Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Theology 2 in Venezuela #16

(By Stephen Villa)

Closing thoughts

It's hard to believe already. But it is just about time to go. Tomorrow afternoon, we fly to Caracas to spend the night, catching our US-bound flight to Houston then to St. Paul on Monday.

Whatever apprehensions we may have had prior to coming down here, they have all since vanished, and in its place, there are many many fond memories to cherish of the beautiful people that we have met, the breath-taking places we were able to visit, the delicious food that we were able to eat. There are also many insights that we have gained in terms of the universality of our Catholic faith, the theological notion of inculturation of faith, its ritual expression and catechetical formation, the role and function of the priest in the community, the role and function of the laity, the reality of poverty in a context outside of the US, the relationship of missiology and ecclesiology and evangelization. All of this -- and then some -- was jam packed into our short 2 week immersion into the Archdiocese's mission parish in Venezuela.

Besides the memories and the insights, all of which will prove themselves useful in our future priestly ministry, the other thing that we will be able to take home with us is a stronger sense of fraternity. There is something beautiful that can happen among seminarians (and priests for that matter) when they are sent away for a period of time from the normal regimen of seminary life. In our particular situation, we have been out of our normal comfort zones for the past two weeks, and correspondingly, our personal idiosyncrasies have become more easily observable than when we are at home at the seminary. Here, there are fewer places -- if any at all -- to hide from your brothers. We have lived in a tight community, where just about everything we did during the trip was done together. In a situation like this, it would be normal for tempers to flare a little more readily than they might back home. It would not be unheard of for a missionary group to endure a certain dynamic where tensions go unspoken, and where gossip acutely (though subtly) divides. Thankfully, this was not the case with our group. While each man sorted through this new environment in his own way, I got the sense that we, in turn, learned much about each other in new ways. We were able to utilize each others' gifts which were generously offered, but also we to be compassionate to each others' moments of weakness without using it against them. There was a general tone of "chevere" -- happiness -- among the group throughout the entire trip. And while some of are are looking forward to getting on the plane tomorrow, and while others will deeply miss this place, I think that we all agree that is was a positive experience for us -- not only theoretically, but personally as well -- in our continued preparations for priestly ministry. The only thing that would have made this trip even better would have been the company of our other classmates who, for a variety of reasons, had different summer assignments than the Mission Trip.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Theology 2 in Venezuela #15

(By Stephen Villa)

The relationship between the Church and the State here in Venezuela has given me lots to think about. There is definitely a different ecclesiological model at work here. One could describe the Church here as "mother" -- providing, or struggling to do so, for the needs of her children. It is not uncommon to find the Church meeting not only the spiritual needs but also the physical needs of the people (ie. via soup kitchens, temporary lodging, small medical facilities, small education opportunities, etc).

A new insight here is that 'poverty' is contra naturam in the sense that it inhibits a person to fully engage their potential or even to explore the full range of the human experience. Poverty seems to lock a person into a 'survival mentality' because the situation here oftentimes in grim. One must labor - and be peculiarly cunning about it - daily to make sure one is able to survive. And because so many people have been accustomed to such a life for so many year, and therefore not knowingof any other way of life, they seem to be somewhat content, or at least resigned, to their poverty.

I find myself somewhat enraged at the socio-economic situation here. It appears that there is plenty of money in the country due to the wealth gained by the export of oil and mining resources. Yet unemployment rates are high. I guess that, among the general population, there is a discontent about the way life is (though I hear it is an improvement of the situation several years ago) and it manifests itself in a number of aberrant behaviors. I suspect that at the heart of these 'pobres' is a certain reaction to a human potential that never had the chance to be. There are so many skilled and educated people that I have met, yet they are forced to settle for mundane jobs just so that they are able to survive because jobs are not presently available in their given field. Though they might not expressly articulate it as such, I would guess that there is a frustration at having been demoralized in a certain sense.

