More Day in the Life Stories

A Day in the Life


Sr. Ancilla Maloney, IHM

Pastoral Minister, Sicuani (Peru)

In 2012 after teaching at Aquinas High School in the Bronx in New York City, I left a ministry I loved after 51 years. It was time. I had just returned from a short visit with our Sisters ministering in Peru and God was very direct in my prayer.  Having finished my discernment, I answered the phone one day only to hear that it was Sister Terry O`Rourke, the President of our Congregation. When she asked how my visit went, I told her I would like to volunteer to serve in our mission in Sicuani with Sister Eileen Egan, IHM who is a Pastoral Administrator in the parish of San Felipe on the edge of the city. Over the years since the mission was started in 1991, there have been from 3 to 5 Sisters in the mission, but at present we are two, with one Candidate.

Our mission is in the South Andes, two and a half hours south of the ancient Inca city of Cusco. Sicuani is 11,500 feet high surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The majority of the people in the region are poor farmers and many have moved down from the mountains to give their children an opportunity to go to school here in the city. In 1998, the Sisters opened the IHM House of Studies for girls who lived in the mountains to come to the city to be able to continue their high school education, as there are no high schools in the mountains.

5:30 am: The alarm goes off to begin my day. This time is precious for me. I breath in the clean mountain air, fill my eyes with the beauty of the mountains I can see all around and thank God again and again for the gift of my being here in what is for me “Holy Ground”. We have a tiny chapel which is my favorite space for prayer. Sometimes I have to run when I hear a banging of metal on metal. That`s the garbage ladies. Poor women who need food for their children must collect the garbage in big carts propelled by a tricycle. 

6:45 am: We leave for church in a moto – a motor bike with a cab for two attached to the back. Sometimes I just shut me eyes as we have one good, smooth strip of concrete down the middle of the road which the drivers in both directions like to drive on….On this day I travel alone because Sister Eileen prays with the police every Monday in their chapel in the police station. When the priests said they couldn`t be the chaplain, they came to Sister Eileen. She also has a funeral this afternoon as there are no priests available in our parish to do this. The people bury their dead the day after death. Eileen does all the funerals.Ancilla-Eileen-2016

Pictured L -R: Sisters Ancilla Maloney and Eileen Egan

7:00 am: Mass in the Church of Señor de Pampacuchu.  Our lungs are good but we still need to stop on the landings half way up the 53 steps to catch our breath. Mass is celebrated in Spanish but many times the priest will preach or say some of the Mass prayers in Quechua, the first language of the people who are Quechua, the descendents of the Incas. Sometimes during the Mass we can hear the scraping of wooden blocks, as Angel, a crippled, homeless man crawls up the aisle. He holds the blocks in his hands as he crawls to a seat on the side of the church up front. We can see him always put something in the collection basket, and he always crawls around to give people the kiss of peace. I read something from Pope Francis last year where he spoke about how many times folks give donations to people who are begging but never touch them. Since then I always give him a hug, or make the sign of the cross on his forehead and we`ve become good friends. After Mass, Eileen and I walk the mile or so home, which is great exercise.

Ancilla and Eileen and Peruvian woman

Pictured L- R: Sister Ancilla, a Peruvian woman, and Sister Eileen Egan

8:45 am: After breakfast, we gather in the chapel for our morning prayer together. We always pray for the needs of our family, friends, those who have been good to us, for the needs of the church and for people who are suffering the crucifixion in their lives every day, like refugees all over the globe and women who are being abused or children who are hungry and homeless.

9:00 am: After prayer each morning I tutor a young Peruvian woman in English who is in the Candidacy phase of our formation program. Before Giovana entered the program, I used to work on writing grants for various projects in the Prelature, the name for a small diocese. Two Sisters, Daughters of Mary and Co-Redeemer, a Peruvian Congregation of Sisters, come to the door. They have a residence for girls who have suffered or who are in danger of suffering from violence in their homes. The roof of their residence collapsed 6 years ago and I have been successful in getting a $40,000.00 grant for them to build a dormitory. They have photos of the work that has begun and I will be sending these photos to the Hilton Foundation in support of a grant I wrote for them  for funds to  finish the project. I was also successful in getting a grant for a van for the Therapy center and also a year`s funding for Casa Nazareth, a residence for children who are blind, deaf or who have other kinds of disabilities. I also received a $20,000 grant to keep the Office of Social Justice functioning for a year. The Prelature is very poor so outside funds are vital. My Spanish isn`t wonderful, but I am one of four native English speakers in the whole Prelature and use this gift for the Church here. When we are home in the month of July each summer, we do mission talks at one or two parishes to help support our own Mission.

