Irish Columban shot and wounded in Peru

1st May 2018 - by Ellen Teague

gerry desmond
Fr. Gerry Desmond SSC

On Saturday, 28 April 2018, Fr Gerard (Gerry) Desmond was attacked by three armed men as he arrived at his residence in the Parish of Christ the Liberator, in the slum district of San Juan de Lurigancho, outside Lima in Peru.

 

Preparing to go on holidays, Fr Gerard had driven to the bank to withdraw money to pay bills and salaries in the parish before he left. He had withdrawn the equivalent of US$2,000 from the local bank. He drove back to his parish and as he got out of his car to open the gate, a car stopped behind him, and three men, two with guns drawn, demanded the money that he had withdrawn. Gerard refused to hand it over so they hit him with the revolver butt on the head and shot him in both legs above the knee.

Luckily the bullets hit no bones or arteries and lodged in the parish door. A man working on a building site nearby, apparently an ex-policeman from Venezuela, saw what happened, rushed to him, bandaged his wounds and drove him to the nearest hospital. Gerry got nine stitches in the side of his head and several more on the leg wounds, but was soon released from hospital and is recovering at the Columban House.

Fr Gerry Desmond (73) grew up in Swords, Co. Dublin. He was educated at O’Connell Schools, and entered Dalgan in 1963. He was ordained priest in 1969 and assigned to Korea, to the Chunchon District, where he served from 1974-1979. He worked in Canada from 1979-1987, and has served in various parishes in Peru since then.

Fr Gerry has provided pastoral aid to some of Lima’s poorest communities for over a decade. His parish and house is in the slum district of San Juan de Lurigancho. He opened a primary school in the San Juan de Lurigancho slum in 2011, as well as a community centre for youths and adults. He also campaigned for better facilities in the local chapels, including pews, windows, music equipment and PA systems.

Relieved parishioners posted their delight on social media that Fr Gerry survived the attack. One said, “God listened to our prayers, our beloved priest is out of danger – we’re very happy.”

Columbans are based in 16 countries around the world and have been in Peru since 1952. They are currently celebrating their Centenary Year.

Fr. Cyril Lovatt

www.columbans.co,uk