First Wedding in San Hilarion

"I, Atilano, take you, Mercedes, to be my wife. 
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, 
in sickness and in health.  
I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."  

Just a few 
months ago 
Mercedes and Atilano never imagined that marriage in the church was possible, but we know that anything is possible with God!!  

So, how did this 
all come about?

Upon arriving in Peru it took time to figure out which stores sold which items. It took even longer to figure out who had the best of each thing. For example, almost every corner store sells bread, but it's old and stale. The best option is buying it fresh from the walking vender who passes our house at 6:30 each morning.  

Depending on the time of year, fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult to find. So, we were elated to find "the fruit lady" who has boxes of fresh fruit stacked about her shop.  

We began visiting "the fruit lady" regularly and slowly got to know her.

One day I noticed a Watch Tower pamphlet on her counter and asked if she's a Jehovah's Witness. In talking with her I discovered that she's Catholic and has all of her sacraments (which is uncommon around here).  She hadn't attended the church here in San Hilarion because, "Nobody ever invited me."  This opened the door to wonderful conversation, which continued with each visit.  

These aren't the scissors they had,
but as I remember back to this day it
seems like they were about this big....
give or take a little.
She invited our family to their store/home for lunch the following week.  We got to meet her husband (they had been married civilly) and enjoyed a wonderful meal.  

As we were leaving, "the fruit lady" and her husband began scurrying about.  They came in and out of the room, scrambling to find something....  

Finally, the husband yelped in excitement and entered the room with a large pair of sheers. Mercedes put Luis Angel, their 18 month old son, onto her lap and held his head still. "He's never had his hair cut," they said together. "We want you to cut his hair." Feeling totally confused I reluctantly took the gigantic sheers and approached the unhappy prisoner. The long strands in the back seemed like the safest place to start, but even that freaked him out. Louis Angel squirmed and tossed about hoping to break free.  "He just started walking yesterday and doesn't like to be on my lap anymore," Mercedes apologized. "Toca la tete, toca le tete!" Atilano shouted wanting the child to nurse. Mercedes grabbed her son and did as she was asked.  When he became unmanageable, Atilano would jump around and yell, "Otro lado" (other side). As so it was that Luis Angel got his first haircut.  After being released, the little boy was encouraged to tell "his godparents" thank you.  "What? Who are his godparents? What's happening?"  They explained the custom in their hometown - cutting a baby's hair for the first time makes a couple his/her godparents. "No, No!" we said, "That is not true..."  We had another commitment, that we were now late for, so we couldn't explain much more. However, we promised to return and explain how their son could receive a legitimate baptism in the church.

As promised, we returned many times - to buy fruit and also just hang out. As we developed a closer relationship we learned that both Mercedes and Atilano wanted to be married in the church, but perceived it to be cost prohibitive: the dress, rings, reception, etc.. When we explained that we have wedding dresses that she could choose from, rings donated by our friends' benefactors and money available to provide a small reception for their families, they were elated.

Over the course of the next two months we visited their home/shop many times to prepare them for the sacrament of marriage. About two weeks before the big day we went to the nearby town where our missionary friends live so that Mercedes could try on dresses and have her choice one altered.

The morning of their "big day" we decorated the church and made all the necessary preparations.

The community members were super excited because this was going to be the first church wedding in as long as anyone could remember.

The celebration began as we walked Mercedes up the aisle.

After she took her place of honor at the front, Padre Paco welcomed the community ~ especially those being baptized and/or receiving their First Holy Communion.

The joy in our hearts overflowed as Luis Angel was baptized - for real.

We were equally as excited when our friend Isaac was received into the church and made his First Holy Communion.

Several other kids that we've become friends with received Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time as well.

There were nothing but smiles everywhere we looked.... ALL praise be to God!!!

Even though it is the cultural norm not to smile for pictures, 
Mercedes parents and siblings couldn't hold back.

After Mass we walked across the road to a small restaurant where we celebrated with Mercedes' family and a few close friends.

The owner had grand plans of preparing extra-special meals for this extra-special occasion, but his chef friend got sick and so we had fried chicken with french fries.  Nobody thought twice about the alternative fare and thanked God for all those who made this celebration possible.

Next, we shared the custom of feeding each other cake, which they all thought was hilarious.

We spent the next several hours dancing to the traditional music of Cajamarca, their birthplace, which was super fun.

As we reluctantly snipped locks from squirmy little Luis Angel, we never imagined that it would lead to this.

We often pray that the Lord helps us to recognize the opportunities before us to do His work and His will.  Sometimes those opportunities are incredibly obvious.  Other times they're a bit more obscure. Unable to see the bigger picture or to know God's will inside of each moment, we simply say "yes" whenever possible and trust that His plan is infinitely better than ours.

Several other couples have expressed interest in getting married in the church, but so far none have committed to the necessary preparation. They acknowledge the grace afforded by this sacrament, but feel nervous about making a lifelong commitment to God.  Several people have said, "What if I decide I want a different husband/wife later?  If I get married in the church it's forever and I can't change my mind." Given the fact that most of these couples have several kids together, we have a lot of work to do. We ask for your prayers as they consider entering more fully into their relationships with their spouses as well as Our Lord and His beautiful Church.

Thank you for taking time to read about what the Lord has been doing through Team Carmody. Please pray for our continued success as we work hard to preach the gospel and serve the poor here in Peru.

We'd love to hear from you via email:

If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to support us financially, please visit:

Our 10 Most Popular Blog Posts of All time