I also find myself deeply humbled by these people. For even though the socio-economic condition can be described as controversial, the situation has not tainted the inherent goodness of these people. Our ineractions with them have been honest and frank about life here in the parish; yet, while it is clear that these people know their situation is difficult, I have not sense an anger or an attitude of having been victimized. The people here have been genuinely warm and hospitable to the gringos (and the chino!). They are very patient with our poor Spanish-speaking skills. They are very willing to share with us the very best that they have, even though it might not be much.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #14

(By Alan Paul Eilen)

Day 11 (July 26, 2007)

Not surprisingly, we kind of slept in a little bit this morning – got up around 7:00 AM. We went as a group to visit Fr. Steve Woods parish in the city of Puerto Ordaz. He has a inner city parish and a German dog (Weimerheimer) named Humboldt, along with a Gato (Cat), who are kind of the mascots of the place. The cat has taken a vow of celibacy, whereas Humboldt has sired two litters of puppies that have been raffled off to raise funds for the parish. In the afternoon, Antonio drove us to the La Lloizna Park with our guide from the parish Enrico. This was a pretty cool park, what with a great view of the waterfalls of the Caroni River (similar to the one in this picture, which is actually of the Gran Sabana) and paths and stepping-stones across portions of the lake/river and the park. Unlike the other park (Cachamay), their was no zoo. Nonetheless, we say a near extinct small animal off the path, a tree snake and some bees – Michael irritated one to the point that he got stung. In the evening, we got together with a group from the barrio of La Laguna. We introduced ourselves (name, age, place of origin, diocese, and home parish) and sang songs (Mary did an operatic piece and Stephen sang with guitar his song: “Soul of Christ”. They both did a great job. Before saying ‘goodbye’ a young boy (@ 11 years old) played the drums with a couple of sticks – we all joined in a sang and clapped our hands. It was a nice visit. Oh, I almost forgot. Earlier in afternoon, before Mass at 6:00 PM, we were entertained with a children’s program of dance and song. They even got the rest of us out there, but I think we set back cultural relations a few decades with our bad dancing.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #13

(By Alan Paul Eilen)

Days 9 & 10 (July 24 & 25, 2007)

Well, that was a short nights sleep; I was up before the roosters. The reasons for this trip was to see the “Gran Sabana”, as well as to cross the border into Brazil, so as to buy some cross or crucifixes for some rosaries that the people of the parish are making. In fact, Fr. Schaeffer said that they are giving each of up a Rosary and Spanish edition of the Bible for a gift – wow! That’s very generous of them. Although, it doesn’t surprise me, everyone has been very hospitable toward us. In addition to the seminarians and Miguel and his two boys (Miguelito and Raphael) Mary (UST Student) and Juanny and Luz (2nd driver) joined us for the 8-12 hour trip – depending on the number of bathroom, waterfalls, food, or checkpoints we would stop at. Foolishly, I decided to ride in the back of the pickup for 45 minutes later that morning. I hadn’t put on any sunscreen and since the sun is quite intense at times down here, not surprisingly, I was a little red-faced, along with my arms. I felt it during the night and will have to take precautions (sunscreen, hat, umbrella) for the next couple days. Besides that, some of the roads and twists and turns and checkpoints were a little annoying. Once we got to the “Gran Sabana”, which took about 6-8 hours, the ride was more enjoyable. The ‘GS’ is basically a large and beautiful valley between the hills of Venezuela and goes on for about 140 miles. We saw a really cool waterfalls about ¾ of the way down – don’t ask me the name, but it was pretty cool. The other great thing about going south was that the temperature dropped about 10-15 degrees.

