Visiting bishop shares state of affairs for Venezuelans

| October 9, 2014 | 0 Comments


When word gets out that a delivery of food or other consumer goods is coming, Venezuelans don’t hesitate.

“People start waiting in line at the grocery the night before,” said Bishop Mariano Parra. “The rector of the seminary asks seminarians to go wait in line early in the morning.”

Shortages of basics such as rice, sugar, powdered milk and toilet paper are plaguing his country, according to Bishop Parra, who leads the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana, the diocese in which the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis serves the mission parish of Jesucristo Resucitado in San Felix.

“Our problem now is with the economy,” said the bishop, who was in Minnesota last month and gave an update on the status of life in his country to employees of the archdiocese in St. Paul.

Bishop Parra and Father Gregory Schaffer, the St. Paul native who is pastor of Jesucristo Resucitado, pointed to the socialist policies of the late Venezuela President Hugo Chavez — including the nationalization of multinational corporations and take-over of farmland — as the cause of the economic downturn and shortages.

“Chavez was like King Midas in reverse,” Bishop Parra quipped.

The poor economy is a factor in high unemployment, violence and high crime rates.

When food is available, gangs take what they want first, members of the military take what they want, and the rest of the people get what’s left, Father Schaffer said.

He noted that makers of replacement parts for automobiles refuse to sell their products in Venezuela, which leads to crime.

“There are no car parts coming in to the country,” Father Schaffer said, “so, if you need a battery, you steal one.”

This situation has a demoralizing effect on Venezuelans, Bishop Parra said.

“We have to give them hope, but it’s very hard. Our young people say, ‘We don’t have a future in this country.’

“I have five nephews — three live in Canada, one in Miami and one in Chile — because they don’t see a future in our country.”

However, people trust the Church, and the Church is working to respond to the situation through education, the bishop said.

“When you educate people and they know their rights, they know they have to help themselves,” Bishop Parra said. “They know they have to create a new society and a new way of life.”

The bishop continued, “Young people — almost all the youth in the country — are against the government, so they may change things in the future, but not now.”

In the poor barrios of San Felix, Father Schaffer said he values teens because of the life and enthusiasm they bring to the community.

The parish holds classes for the many single mothers, and he encourages young men to take advantage of the technical school at a neighboring parish to learn skills such as air conditioning repair — valuable in a country with 90-100 percent humidity and average temperatures of 80-to-100 degrees.

People’s spiritual needs are also being addressed.

The Diocese of Ciudad Guayana has put in place a rigorous sacramental preparation program that is completed only after a lengthy number of years, Father Schaffer explained.

“The emphasis is to put a young person on the way in a life of faith,” he said, “not just to receive a sacrament.”

For more information about the archdiocese’s Venezuelan Mission, visit


Take the quiz

What do you know about the archdiocesan mission parish in Venezuela?

For more than 25 years, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has staffed and supported a mission parish in the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela. Father Gregory Schaffer and Father James Adams from the archdiocese currently serve Jesucristo Resucitado Parish in San Felix.
Take the following quiz to test your acumen about the archdiocesan mission and the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana.

1. San Felix and Puerto Ordaz are the Twin Cities of Venezuela. Much like the Twin Cities in Minnesota, they are divided by one of the great rivers of the world. Is it the:

a. Amazon
b. Nile
c. Orinoco
d. Rio de Plata

2. In terms of geography, the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana is:

a. Exactly the same size as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
b. One-half the size of the archdiocese.
c. Three times as large as the archdiocese.
d. Twice as large as the archdiocese.

3. In terms of Catholic population, the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana is:

a. One-fourth the size of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
b. Exactly the same size as the archdiocese.
c. Twice as large as the archdiocese.
d. Half the size of the archdiocese.

4. How many parishes are there in the Diocese of Guayana?

a. 187
b. 34
c. 117
d. 67

5. How many priests serve the people of the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana?

a. 47
b. 77
c. 117
d. 157

6. Only 12 priests who serve in the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana are natives of Venezuela. The rest of the priests in the diocese come from how many other countries?

a. 9
b. 12
c. 26
d. 34

Scroll down for answers



















Answers1-c. Orinoco

2-c. Three times as large as the archdiocese.

3-a. One-fourth the size of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

4-b. 34

5-a. 47

6-b. 12

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