Skip to main content

“Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own . . . Then YOU shall call, and the Lord will answer . . . and He will say, ‘Here I am!’.”

~ John 13:35

Dominican Sisters Margaret Mary Birchmeier and Lillian Bockheim serve as part of the “bridge of love and hope” in one of the poorest communities in South America. They have lived in the community of Chimbote since the 1960s building a ministry that today includes a maternity hospital, pre-natal education, and well-baby clinics.

Sr Teresita Garcia with Chimbote team in 1968
Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Teresita Garcia at the maternity hospital with her team in 1968.

From very humble beginnings, Catholic Sisters, trained as nurses and midwives, set out on a mission to save the lives of mothers and newborns. Sisters Margaret Mary and Lillian were not the first. But they have stayed the longest, committing their lives to walk with and care for the people in this region of Peru. First-hand, they see the incredible impact The Chimbote Foundation has on lives every day.

The Chimbote Foundation was created to provide a bridge of love, hope, faith and financial support to care for the poorest of the poor in Chimbote through the Center for Social Works – a maternity hospital, outpatient clinic, clinical laboratory, pharmacy and home for abandoned and neglected children – serving hundreds of thousands since the mid-1960s.

Somebody cares…

“I don’t think most [people] have any idea, what it means to the people here that they [supporters from Pittsburg and Grand Rapids] maintain such an interest in the needs of the poor,” said Sr. Margaret Mary.

After Teresa Salinas Altuna’s nearly 46-year career at the mission, her loss is a great blow personally and professionally to all who knew her. However, the entire COS staff in Chimbote, as well as the board members in Pittsburgh, remain committed to continuing her legacy by serving the community of Chimbote as faithfully as Teresa did during her lifetime. Pictured are Teresa, Sr. Margaret Mary Birchmeier, and Sr. Lillian Bockheim.

“The economic help is essential but the moral support… just the fact that they know people have called, they’ve checked… they feel like they’re almost members of the family. It gives them an inner tranquility that somebody cares. I think that’s why they [our health care and support staff] can so give of themselves the way they have given in these last months here.” -Sr. Margaret Mary

Through all the quarantines, the shutdowns, “We never stopped working,” said Sr. Lillian of the employees.

During these months of the pandemic in 2020, Covid took the life of Teresa Ruth Salinas Altuna, Medical Director for the Center for Social Works. The loss and the grief of this special person, in July, has had a profound impact on everyone. “The money is needed to do the work we do… but the spirit of love and giving has meant just as much,” said Sr. Margaret Mary.

We invite you to view the video below to take a virtual visit to Chimbote and learn more.

Both Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids and the Chimbote Foundation enlist support for the critical mission work of Sisters Lillian and Margaret Mary and their dedicated team. Whether you make a gift to DSGR or to the Chimbote Foundation, be assured your support is sustaining life-giving services on the ground in Peru. Thank you.