The guards or officials at the various checkpoints and gas stations were generally bored and not interested in looking us over too much, although at a few this wasn’t the case. Oftentimes, they commented on the Chino, who was riding with us (Stephen) or about the beer in the cooler. Once we got to the end of the ‘GS’ and the city of San Elena, some (Miguel and his two boys and Juanny and Jonathan and Michael) crossed the border into Brazil to buys some items. Those who didn’t have the ‘Yellow Fever’ shot and the yellow card indicating this were not allowed to go, unless you wanted to hang down there for 10 more days – no thanks! We found a decent hotel that night; had a late supper of ham and cheese sandwiches, etc. and hit the sack. I got up early to pray and to see some of the beautiful scenery before the sun got too hot. The ride back today amidst stopping at two waterfalls was long. We didn’t arrive back at our home base until about 9:30 PM. It was great to make the trip – even Omar Guanchez says that he has never been there – but nice to be back. 12-14 hour trips in a car are not as enjoyable as they were, say, 20 or 30 years ago. Miguel and Luz were troopers though – they were the one’s who drove – God reward them! The only downer of the trip was that we weren’t able to get to Mass on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #12

(By Alan Paul Eilen)

Day 7 (July 22, 2007)

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” My first Sunday in Venezuela was spent, first with people of “JesuChristo Resuscitado” parish. I was interested to see how many would come to Sunday services versus, say a “weekday” Mass. I was pleased to see that the church was about ¾ full for the 8:00 AM Mass. Later, in the afternoon, we went over to another parish to have a “Youth Mass” with bishop Mariano. Not surprisingly, it was a “high energy affair”. It was great to see all the young teens together. Of course, the good bishop had to single out the seminarians from the United States for recognition. Afterwards, one young lady (Karla) came up to a few of us to thank us for being there with them. We had a great time. That evening, we went out to a restaurant (Chinese food) with Father Schaeffer and a few of his teachers (catechists) from the parish. Even the waiters thought Stephen was Chinese – that has become a common and comical theme throughout our stay.

Day 8 (July 23, 2007)

“Monday, Monday” – we went on a cool boat ride with a few local people on the Caroni River and up to the Oronoco River. There is a definite visual difference the two at the point in which they meet. The Caroni appears much cleaner, whereas the Oronoco has a lot of sediment – a brownish color. We were delayed about 20 minutes in getting started, because the owner was out looking for the body of a young boy, who had supposedly drowned during the night or early morning, although the only thing he came back with was a big (@ 10 lbs.) fish – he was very happy. I gather that was the meal or ‘fish of the day’. Getting back to the boat ride, we went right up to beautiful waterfalls, which is part of the La Llovizna Park, which we will visit on Thursday.

This afternoon, we visited for 1-½ hours with Miguel Munoz (parish administrator), who talked about the challenges of running a parish in the diocese of the city of Guayana. With unemployment around 70-80% financial concerns abound. Yet, the people do what they can. Corruption amongst the government is not uncommon, as different officials come out to try to get their piece of the pie. Tonight, we are going to lay low, because tomorrow we head with Miguel and his two boys and a few others to drive down to the “Gran Sabana”, which is one of Venezuela’s revered National Parks, so we need to get to bed early, because we have to leave by about 5:00-5:30 AM.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #11

(By Alan Paul Eilen)

Day 6 (July 21, 2007)

Saturday is the day of the big Confirmation Mass for this parish. True to form Mass started about 9:45 AM, which was only 45 minutes later than it was scheduled. No big deal; one just goes with the flow. It was a very nice celebration; the bishop confirmed something like 70 teens. Afterwards, we headed over to the Rectory for lunch with Bishop Mariano. Guess what we had? OK, you don’t have to guess; it was chicken and it was very good. We had a nice visit and conversation with the good Bishop. He talked fairly openly about the Church in Venezuela and its relationship with President Chavez and the problems facing the local church in general (unemployment, poverty, healthcare, malnutrition, violence, etc.).

Later, in the afternoon, we went to the local zoo-park and saw some monkeys, no not, Michael, Stephen, Gregory, and Jonathan, but the real kind. Don’t ask me the kind of monkey – don’t know. In addition, we saw some parrots (Amazons and Macaws), some Crocodiles, Vultures, and a series of small waterfalls. In the evening we went to Mass with Fr. Tim in one of the barrios. Well, have a good day, bye for now.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #10

(By Alan Paul Eilen)

Day 5 (July 20, 2007)

Today, we finally got to do some work. We went over to one of the barrios where Galdys’ sister Magdalene operates a soup kitchen. Actually, it is right across the street from where Gladys and her family live, but more on that in a moment. I got to chop and slice carrots to put into a large kettle, which already had diced beets (or what looked like beets) in it. To this something called Yucca (sliced up, of course) was added. A jar full of mayonnaise was mixed in. Next, I helped with stirring some mixture of relish that was being heated on the stove. To this was added the Tuna that Gregory, Jonathan, and Steve, and later yours truly were breaking apart to remove any bones. At this point, I could ask: Where’s Michael. Well, the truth be told – Michael hates fish (doesn’t matter if it’s eating or cleaning them).

