South America – Pastor in Venezuela still learning about patience, generosity

| October 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

Father Greg Schaffer

Father Greg Schaffer, 46, grew up in St. Paul and attended St. Pascal Baylon Grade School and St. Ber­nard’s High School.­ His parents are parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle in St. Paul, which is his home parish. After completing studies at St.  John Vianney Seminary and St. Paul Seminary, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1994 and served at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood. In 1997, he was assigned to the archdiocesan mission in Venezuela and is currently pastor of Jesucristo Resucitado parish in San Felix.  

Tell us about who or what inspired you to start doing missionary work.

My uncle, whom I was named after, Msgr. Gregory Schaffer, also grew up in St. Paul at St. Columba parish but was ordained for the Diocese of New Ulm. He has been the biggest inspiration for me to serve the Lord and his people as a missionary priest. My uncle has served the people of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, since 1963. I always admired my uncle as a very kind and intelligent person and always enjoyed listening to his stories about working in Guatemala as I was growing up. During my first visit to his mission in 1979 with a group of seminarians from St. John Vianney Seminary, the Lord touched my heart with a great love for the missions and a genuine interest in the priesthood.

What have you learned from the people you work with or serve?

The people of my parish have taught me a lot about being patient. Growing up, I always thought I was a patient person until I came to minister here. Living in an environment where the power often goes out, computer servers regularly go off line, traffic laws are rarely enforced, high unemployment is chro­nic, which results in poverty, violence and delinquency among the youth, I really struggle at times with being patient!

The people demonstrate great patience as they wait in lines to buy basic foods like milk and cooking oil, endless lines at the banks or to sign up for classes at the universities. They show patience while in traffic as others are driving on the sidewalk to get around the traffic jam or trying to cut in ahead.

I hope I can bring the love of Christ and a sense of hope through the sacraments.

Through the generosity of many individuals in the archdiocese and generous parishes like St. Joseph in Waconia, we are able to respond to some of the physical needs of the people through the parish’s soup kitchen, dentist office, medical clinic, St. Vincent de Paul’s outreach of food and medicine, scholarships and emergency assistance.

But most important, our presence here is about bringing God’s love to the people, which is experienced most perfectly through the sacraments.

Gladys Brito, 41, has two children — Angelo, 21, and Andreina, 20. She is the accountant for Jesucristo Resucitado and organizes all the visits of the groups that visit the mission from Minnesota. She has been a catechist in the parish for more than 25 years and has worked closely with the priests.

Tell us about how you have helped a missionary serving in your country.

Whenever we receive a new priest from Minnesota to work in our parish, I always help them to learn the Spanish slang we speak here and help them write their homilies. I help them pronounce the words in the Gospel readings. It took Father Greg many years to be able to pronounce “sepulcro” (grave) and “murcielago” (bat).

The new priests always need help finding their way around our barrios and learning where everyone lives. Giving them driving directions is always challenging because “derecho” means straight ahead and “derecha” means right turn, and they get the two words confused and they often are going straight when they should be turning.

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Category: World Mission Sunday