LURIN, Peru (CNS) -- In 1975, Msgr. Joseph Hirsch spent a month living in Lima's slums as he backpacked through South America. Now he's back in Peru, working to prove a man he met that year is a saint.continue at CNS
But proving a man is a saint is no easy job, and it will take years of interviews, investigation, paperwork and prayer.
Father Joseph Walijewski from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., diocese died in Peru in 2006, after 35 years of serving the country's poor. On March 19, his sainthood cause was launched in La Crosse.
"Even if it takes 200 years to canonize him, I think his story is something that can impact us today," said Msgr. Hirsch, who is also from the La Crosse Diocese.
When young Msgr. Hirsch met Father Walijewski, the older priest was working in Villa El Salvador, a Lima slum. He dreamed of starting an orphanage to help the abandoned and abused children he saw daily.
In 1985, Blessed John Paul II visited Villa El Salvador. Father Walijewski shared his dream with the pope, who donated $50,000. Father Walijewski named the orphanage Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II.