LEFT: Sister Laura Magowan of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word greets Father César Anicama at a farewell reception for him at Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City. RIGHT: Fr. Anicama and parishioners look at photos from his time at the parish. — Photos by Jay Nies
Father César Anicama
Fr. César Anicama missioned to a parish in Peru
Serving a parish of mostly poor migrants in his homeland, he remains a priest of this diocese
“You and I can be a missionary wherever we are,” stated Father César Anicama.
“Being a missionary is to tell of the glory of God to all the earth,” he said. “The people who need to hear about the love of God are in our own workplaces, in our own schools, in our own families, wherever we are.”
A long and surprising path of mission has led Fr. Anicama, a priest of the Jefferson City diocese, back to his native Peru as a priestly servant to people in need as a member of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle.
“I want to serve our Church, which is present in the whole world,” he said.
The Society of St. James offers diocesan priests from the United States and other countries an opportunity to serve as missionaries in Latin America.
The Late Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston established the society in 1958 to assist in the evangelization and pastoral care of communities in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.
“Priests of the Society of St. James priests are committed to evangelization, catechesis, pastoral care and social outreach,” said Fr. Anicama.
Today, the Society focuses its efforts on Peru.
“I have an opportunity to minister in my home country,” said Fr. Anicama.
He had been serving in parishes in Jefferson City since his priestly ordination in 2015. After considerable prayer and discernment, he asked Bishop W. Shawn McKnight for permission to join the society while remaining a priest of this diocese.
The bishop granted his request.
A parish of migrants
Fr. Anicama is now stationed at Nuestra Señora de la Paz (Our Lady of Peace) parish in Villa El Salvador, about 20 miles south of Lima, the capital.
This coastal city is home to about 4 million people, many of whom resettled there after fleeing the poverty of the Andes Mountains almost a half-century ago.
“Villa El Salvador have electricity but no running water,” Fr. Anicama noted. “Water must either be trucked in or carried from Lima.”
The parish is about 125 miles from Pisco Playa, where Fr. Anicama grew up. One of the highlights of his time back in Peru has been celebrating the Eucharist with his parents, whom he hadn’t seen in over three years.
“My parents are getting older and I feel I need to be closer to them,” he said. “God wants us to be happy. And I would like to see my aging parents happy.”
He hopes to return to the Jefferson City diocese someday, but he has a lot to keep him busy between now and then.
For love of the Priesthood
While growing up in Pisca Playa, Fr. Anicama looked up to his pastor, Father José Sanchez, who encouraged him to pursue his own priestly calling.
Fr. Anicama spent a year doing pastoral work with the Society of St. James in Peru before deciding to become a priest of the Jefferson City diocese.
He did so in thanksgiving for the decades of missionary services the Jefferson City diocese had provided in Peru, as well as the response from the diocesan Mission Office and Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City to his hometown after a devastating earthquake in 2007.
Immaculate Conception parish continues to cultivate a sister-parish relationship with San Francisco de Asís parish in Pisco.
Fr. Anicama said he found many additional priestly role models throughout his time in the seminary and while ministering at St. Peter and Immaculate Conception parishes in Jefferson City.
“They taught me how to demonstrate confidence and leadership, to show respect and concern for others and how to live with integrity, optimism, compassion and hope,” said Fr. Anicama.
He said he loves being a priest of Jesus Christ.
“I love to celebrate the Eucharist with the people and for the people,” he said. “The Eucharist is the precious gift that the Catholic Church has. Without the Eucharist, my life doesn’t have meaning.”
He’s grateful for the time he has spent in Missouri, which he is convinced has helped to make him a better priest.
“I was blessed to bring new members into the Catholic Church through baptism, to hear confessions, to visit the homebound and the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, to preside at funerals and bury the dead,” he stated.
While happy to be closer to his family, Fr. Anicama said he misses the people here and “the safe and beautiful City of Jefferson.”
“Throughout my time in the Diocese of Jefferson City, I have grown as a person, met friends that will last a lifetime, and experienced things that I will never forget,” he said.
“Always there for you”
He expressed his thanks to God for having brought him to be ordained and serve in this part of the world.
“I’m grateful for each and every one of you,” he said. “I’m grateful for Bishop McKnight, Bishop [Emeritus John R.] Gaydos, to my brother priests for their understanding, support and prayers.”
His gratitude abounds for people of Immaculate Conception and St. Peter parishes in Jefferson City; the Hispanic community of central Missouri; the people of Sacred Heart parish in Columbia, St. Mary parish in Milan, St. Clement parish in St. Clement, Immaculate Conception parish in Macon, “and all the people of the diocese of Jefferson City for their friendship and hospitality.”
“I would like to thank you for your generosity and good will throughout my time with you,” he said, calling to mind Jesus’ Parable of the Goats and Sheep (Matthew 25:35-40): “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”
Fr. Anicama urged people to live in gratitude, especially “giving thanks to God for your pastors and priests and the witness they give, sometimes at a cost to their own health and wellbeing.”
He also said “to value and appreciate your family every chance you get.”
“Family is the best thing God has given you,” he said. “Family is always there for you.”
Fr. Anicama often prays: “Virgen de Guadalupe, Protégenos,” which means, “Virgin of Guadalupe, protect us.”
“May Our Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Rose of Lima help us to share the love of Jesus with everyone,” he said.