Our next foray was over to Gladys’ family home to meet her siblings. Well, I think that was part of it, but to see her brother’s prized roosters and an exhibition of cock fighting was the real highlight. Sure enough, there were people and chickens and roosters and chickn-sh__ all over the place. After a demonstration with some rookie roosters, he brought out El Capitan, aka, Mr. Nasty or the Terminator. His quickest win, decision, or kill was about 2 minutes - most matches last anywhere from 2 minutes to around 20 minutes. Mr. Nasty and I got along just fine, in fact, we even crooned (cock-a-doodle-doo) together. Obviously, this is legal in Venezuela, but not back home, even though I’m not na├»ve to think that it doesn’t go on in some back roads of the US. Just ask Michael Vick.

At lunchtime we met with Fr. Steve Wood (a former Maryknoll missionary), who is now incardinated into the local diocese. He told us about his 35+ years and his mission (we will visit there next week) and about the political situation. We finished the evening after Mass by going to a local barrio to visit with some of the leaders. I recognized one of the young men (He was up to SPS with the Venezuelans two years ago), who is trained in computers, but out of work. Unemployment is about 75% in the area.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Theology 2 in Venezuela #9

(By Greg Parrott)

Die XXIII Iulii, Anno Domini 2007
Festum S. Iacobi, Apostoli

Well, it has been over a week now in Venezuela and I'm not quite yet getting used to the cold showers in the morning. I think I can say I've adapted, but having gotten used to it? I'm not quite sure. (Might I also mention, however, that Father Laird did not pass up the opportunity of mentioning to us that he thinks some seminaries still recommend that their seminarians take cold showers.) Of course, my own method of adapting has been influenced by my previous life lessons as a lifeguard/WSI (Water Safety Instructor). Your body best adapts to a different temperature water by getting your head wet. It's far easier to get used to a cold pool if you just put your head under and stay under for a good long breath right away. So too with my showers here. Then, it's just a matter of forcing myself to put up with the rest of the shower until finished. Perhaps some things in life just are not meant to be gotten used to--for they somehow necessarily clash with that which is proper, in accordance with nature ("connatural"), fitting.

For example, poverty--a topic that has been thrust upon my consciousness even more intensely here. It is something to which a person can somewhat adapt. However, I really question whether one can get used to being poor. Though much of the routine may be the same, each day presents its own struggles, each day the body forces into the consciousness that not all of its necessities are being met, each day the surroundings of the heat, bloating from malnutrition, lack of education, near defenselessness and constant risk of violence, inability to find employment, etc... thrust upon one's consciousness the same fact: poverty is not fitting to a person. Perhaps a more likely thought for the one who lives in poverty, "This just isn't right." "I wish I didn't have to live like this."

And so cold showers it is for the time being. Consequently, I have decided that one of the first things I will do upon returning to the States is take a nice hot shower.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #8

(By Jonathan Sorensen)

Today we went on a boat tour of the Caroni and Orinoco rivers. Since it was a lump-sum fee, Father Greg invited many of the mass servers (monaguillos, in Spanish) along. For about an hour and a half, we toured the rivers, viewing the many waterfalls--up close!--as well as the confluence of the two rivers. Interestingly, one river is dark while the other is a light tan. Where the two rivers meet, there is a sharp line in the water that continues for several miles until the water from both rivers finally mixes. Check out Google maps:

The man who owns the boat took out a very large fish while he was out, something that any angler in the United States would be proud to catch, a mochoroca, I think.

