As the plane descended through the cloud cover, large swaths of peach colored night lights illuminated the sprawling city nestled between the deep darkness of the Pacific Ocean and the rise of the Andes. I was filled with anticipation of seeing Lima once again. Seven years earlier, I made my first visit. Now, I shook my head as I pondered the impact the people of Peru had on my psyche. How had it all happened? How did I end up here, in Lima, Peru, as part of my life’s journey? Clearly, God had a hand. He had the big picture in mind; and me, well I just kind of meandered along, totally clueless as to how this journey would evolve. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know there was a journey to evolve. My incredible, unexpected passage to Canto Grande had key stone markers along the way, and I just thought they were stones.
I love a good plan. The goal, the objectives, the resources, evaluating progress along the way, checking off each step with a sense of accomplishment are all part of a process that makes me tick! So when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, and I utter the words, “Thy will be done,” I often ask, “God, what is it exactly that I am supposed to do? Give me a little help here; let me in on the plan, and I will happily oblige.” I await for the email or even a text to arrive with the answer, but you know how it is. I imagine God has a good chuckle, smiles and sends forth his love and grace. He understands the depth and richness we will find in our creative discovery, our growth, and our sense of belonging to him along the way.
So, how did I get to Peru? Unbeknownst to me, I stumbled across stone markers. Some stone markers were shiny and bright, and I delighted in them; and others, I stubbed my toes, and I felt pain; yet, they all made an impression:
1962-The handwritten letter in the mailbox from Peru - My father’s cousin, Fr. Bill Pearsall of the Society of St. James, was writing to share of his mission work in Peru. What does an eight year old know about Peru? I learned it was very far away, the people were very poor, and he was there to help.
“Deepest Darkest Peru,” - the land of Paddington the Bear, a favorite childhood storybook that my children loved when we lived in England
September 2000, Stonehill College: a solitary pamphlet - My daughter, a freshman, was ill. While waiting to pick up her up for a medical appointment, I spotted a lone leaflet. It featured Canto Grande, the mission of the Holy Cross Congregation in the desert wastelands of Lima. Images of beautiful children in the midst of abject poverty were seared into my mind and my heart.
September 11, 2001 - United Airlines Flight # 175 - My husband, James E. Hayden, along Francis E. Grogan, C.S.C. were killed while flying from Boston to Los Angeles. Completely devastated, I asked God to take it from here.
Bob Hannon: a fellow-Stonehill alumnus and Associate Director of Development for the Congregation - My hunch- God told him to put the Peru pamphlet on the empty table! I shared with Bob that I would love to visit Peru someday.
October 2011: Canto Grande, I met the amazing Fr. David Farrell, C.S.C., one of God’s gladiators to champion for the poor and marginalized - I witnessed, first hand, the work of the Holy Cross of Peru.
October 2011- Fe y Alegría, a school founded 40 years ago and run by the Holy Cross Congregation - I asked what was one of their more pressing needs. The director responded that they needed shade for a gathering space. “Hmm… shade…,” I pondered to myself. “Trees have a tough time here.” The director suggested that maybe some material covering with supports. I envisioned, “blue tarps on poles…pretty ugly.” I knew we could do better. A plan began to take hold. We could build a pavilion!
As the wheels hit the tarmac, I smiled. From trees to the dedication of the Father David E. Farrell C.S.C., Pavilion, an amazing plan was realized. But whose plan was it? This plan was way above my pay grade. God heard the cry of his people. Through his divine ways he inspired the parishioners of Canto Grande, the Holy Cross Congregation, and faith-filled donors to make a difference in lives of the people of Canto Grande. Indeed, God did have a plan all along, and it was good.
Liz Hayden received her undergraduate degree from Stonehill College, Easton, MA, in Child Development. She earned her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. Liz has taught public and private elementary age students in a variety of grades and in a range of socio-economic conditions both in Massachusetts and abroad. Additionally, she was a preschool director and teacher. Her last area of teaching was working at Nativity Preparatory of Boston, a Jesuit middle school for boys grades four through eight, where she mentored teachers, wrote curriculum, and worked on special projects.
Liz Hayden currently is serving her fourth term on the Stonehill College Board of Trustees. Her particular area of interest is Student Affairs. Liz is also a founding donor of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Center is dedicated to educating the public on a variety of mental health and well being issues at the forefront of research to ease suffering and to reduce the stigma of mental health.
Liz and her husband, James E. Hayden, met at Stonehill, and they were later married by Fr. Jack McCarthy, C.S.C. Her husband was killed on 9/11, along with Francis E. Grogan, C.S.C., while flying from Boston to Los Angeles. Liz is the parent of two children, Elizabeth K. Hayden Klucznik ’04 and John A. Hayden. Currently she is the grandmother to three grandchildren.