Mission2Peru participants Ronica Vergara, Marion Guthrie, Christine Carmichael and Ryan O’Callaghan. Photo: REMI CAMPBELL


STAFF from Sacred Heart and St Paul’s Primary Schools have just returned from a 17-day adventure to Peru, South America.

Travelling with an aim to ‘walk with the people’ – Sacred Heart Parish Priest Father Michael McKinnon was joined by Marion Guthrie, Ryan O’Callaghan, Christine Carmichael (all from Sacred Heart) and Ronica Vergara, from St Paul’s, with the group witnessing and experiencing the work of the Catholic Church, something that Sacred Heart have financially supported for close to 20 years.

“Our Catholic Education Office sends out a mandate each year for supporting missions overseas, which could be India, the Philippines, or even South America, and we have obviously chosen Peru (this year),” Mission co-ordinator, Marion Guthrie, said.

The program has been fund-raising since 2002 for Global Missions in South America.

“Our fund-raising comes from our ‘Mission Month’ in October, which includes Lamington Drives, Hot-Dog Days, Rolling Raffles and crazy hair days, we really try to get the children involved,” Marion said.

“Last year Sacred Heart raised $9000 in just three weeks, and then I had around $6000 worth of private donations.”

The purpose of this particular trip, according to Marion, was to give other staff from local Catholic Primary Schools the chance to witness the work of the Catholic Global Mission, where fund-raising has gone, and see projects that had been actioned since 2002.

“It wasn’t about doing anything exactly, it was about understanding and igniting the passion, maintaining the passion and enthusiasm of these projects we have been doing for quite a long time,” she said.

While in Peru, the team also had the chance to visit the Shared Table Projects.

“These were 10 food kitchens, one set up by Sacred Heart for young children, and the elderly can come and get food and take food home at minimal cost,” Marion said. “We visited young children’s homes, schools and orphanages, as well as cultural and agricultural projects.”

Marion said those who had participated had been “so touched” by the experience.

“They were humbled and touched to even be asked to take part in this trip, but the fact they were actually amongst the people and were so welcomed, given gifts from people who have nothing, it has truly changed how they view life,” she said.

“It will change how they view the poor, how they present to the children that they teach, the need people have in our world, and it has been an enriching experience for those teachers and leaders in our schools.”

Marion has had a long association with the people of Peru, and alongside her husband, Luke Guthrie, has lived and taught in Peru for 12 months in 2008, and has also undertaken roughly 10 trips.

However, the mission work and Sacred Heart’s support was inspired by her good friend Fr Leo Donnelly, a Colombian Priest that worked in Peru for more than 50 years.

“The association Scared Heart and myself have with Peru is very much connected to my friendship with Fr Leo Donnelly,” Mrs Guthrie said. “He grew up in Ballarat, and became a Colombian Priest in 1958, he stayed there for 50 years.

“His philosophy was to walk with the people, work with the people, serve the people and be buried with the people.

“He was my inspiration, and when I came back from a trip in 2002 I asked him if there was a project myself and the school could take on, and the rest is history.

“Since then we have funded a weaving project, food kitchens and homework centres, a huge variety of things.”

Marion said that in previous years funding had been granted for education tours, however this time the focus was on a global catholic mission.

“I have given my time and passion to this part of the world for a long time, but I didn’t want it to die off,” she said.

“As I am getting older, I thought I would try and inspire younger people to experience Peru and gain the passion to continue the support we have given for 20 or so years.

“If there is no passion over something it dies off, it’s as simple as that.

“In the past the main fund-raiser has been the Sacred Heart School for the Peruvian Projects, but because we belong to the Sunraysia Partnership Council, which is a group involving a number of our schools, the Catholic Education Office decided to consider taking a staff member from another primary school in the Sunraysia Partnership. 

“We decided to look into that, and Father McKinnon suggested Ronica Vergara, from St Paul’s, so she was welcomed onto the team.”