Since 1962 the monks of Wavremont were envisaging an implantation in a country where the male branch of the Monastic Life did not already exist. It is thus that in 1966-1967 a team of three monks arrived in Lima; and in 1968 built a small monastery in Ñaña on the still - at that time - rural fringe of the capital. The foundation had its own fruitfulness, but the shock of the poverty of shanty towns (pueblos jóvenes) in full expansion, the powerful socio-political movements of the times, and the post-Vatican 2 stirrings of the period proved too much for the venture; and that foundation came to a halt in 1979.
Strong bonds persisted however, and, at the insistence of the Peruvian laity, a second foundation was launched in 1991 with the sending of three monks to Ñaña. The emphasis of this new adventure was on community life, on the one hand, and on the preferential option for the Poor, dear to the Church in latin America (Medellin, Puebla, Aparecida). But Ñaña, which had previously been so peaceful had meantime been caught up in the expansion of the city. Also, in 1992, the community, invited by the Bishop of the place, established themselves at Chucuito-Puno, a village in the Andes, at an altitude of 3870 metres on the banks of Lake Titicaca, leaving Ñaña in the care of a Benedictine lay community, which had formed itself around a Benedictine oblate. The monks lived in the village of Chucuito for six years; then, because of the arrival of young Peruvians keen to live a more conventional monastic life, they built a small monastery on the banks of the lake – suitable also to receive guests for retreats and meetings.
In Chucuito, as in Ñaña (where some monks were obliged to come down, in view of the altitude), our Benedictine family has always tried to promote the following objectives:
- to be a contemplative community in the midst of the poorest
- to be motivated in everything by the preferential option for the poor
- to be a praying and fraternal presence in the midst of the local Church
- to live our vow of stability in the midst of a people of a certain culture( the Ayamara culture of Chucuito), while respecting and never neglecting the interplay of different cultures, including both tradional and postmodern cultures present in the region and in Lima
- to be discreet witnesses by our life-style to non-violence, in the midst of a society deeply scarred by injustice, oppression, and violence.
The attempt to found a conventional monastery with young Peruvians from various regions of the country failed after a few enthusiastic years because of serious difficulties.
A surprise of the Holy Spirit: The two Belgian monks remaining at Chucuito were soon joined for a year, in 2007, by a young Peruvian couple seeking for a deeper Christian formation. Then a Peruvian Cistercian nun sought to share for a certain duration their monastic life amongst the Andean poor. Our Abbot President was keen to encourage this development and suggested that we avail of the monastic Regular Oblature. In this way two sisters (one Belgian, one French)
joined the community (one of them as a hermit), then an Argentinian brother. So now our community has seven members, from four different nationalities. It is in effect a little laboratory of inter-cultural experience, and of conviviality between women and men. Since several years, we have opened in the monastery what we could call a ‘Benedictine spiritual school’ where we welcome people for longer periods, priests, religious, laity, who wish to renew themselves spiritually in contact with Benedictine life and of the Andean spiritual world. The monastery welcomes also a continual stream of guests for retreats or spiritual refreshment.
Members of our community, with others, founded in 2000 the Emmaus School of formation, for listening to and and accompanying people spiritually; and subse-quently, Emmaus Centres and teams for listening in prison environments. One brother collaborates with the IDECA, for the study of Andean Cultures at Puno.
Some members collaborate with the Association Alumnos del Perú, which contri-butes, at Ñaña and Chucuito, to the complete education of children of school-going age, and which distributes grants for secondary and third-level education.
The monastery of Ñaña is run by the Benedictine lay fraternity where its centre of formation, renewal, and celebration is situated. It relies on the presence of a Belgian monk and, temporally, of a Mexican priest. It receives guests on retreat, and offers an annual programme of organised retreats. It lives in close solidarity with its neighbourhood, and with the local parish.
Attentive to ‘what the Spirit says to the churches’, we strive to respond to his inspirations.