Many changes over the years

| October 11, 2010 | 0 Comments

Bishop Lee Piche said "Gracias" to the people of Jesucristo Resucitado parish for helping to make better priests of the Minnesota priests who served at the Venezuela parish. Father Greg Schaffer, left, who is pastor of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocesan mission, and Bishop Mariano Parra of the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana, listen. Photo by Bob Zyskowski / The Catholic Spirit

The spacious, modern church of Jesucristo Resucitado and attached parish center with its offices, meeting rooms, computer classroom, clinic, medical lab and dentist offices, are a far cry from what Deacon Chester Alcala saw when he first came to this part of Barrio Guaiparo in San Felix, Venezuela.

“Forty years ago this was jungle — none of this was here,” Deacon Chester said. “All there was here were turtles and snakes.”

Today, some 65,000 people crowd into 11 different neighborhoods in Jesucristo Resucitado parish.

The plot that was once jungle eventually was developed into a boxing gymnasium, and the lot next door served as a dump. Minnesota  Father Pat Ryan had a different vision for the land and developed plans for the church and parish campus when he served in Venezuela.

Programs for the people

As soon as he walked in the door of Jesucristo Resucitado Church, Father Dennis Dempsey was surrounded by Venezuelans who recognized their former priest. Father Dempsey was one of several priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who returned to the San Felix church to join in the celebration of its 40th anniversary Oct. 2. Photo by Bob Zyskowski / The Catholic Spirit

Jesucristo Resucitado pastor and St. Paul native Father Gregory Schaffer has been in San Felix for 12 years, building upon the tradition and the groundwork laid by the Minnesota priests before him and adding programs that the people said they needed.

Now, working with Father Thomas McCabe, the priests are in the midst of adding chapels in each of the barrios where Mass, meetings and classes of various kinds can be held to make it easier for people to practice their faith.

All along the way they carry on a ministerial approach that has been part of the Minnesota presence in Venezuela from the beginning: raising up lay leaders from among the people.

Laity carry the ball

Father Tim Norris gets a warm welcome back to Jesucristo Resucitado Church from parishioners who remembered his years ministering at the archdiocesan mission parish in San Felix, Venezuela. Photo by Bob Zyskowski / The Catholic Spirit

Still going strong is the lay-led marriage preparation program that Father Larry Hubbard started not just in one parish but in the entire Diocese of Ciudad Guayana.

A St. Vincent de Paul Society has been visiting the ill and the lonely, and now has a youth contingent that paints or cleans the homes of the bedridden and elderly.

Lay catechists, the Legion of Mary and active music groups make up an active parish, one of the third or fourth largest in the diocese.

Next on the agenda? An Internet café of sorts in the Campo Rojo barrio, a place to hold classes to teach people how to do research on the Internet and give them access to today’s cyberspace world.

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Category: Local News