A Mission for a Patron Saint


My 12 Peruvian students and I are in the lab. That is, we’re in the computerized, air-conditioned room on the University of Piura campus. Perhaps the crucifix on the left wall and the painting of the Virgin Mary on the opposite wall will bestow whatever it is Jesus would give students before an exam.
Occasional bursts of high musical notes seep through the cracked plaster walls from the auditorium next door. Chills raise goosebumps across my skin as I’m mentally transported to a Spanish mission set in the Amazon rain forest of the 18th century. Choral notes elicit images of a mission leader hoisting a grand gold crucifix as he, dressed in white, lacy robes and other spoils of the wealthy Catholic church, leads a group of pious children down a dirt road. Suddenly bullets ring out from all sides of them and sporadically they fall, one after another, dead.
No wait, that was The Mission.
I no more than punctuate that thought when the desert’s early evening breezes blow open the lab door with a crescendoing creak. Enter the full melody of the tune, something you might have heard at a Roman Catholic Sunday mass or echoing down the streets during various saintly holidays in Old Chicago’s Little Italy.

It’s the university choir, or the Coro de UDEP. They’re Catholic kids on their own, more vocal, less visceral mission. Perhaps they can summons blessings from Saint Bridget, the patroness of students.

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