We returned to the rectory for a lunch of native cuisine, fried chicken and french fries. Some made a run into town to withdraw money from the ATM and check out the pirated DVD's for sale. I think some of those movies weren't even in theatres when we left the States!

In the afternoon, we had a discussion about Venezuelan politics and the difficulties of running a mission parish amidst high inflation with the parish administrator, Miguel.

Finally, we had dinner and a little visit with Father Greg about missiology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Theology 2 in Venezuela #7

(By Stephen Villa)

In the few days that we have been here already, there have been some beautiful moments to cherish. One of them happened on the first night that we were here. We were visited by the local group of the St. Vincent de Paul Society who shared with us some stories of the work that they do among the poor people here amidst the 11 barrios within the parish boundaries. The work ranged from bringing food to the homebound, and changing diapers and doing house chores for the invalid. The members of the SVDP Society are not wealthy people in and of themselves, but they are so generous with their time and whatever few resources they have. One recounted a story that happened in her barrio not too long ago. A fire took out completely a house of a single mother with some children. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, but everything else was lost. This member of the SVDP Society gave to the victims of the house burning the clothes of her own children to the children who now had nothing else to wear. It was a beautiful example of how generous these people are even with whatever little they have.

Fr. Laird made a comment about how these people were the hands and feet of Christ for the poor here in the parish. With this thought in mind, I spent a good portion of a morning meditating on Mt 25, from which come our tradition of the Corporal Works of Mercy. In a place like this, where poverty is more visible to the eye (espeically mine, coming from the United States), this particular passage has been quite insightful for me here, especially when I hear stories like the above. It is as if the wounds of Christ crucified are still bleeding today, and the work of these people is like a balm to heal the wound that cannot be healed this side of the grave. It is very beautiful to see, and it has made me think more deeply at how I can give and serve in the way that I have seen these Venezuelan people give and serve.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #6

(By Allan Paul Eilen)

We had a beautiful Mass and visit afterwards with the MC’s. We introduced ourselves and heard about their ministry to men with aids. Afterwards, I went with Father Schaeffer and Maria (UST student) to the Police Academy graduation Mass. I sat with Maria and a woman (cantor) and man (guitarist) who were heading up the choir. This woman had a beautiful and strong voice. Maria sang an “Ave Maria” solo after Communion. The most interesting aspects of this Mass were the fact that some of the officers were wearing guns, some were chewing gum, some were talking on cell phones, and some were filming different parts during the Mass. Not surprisingly. The “Sign of Peace” turned into a free-for-all. Father says that he has to just continue with the Mass in order to keep control of the situation. As part of the offertory, a number of couples brought up the gifts: 2 bottles of wine, a fruit basket, a basket of bread, etc. This was given to Father as a gift to take with him afterwards. I’m glad I went along, because it was good to see how they celebrated. Today, after lunch, we went with Father Norris to the Wake Service for the young teen who was shot. It was good to be there, but very touching to see the Family mourn the death of their son and brother. This funeral was similar but much more emotional than the one yesterday. Our visit with Father Matia Camuna (He is a friend and supporter of President Chavez) was cancelled due to an emergency call that he received to go out of town. We will try to re-schedule for later in our visit. Instead, we used the time to go with Father and a couple young girls (daughters of people who work in the office) to go grocery shopping and to visit their Mall. Upon returning, we met Doctor Luce (she is the Doctor for the Mission). We will try to go with her on some house calls before we leave. After Evening Prayer and Mass, we had dinner with Father Schaeffer. The rest of the evening was free.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #5

(By Allan Paul Eilen)

