Success Story: A car for the Franciscan missionary seminary

It was 37 years ago when the Conventual Franciscans first came to Venezuela. Ever since then they have been engaged in a richly blessed ministry, here in this South American country on the southern shores of the Caribbean. They work tirelessly in the parishes, bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the faithful. However, in some regions there is still a considerable amount of pagan superstition, lingering alongside the Catholic piety. This is mainly due to the fact that the people are still poorly instructed in their Catholic faith. The Franciscans are striving to teach them what it really means to be children of God.

At the same time, on the material front also, the Franciscan Fathers and their co-workers are bringing help and hope to many people in the slum quarters of the cities and towns. Filled with the strength of the love of Christ, they support the homeless, the young and the hopeless in very practical ways, giving them new courage. Alcoholism, domestic violence, broken families, drug addiction and crime – all these things are daily realities there in the slums. And yet the worst thing is not the material poverty, but the spiritual and moral dereliction.

Many young girls fall pregnant while still very young – as young even as 12, 13 or 14. Sometimes they do so in the hope of escaping the domestic chaos at home and finding love and security with a boyfriend who is sometimes no older than the girl herself – though in many cases considerably older in fact. But then they find themselves with a child, and afterwards the poverty and desperation can be even worse than before. Often by the age of 20, they end up with several children from different fathers, and these poor little ones then have to contend with yet another “stepfather” who has no time for them and even sometimes abuses them. The Franciscans have set up a centre for these children where they can play in safety, do their school work in peace and simply be children.

Venezuela has an aggressively socialist government, which makes many difficulties for the Church and obstructs her work wherever possible. Hence, despite the fact that well over 90% of the population is Catholic, the Church has to fulfil her mission in difficult circumstances. But nevertheless, the order of the conventual Franciscans can rejoice in numerous local vocations. Since 1990 the Franciscans have been running a missionary seminary, where young men from all over the country are currently training for the priesthood.

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to give 7,250 Euros so that the Franciscans could purchase a secondhand car for all the many activities of the seminary. This was very much needed, not only for all the everyday journeys and purchases of food and equipment, but also for the missionary activities in the parishes, in which the young seminarians are fully involved. The rector, Father Franklin Duràn, has now written to express his heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors: “You are for us what our Franciscan Rule describes as “spiritual friends”. Your kind hearts, your generosity and your support are an enduring message of encouragement for us and of perseverance and fidelity towards those whom we have promised to protect and to make known to them Jesus of Nazareth and his Gospel.”