The capital city of Caracas seems to have stood still in time, or gone back to the 1950s, where resources were scarce and poverty was a daily companion. There are old cars, barefoot and dirty children walking on the streets, many beggars, a crowd of street vendors selling trinkets, cigarettes, old things, and, to make matters worse, a lot of trash on the ground. Garbage is what you see the most in any neighborhood or on the city streets. And all this in the Federal District!
The saddest thing: the Venezuelan people are hungry. One of the basic needs, the daily concern of the people of the Bolivarian Republic, is the search for food. The government insists that everything is fine and everyone is happy to be Venezuelan and to live here. Throughout the city we see phrases that praise personalities and their actions and slogans that promise progress and development. What an illusion!!!
Our Dehonian confreres are not fooled by these lies. They are with people.
Our house is located on the outskirts, on the main road: El Cemiterio; it is named for the huge cemetery behind our house. A large, violent background surrounds our building, which includes the parish of San Michele Arcangelo and the school of theology.
Our religious brothers suffer with the people; they also eat little. There is no abundance. It is sad to see that people eat less so that they can eat several times a day. It’s sad to see the crowded and dimly lit buses, cars stopped on the roads because they are broken, endless queues to get petrol, police allied with the traffickers so that they can also support their families, many young people in prisons, many children alone in the streets.
Our parish has many families whose children have left the country. They left in search of a better life in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile. From there they send the little that they earn so that their relatives in Venezuela can buy cornmeal to make arepas (a type of cake) to eat with grated cheese. This is the main food of Venezuelans.
Despite so much sadness and suffering, the Venezuelan people don’t give up.
It is incredible seeing them look happy and joyful dancing and singing. I don’t think that I’ve ever prepared as well for Christmas as here. I celebrated the liturgy every day at 6:30 in the morning, listening to the typical Venezuelan songs sung from the heart. After Mass the people gather at the church door to dance and drink a hot chocolate with a piece of bread (which costs a lot, because they have little). This was the biggest Christmas present.
Being with our Superior General [who served in Venezuela for many years] and a group of lay people was also a unique experience. Carlos Luis is in the hearts of these people. For many years, families have opened their doors to the Catholic community to do excellent work in an environment where there are drug and violence problems. Many people have found the way of faith thanks to the work of our confreres! This is where Father Dehon wants us!
We are experiencing all of this in the context of the canonical visit of the Superior General. Arriving here on December 1, we visited the two communities of Caracas: the Seminary of Theology and Pastoral Ministry and the Seminary of Philosophy (with seven seminarians); then we visited San Carlos, Tinaquillo, Valencia and Mariara. We found zealous confreres concerned with the people, a potential that is a guarantee of the future for the region.
In Caracas, in the Dehonian parish of San Miguel, we participated in the ordination of two new Dehonian priests: Jackson José Caripa Torres and Luis Manuel Torres. Jackson is from Caracas and Manuel from Valencia.
It was a celebration animated by a chorus of children that was enjoyed by everyone. The Cardinal of Caracas, his eminence Baltazar Enrique, presided over the celebration. All of the confreres of the Region were present and many other priests from the dioceses also came. The two new priests will work in the parish and school of San Carlos.
The Superior General and I are very aware of the situation in the country. It is also very striking to see that here we have confreres who are not discouraged, despite the many difficulties.
I leave Venezuela with a heart that has been touched and with a huge desire to do something to change this sad reality. I hope that through dialogue with the confreres and many good people we will be able to undertake something. Also pray! We are already doing it and we will continue to bend on our knees asking Our Lady of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela, to look maternally at this suffering country.