Giovana FuentesPictured L - R: Sisters Eileen Egan, Tomasa Fernandez, Norma Poma Arpi; Candidate Giovana Fuentes Bendivez, Sisters Ellen Maroney, Ancilla Maloney and Kathryn Krudziel

1:00 pm: The doorbell rings and rings, followed by pounding which lets us know that Feliz is here. He is a homeless man who comes every day for bread and coffee –with sugar and milk please. As we start our noonday meal, the big meal of the day, the doorbell rings again and it`s one, two or three children or four from a very poor family who come for bread, cheese, mayonnaise of course, and yogurt on their way home from school every day. Sometimes Wilbur comes too for whatever his sister with whom he lives cannot afford to get for him.

Ancilla and boy

2:00 pm: finds me heading for our parish library which is my major responsibility. There are no libraries in the city, nor in any of the schools in the city. The children in the neighborhood live in homes made of adobe (mud mixed with straw and then baked in the sun) often in just two rooms, sometimes with a dirt floor and no place to study. So the library is an oasis in the neighborhood. They do their homework, then they have to read for at least 15 minutes. We have copies of all the textbooks the children use from first to 11th grade (Students in Peru go to “Primaria” up until 6th grade, then start the equivalent of high school “Collegio” for five more years, finishing at 16 years of age. Some go on to University. We also have many books for the children of all ages to enjoy.  After reading, they can choose what they want to do -I have bought many puzzles, coloring books, games, and Legos which the children love. And last year we received a grant for four computers which are very popular. Each Friday I either show a movie or we have Arts and Crafts. The other day I brought over many pieces, big and small, of Styrofoam and the boys went crazy making boats, trucks and even an apartment building. There`s a small stream nearby and I know they headed there the next day to float them!

5:00 pm: Home and time for spiritual reading. Since I entered the convent, I`ve set time set aside for reading, special time when I can listen to God in the words of spiritual masters of all ages from Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila to Lawrence Freeman ,“Jesus, the Teacher Within” and Josè Pagola “Jesus, An Historical Perspective”. This latter sounds stuffy, but Pagola is a wonderful Scripture scholar and deeply spiritual and his work makes Jesus really come alive.

 6:00 pm:  A simple dinner together and then some time watching CNN news, the only English speaking station that we receive, but we keep up with news in the US and around the world.

Ancilla Maloney-Eileen Egan 2016Pictured L - R: Sisters Ancilla Maloney and Eileen Egan

7:30 pm: We leave for the House of Studies which is less than five minutes away to pray with the girls each evening. Sister Eileen gives the girls the Gospel for the day, each one reads it silently and then she asks one of the girls to read it out loud. After the reading, Eileen asks the girls if they have particular lines they liked best. They share, then Sister comments on each of the passages. We then pray for special intentions, especially for all the people who have been good to us, for those folks who are suffering in our world and for our families. Everyone shares with these intentions which are followed by the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. And of course we sing before the Scripture and afterwards!  “Duerme con los angeles” (Sleep with the angels) we say as we hug each girl good night and then head for home.

8:30 pm or so… Depends on which night, as we turn on the electricity for hot water every other night, I have a nice hot shower and enjoy some more reading before I begin to nod. Electricity is very expensive, and also no one here in the Andes has heat and we don`t either. We do have small gas space heater in our community room which we do turn on sometimes when it`s bitter cold in May, June and July. But we wear several layers of clothes all the time and in the daytime the sun is nice and warm so we shed!

9:30 pm: when my day usually comes to an end and after many years of not getting enough sleep, I enjoy a good 8 hours of God given rest. ¡Gracias a Dios! for a blessed day filled with many  revelations of the presence of God in my world and, as St. Francis of Assisi used to say,   many opportunities to preach the Gospel, using words if necessary!

I would like to close by quoting part of the final vow reflection of our Sister Lisa Perkowski: “I hope to continue to live out my commitment in a spirit of creativity and joy, to transform and awaken others to the presence of God in and among them”.

Ancilla and Lea Schwagmann
Pictured L - R: Lea Schwagmann, a volunteer from Germany and Sister Ancilla