Sister Aurelia Atencio

Current Ministry Location: Peru

Sister Aurelia, entered Maryknoll on September 24th, 1966 from the St.  Therese parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She made her First Profession of Vows on July 27th, 1969 and her Final Vows on March 11th, 1979, both in Peru.  Sister Aurelia was assigned to the Bolivia-Peru Region in July 1968.  For the first six months after her arrival in the region, she was engaged in pastoral work and summer school for the children in Cobija, Bolivia.  After that, she was sent to Lima, Peru where she was involved in teaching English and Spanish on a part-time basis from 1968 – 1970.

Seeing a need for agricultural education in Peru, Sister Aurelia returned to the United States and enrolled in New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, NM.  She received a B.S. in Agriculture Sciences in 1974 and completed an M.S. in Agronomy in December 1975.

In 1976, Sister Aurelia then returned to Peru to live and work in the highlands (Altiplano) of Peru, which is 12,500 feet above sea level.  She taught courses and gave workshops in animal sciences, improved farming methods, and various forms of community organization in the Institute of Rural Education in the Juli Prelature.  At that same time, she began studying the Aymara language.  From 1982 – 1983, there was a severe drought; as a result, Sister Aurelia was involved in emergency help projects in the Juli Prelature.  Since potatoes were the staple food in the area, she started a seed bank for potato seeds to help communities who lost their crops and needed seeds for the following growing season and recover their production capabilities.  This project continued to help farmers who suffered losses from drought, frost or other climatic conditions until 2010.  In addition, she was also part of a team that offered courses in community organization during disasters.

From 1984 – 1992, Sister Aurelia lived and worked the in the Pilcuyo district with Aymara peasant communities, and she was a very active member of the Rural Pastoral Team.  From 1993 – 1996, Sister Aurelia gave Congregational Service at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in N.Y.  She also worked in the Development Department in Data Processing, Communications and the Photo Lab.

In 1996, Sister Aurelia returned to Peru and worked in Pilcuyo with the same Rural Pastoral Team which happily welcomed her again.  In 2000, Sister Aurelia moved to Vilquechico where she lived and worked with Aymara peasants in the farmlands of the Altiplano.  Along with the potatoes, she embarked on a new project, introducing the production of quinoa, a rich source of protein to improve the diet of the people and promoting green houses for vegetable production.  Sister Aurelia continued to live and work in Vilquechico among the Aymara peasants, close to “Pachamama”, Mother Earth, accompanying them in their daily struggle until 2005.

In 2005, Sister Aurelia was assigned back to Pilcuyo where she continued to work in agriculture and rural pastoral ministry.  During this time, with the Agriculture Committee of the Juli Prelature, she worked in raising awareness on environment issues, as well as alerting farmers to transgenic crops (GMOs).  From 2010 – 2013 Sister Aurelia also began working part-time in the office of Human Rights and Environment in Puno.  In 2016 she moved to the city of Arequipa and is currently involved in Campus Ministry in the Catholic University and collaborates with an agricultural program in Chiguata—a rural community of Arequipa.