynn added. Mass was packed with young people. They gave testimonials to the congregation while waiting for the retreatants to return. They sang “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ hear I am” in Spanish. All the youth stood up and spoke.

“They couldn’t hide from their conversion experience,” said Father Flynn. “If they fell, people reminded them.”

After this encounter, Father Flynn said of his priesthood, “Anything after that, it was frosting on the cake.” To see young people “obtain the source and summit of their life, [they] looked forward to Mass, everything you read about and want, I had it.”

Father Flynn said members of this “young youth” group are now grandparents, and the third generation that he ministers to from afar.

Father Flynn retired in January 2020 and went to Mollendo on February 11. The faithful had a huge, three day 50th anniversary of priesthood celebration for him. There was a special Saturday Mass and Sunday dinner organized by the youth group. It was “so neat meeting the children,” Father Flynn said.

The reception was organized by the son of one of the youth group members. One young man in the youth group, Edwin, became a Jesuit priest. He is stationed in Lima and pastor of the largest and oldest Jesuit Church there. Another young lady from the youth group, Rosemary, is a doctor and head of hospital in Mollendo. He made exceptions for them to be in group due to their ages. “It was a tremendous success, [they had] credibility with their peers.”

Father Flynn flew out of Peru on the last flight before they shut the country down, closed the border, and stopped the Masses due to COVID. Although the financial situation had improved, the pandemic and political instability devastated economy, he reflected.

Currently, Father Flynn said he is in a great situation, living with Msgr. Dennis Duprey in Peru, New York. He covers Masses for priests when they are away or need to quarantine. He enjoys golfing with Father Kevin McEwan, Father Tojo Chacko, Msgr. Duprey and a few deacons. Father Flynn walks almost daily. After the lockdown, he organized his days to walk, complete puzzles, and read, which he loves.

Father Flynn said that he is “very blessed, very fortunate to be where he was, when he was.” He said he didn’t always see it at the time, but God always put him in “the right place at the right time. I’m here in Peru and this is the right place for me at this time.”

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.