Today, after breakfast and Morning Prayer, we got a tour of the parish. Afterwards, we toured some of the different barrios with Fr Schaeffer. Sadly, at one of the visits we learned of a shooting the night before that killed the godchild of one of the female leaders in this particular barrio. The wake service will take place tomorrow. After lunch, I went with Fr. Tim Norris for a wake service of an elderly woman (94 years old) who had recently died. I assisted Father at the service, which was in the home of the family. There were about 30 or 40 in attendance. Because they don’t embalm the body, they have the service usually within a couple days of the death. The top half of the casket is open and covered with Plexiglas in order to view the upper torso. The woman looked rather peaceful. All told, the service lasted only about 20 minutes. Father initially expressed his condolences to the family before gathering all together for the prayers. Before leaving, he again expressed his sympathy and promise of prayers. In the afternoon, we had a bus tour of the cities of San Felix and Puerto Ordaz. Our mission is located in the city of Guayana, which is a sister city to San Felix. After Evening Prayer, Mass, and Dinner, we were to visit with the people of the Barrio of Guaiparito, but this was cancelled due to the fact that this was the barrio where the young 15 year-old born was shot and killed. There were rumors that a young child was injured as well, but I will have to confirm this maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we have Mass with the Missionaries of Charity at @ 7:00 AM.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #4

(By Greg Parrott)

Die XV Julii, Anno Domini 2007
Dominica XV per annum

With a departure time of 5:00 pm, each of the missionaries (a truly appropriate term, if one considers its etymology) had the opportunity to make this Sunday a true dies Domini, both fulfilling his Sunday Obligation and then making it a day of resting in the Lord. Yet, Divine Providence (for one reason or another) had in store even more rest for this missionary group. Having been chauffeured to the Lindbergh terminal by Misters Doug Pierce and Jim Lannan, the group quickly learned of inclimate weather in the Houston, TX, area which caused the cancellation of their flight until the following day at 7:10 pm. Instead, the went their ways until 6:30, at which point they came together again to say Evening Prayer and go to a Spanish-esque dinner. At 6:50, one of them ran up to knock on the good Father Vice Rector’s door to find out whether he was coming. He had only been catching up on lost energy and sleep from his other travels and missionary work this summer. . The group finally prayed and then went out to have some exquisite, authentic Hispanic food—Chipotle’s; okay, perhaps not so very authentic. Nevertheless, with a good meal, good conversation and one extra night’s rest, the group was well-prepared for the departure the next day. And in fact, this second time the flights went as planned—for the most part. A little delay to Houston, a little ahead in Caracas, a little too long in Caracas so a later flight to Puerto Ordaz. All in all, pleasant travels and a happy arrival to begin the immersion.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #3

(By Greg Parrott)

Die XIV Julii, Anno Domini 2007
Memoria Sancti Camilli de Lellis, Presbyteri

Indeed, this is the day before our official immersion experience is to begin, but the preparations are often as important as any other day on the trip. In preparation, Saint Allan decided that he would relax for the evening and allow his soul to build up its “store” of peaceful nada, seeing as the next two weeks would flood his imagination with plenty of distracting thoughts—good thoughts, but distracting him from his contemplation. Filial Michael decided that since he would be traveling to a distant country with only God knows what possibilities lying ahead, he ought to spend his last evening with his parents; too, with his summer placement he thought this would be an opportune time to fulfill the fourth commandment. Companion of Christ Stephen traveled with his brother Companions to Faribault for their Lord’s Day celebration. Keeping in step with the natural rhythm of the spiritual practices of the Companions, he had one more evening of priestly fraternity before heading out on immersion. Jonathan and Gregory joined one of the SPM Archdiocesan deacons for an evening of culture by dining, going to the Orchestra to hear a performance of Ravel’s Bolero, and finishing by drinking to life, discussing the world’s most pressing issues.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #2

(By Michael Johnson)


We, Jon, Michael, Steve, Allan, and Gregory, made it down to Venezuela safely, and this is now the third day in the country...I think. We were to arrive a day earlier than we actually did but our flight to Houston was cancelled, thus pushing everything back a bit.

Venezuela is a beautiful country, with very warm people. We have not encountered any problems thankfully. We toured the city (Ciudad Guyana) yesterday which is comprised of two different towns, much like the Twin Cities, San Felix where the parish is and Puerto Ordaz. It is a city of differences. The parish, like most of San Felix is extremely impoverished. Trash litters the street, the roads have potholes and the electricity goes out often. We lost power last night for about 6 hours. Water stops working as well. The parish maintains a three day supply of water however. If the power or water stays off too long, the people riot on the bridges connecting the two cities burning tires and causing the city to stop completely. Then the government is forced into addressing the problem. Puerto Ordaz does not have any of these problems. While this side of the river is impoverished, the other side has considerable more wealth. Instead of broken glass on the tops of the walls surrounding each house, as in San Felix, the residents of Puerto Ordaz have electric fences.

