By Father William Ayres
Special to the CS&T
CAJAMARCA, Peru – On June 29, the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, Nelson Pastor Machuca was ordained a priest by Bishop José Carmelo Martínez Lázaro, O.A.R., in the Cathedral of St. Catherine, of the Diocese of Cajamarca, Peru.
His first Mass was celebrated the following day in the town of Manzanilla in the plaza in front of the tiny St. Anthony of Padua Chapel, where Father Pastor grew up and his family still lives. Hundreds of people came on foot from the town and surrounding countryside, some walking for several hours to share in the celebration.
Because of the large number of towns and villages served by a single priest, Mass is not celebrated weekly there. Also, earthquakes and floods have caused severe damage to the chapel over the past several years, so the building will be torn down and rebuilt. But neither the journey nor the condition of the chapel dampened the joy of the community celebrating the gift of a priest who was “one of their own.”
Father Pastor studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood for the past five years. He was among several seminarians sent to U.S. seminaries by the Diocese of Cajamarca to complete their theological studies. Leni Cubas-Julca, who studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, was ordained at the same Mass as Father Pastor.
When he arrived at St. Charles, Father Pastor spoke no English and spent his first summer learning the language while residing at St. Bridget Parish in East Falls. Later, Epiphany of Our Lord in South Philadelphia became his “home parish.” For the past year, he served as a deacon at St. Patrick Parish in Norristown. Despite the initial obstacle of learning a new language, Father Pastor was able to excel in his studies. He also wrote several articles for The Catholic Standard & Times.
The Diocese of Cajaramarca is located in the mountainous region of northwestern Peru. The city of Cajamarca itself is approximately 9,000 feet above sea level. The diocese covers more than 5,900 square miles (nearly three times the size of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) and is served by about 65 priests who minister to 850,000 Catholics.
Father Pastor has been assigned to an area consisting of two districts, each of which has weekly Masses, but like his home parish, there are many villages which he will only be able to visit occasionally.
Msgr. Hugh Shields, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Vicar for Hispanic Catholics, and Father Robert Pesarchick, academic dean of the Theology spanision of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, were among the archdiocesan clergy and laity who journeyed to Cajamarca for the ordination. Also in attendance was Father Jay Harrington, O.P., who was formerly on the faculty of St. Charles Seminary and currently teaches at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis.
Father Pastor expressed his gratitude to all who helped him during his years at St. Charles Seminary and asks for continued prayer as he begins his priestly ministry.
Father Ayres is pastor of St. Michael Parish and parochial administrator at Immaculate Conception Parish in Philadelphia.