The Maltese priest who spent 42 years among the poor in Perù

Several Maltese have left everything behind them and dedicated their lives to others in missionary lands. On Mission Day, the news centre spoke to Father Vince Magro from the St. Paul’s Missionary Society, who along with two other priests was a pioneer of the society’s mission in Peru. Fr Vince Magro spent 42 years of his life in Peru with the poor in the suburbs of the second largest city – Arequipa – and in Aplao – a large valley separated by a river with 23 villages.

When you do good to others you feel a certain sense of satisfaction. As Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian poet, said, you feel greater satisfaction when you do good to others whoever they may be. My friends and I used to enjoy seeing people happy because of something we had done. ”

Father Vince Magro is now 82 years old. At the age of 28 he became a priest with the Missionary Society of St. Paul and three years later he left for Peru. He was with the first group of MSSP priests in Peru and said that among the difficulties he encountered initially was the fact that he felt alone without knowing how to speak Spanish. He said that little by little people began to trust the missionaries in the 23 villages they were in.

Father Vince Magro said that Peru was rich in its culture and history, however there was poverty.

“Candle light was more apparent than electricity and I spent a lot of time celebrating mass by candle light. One time I remember we spent six months without light. Secondly there was no running water like we have today.
We used to get water from the river and in the summer i.e. from December to March, the water is very dirty like the colour of chocolate, but we would get a shovel , put it in the bucket, and eventually after separating the dirt, we’d drink from it … we depended on the bus and would say the act of contrition before going up the bus because it’s not the first time their brakes stopped working. ”

Among the work of the MSSP missionaries in Peru, an educational college has been set up which today welcomes 550 children. Father Vince said this was done because as missionaries they always believed in giving Christian formation to the locals. He said that their work is possible because of the generosity of the Maltese, also from the Create a Smile marathon. Returning from a 42-year mission, Father Vince Magro remained involved in pastoral work in various parishes in Malta.