Crime everywhere within the city is extremely high. We are not allowed to go out at night, nor go alone during the day. But truth-be -old none of us really wants to wander around too much. The first night we were here a 15 year old member of the parish and a baby were gunned down, the family was supposed to talk with us last night, but they are grieving the loss of two children. Today we attended his funeral, what more can be said aside from the fact that it was a terrible event which happens all too often down here, indeed most funerals that the priests down here celebrate are for homicides.

As for things we have done thus far. We have had lunch with the bishop, Monsignor Mariano, he spoke frankly with us about his vocal criticism of Venezuela’s president and his policies. Of Venezuela’s bishops, he is the most outspoken of Chavez’s critics. Bishop Mariano in turn is routinely criticized by Chavez for not being among the poor, being rich, and extravagant, yet the bishop visits and stays at the parishes and lives among the people. He really has no choice but to celebrate Mass with the people as the cathedral is not finished, nor will it be anytime soon by the looks of it. He will be coming back Saturday to celebrate confirmations at this parish. By the way, this parish (Jesuscristo Resucitado) has 60,000 people in it and only two priests. There are 5 chapels around the area in which they cover.

Theology 2 in Venezuela #1

(Administrator's note: The following series of blog entries are from electronic journals submitted by members of Theology 2, recounting and reflecting upon our current visit to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul/Minneapolis' mission parish, La Parroquia Jesuchriso Resusitado, in the diocese of Cuidad Guyana, in Venezuela. We have been sent here for a two week cultural immersion to practice our newfound Spanish skills, and to become better acquainted with the Archdiocese's mission parish and their pastor, Fr. Greg Schaefer.)

(July 17 2007 by Allan Paul Eilen)

Our group arrived in Caracas a little after 6:00 AM and waited for Fr. Schaeffer to arrive from Puerto Ordaz. He was excited to see us upon his arrival (@ 7:30 AM). The feeling was mutual. At this point, we visited for a little while before checking our bags in and getting our tickets for the flight to Puerto Ordaz. Since our flight wasn’t until 10:30 AM, we had time to get breakfast. Fr. Schaeffer treated us – I had a ham and cheese croissant, along with some fresh squeezed orange juice. Upon arrival in Puerto Ordaz, Antonio met us in his pick-up and we loaded everything and everyone, including Frs. Laird and Schaeffer in the back for the brief (10 minute) to the Mission, whereupon we met Fr. Tim Norris and Mary (a May graduate of UST, who is volunteering to teach music to the children for two months before she goes home to Long Prairie, Minnesota). In addition, we met the two women (can ‘t remember their names at this point) who will prepare our meals. The highlight was that Fr. Schaeffer called bishop Moriano, who came over immediately to join us for lunch (beef, salad, rice, etc.). We had a good visit with him (he brought his assistant and a seminarian with him). After saying “goodbye” for now and receiving his blessing, we got a quick tour before checking into our rooms to catch up on some needed rest – I probably slept for two to three hours. At 6:00 PM we gathered with their community for Mass and dinner (chicken, macaroni & cheese, salad – oh, and a cervaza) afterwards. After helping with dishes, we gathered with Fr. Schaeffer and a group of leaders from the local barrios to introduce one another and share some brief conversation about their work with the poor, before enjoying some cake, cookies, and Pepsi (No Coke!). I checked my e-mail, prayed Night Prayer with Fr. Laird and my brothers, before typing this journal and getting ready for bed. We worked out a prayer schedule for our time here as follows:

Morning Prayer: 8:30 AM (breakfast on your own beforehand).
Evening Prayer: 5:30 PM
Mass: 6:00 PM
Night Prayer: 9:30 PM
Buenos Noches!