Mission’s pastor and youth renew relationships with Minnesota friends

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Jackaline de Jesus Bompart, right, of San Felix, Venezuela, looks at some clothing Sept. 24 at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in St. Paul, as another Venezuelan visitor, José Antonio Brito, left, and Lou Wiggin of St. Francis/St. James in St. Paul observe. Bompart and Brito came with a group from the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado in San Felix, which also included the pastor, Father Greg Schaffer. They were here for most of the month of September to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the archdiocesan mission in Venezuela. Bompart and Brito both belong to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Venezuela, while Wiggin is the president of his parish's St. Vincent de Paul Conference. Photo by Dave Hrbacek

Eight teens and young adults dressed in bright colors walked through a store in St. Paul recently, looking carefully for clothing and other items.

The prices were dirt cheap, matching their economic status — dirt poor. Yet, that reality didn’t wipe away their beautiful smiles as they found treasures to take back home.

In this case, home is San Felix, Venezuela, home of the archdiocesan mission that is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The pastor of the parish, Jesucristo Resucitado, where the mission is located, is Father Greg Schaffer, who has brought a group of young Venezuelans to the archdiocese for the eighth time since he began serving at the mission more than a decade ago.

Despite distance and cultural differences, two of the Venezuelans, José Antonio Brito and Jackaline de Jesus Bompart, both 19, felt at home in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, which takes donated items and sells them at modest prices to the poor of St. Paul.

Brito and Bompart both are members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Venezuela, which was started there about eight years ago. They currently are attending college in Venezuela, where Brito is studying philosophy in the minor seminary in the hope of becoming a priest, and Bompart is studying civil engineering.

The shopping trip was one of many excursions taken by the eight Venezuelan youth, plus Father Schaffer, during their trip to the Twin Cities last month. They visited more than 10 parishes and schools, doing singing and dancing performances. Plus, they went to Valleyfair, the Mall of America, a Twins game and a cabin up north. It was part of an effort to develop relationships with archdiocesan Catholics and strengthen ties with the mission.

The visit to the thrift store also set up a reunion with Lou and Joan Wiggin, who have hosted Venezuelans at their home on eight different occasions, from 1998 to 2006. Seeing the visitors shop in the store rekindled memories of the month-long stays at their St. Paul home. They belong to St. Francis/St. James, where Lou is president of the parish St. Vincent de Paul Conference.

In Venezuela, Brito and Bompart are the face of Jesus to the poorest of the poor served by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which numbers about 20 youth and 11 adults. Every Saturday, members go to the homes of poor people to prepare and serve food, do household chores, talk and pray with the residents.

“This ministry is one of the things I’m very excited about,” Father Schaffer said. “We’re living it out as church, working together to serve the poorest of the poor wherever they may be.”

The group headed back to Venezuela Sept. 28 with Bishop Lee Piché, priests who served in the mission and Bob Zyskowski, associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit.

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Category: World Mission Sunday