Lent Heart to Heart Campaign Retiring This Year
February 20, 2020
DIOCESE—For the first time in 17 years, Lent will be a little different in the Rockford Diocese and in Peru.
This Lent, Rockford Diocesan children won’t be asked to decorate hearts with colors and messages to be shared with students just like them in the Diocese of Chulucanas, Peru.
That’s because the Heart to Heart program will be retired at the request of its beneficiaries.
Each year the Heart to Heart Program involved religious education students, Catholic school students and many families from across the Rockford Diocese contributing decorated double hearts along with $2 per heart to the program organized by The Junior Observer and the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. 
The hearts and donations were then sent to Bishop of Chulucanas Daniel Turley, OSA. Donations were used to purchase notebooks, pencils, crayons and ballpoint pens for Peruvian students. 
A decorated heart was placed in each notebook to connect the hearts of giver and recipient.
There are several reasons for the demise of the program and both are happy ones. In a letter received at the end of 2019, Bishop Turley wrote, “As I draw near the end of my episcopal service here in the Chulucanas Diocese, I feel that for several reasons it would be best to discontinue the Heart to Heart Program with the Chulucanas diocese. 
“I would like to mention that the Peruvian government has given much greater attention to education throughout Peru,” he continued. “Now every public school has text books available for the students. Our diocese only has four Catholic grammar-high schools. Two of the four have also received text books from the government.”
Bishop Turley went on to explain that “The government has made it mandatory that every worker would receive a special bonus in March each year to help defray the educational expenses of the children. This helps the parents to purchase the supplies for their children.”
“Finally, I feel that my retirement as Bishop of Chulucanas, which is coming close, makes this an opportune time to thank you and the faithful for the Heart to Heart Program which has been a very special blessing for our Peruvian children. 
“I also believe that the Rockford children have been blessed for having been so generous and so caring for the poor. What a great learning experience in Christ!” Bishop Turley wrote.  
Bishops submit their retirement to the Holy Father at age 75. Bishop Turley is 77 years of age.
Program’s beginnings
The program was born through a request from the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women to take on an international project. 
Rita Pesavento Prunuske, former news editor of The Observer contacted editor Penny Wiegert to help brainstorm.  The two, with the help of Deacon Thomas McKenna who was diocesan representative to Catholic Relief Services, David Hougan, diocesan director of Stewardship Development and Augustinian priest Father Richard Palmer, a Rockford native serving in Peru, decided to connect with the Diocese of Chulucanas. 
Father Palmer had explained that many children do not go to school because they lack supplies. And since most all schools at the time had textbooks for teachers only, the supplies were vital in recording their lessons and homework. And most families could not afford supplies. 
The Peruvian Diocese was an easy choice because the Diocese of Rockford already had a relationship with that diocese dating back to 1966 when a mission program began there through an agreement between Bishop Loras Lane and Bishop John McNabb of the Diocese of Chulucanas. 
Thus began the Heart to Heart program that would be co-sponsored by The Junior Observer and the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for nearly two decades.
Through the program more than $80,000 was donated $2 at a time to help educate Peruvian children. 
“I think helping our mission diocese in this way is part of a great legacy for the Diocese of Rockford. I was very honored to work with Bishop Turley and Rita on this program,” said Wiegert.  
“Bishop Turley is so very engaged with the concerns and needs of the people in his diocese. I am so grateful he shared this opportunity with us these many years. And Rita was very passionate about this program especially since it involved some of her great loves — children and education,” Wiegert added. 
Pesavento Prunuske died Dec. 27, 2019.
“Because things are better and our charity is no longer needed are great reasons to end the Heart to Heart Program,” Wiegert said. “The work may be complete but our prayers and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Peru will remain.”
— Observer staff