Venezuela is currently in a state of profound economic and political crisis. Galloping inflation has turned many everyday commodities into unaffordable luxuries. The water supply is inadequate in many areas, the medical care system has virtually collapsed. Insecurity and violence are everywhere and the murder rate is rising.
In the diocese of La Guaira in the north of the country there are 14 religious sisters from various different congregations who are helping to care for the needy population, along with two permanent deacons and two deacons training for ordination to the priesthood. Family breakdown is increasingly widespread, with many children left to their own devices and old people with no one to care for them. The crisis is driving more and more people into a state of apathy and despair. Disillusioned and embittered, they no longer have the strength to hope or to care lovingly for one another. The result, once again, is an increase in violence, drug addiction and crime.
And so there is plenty of work for the sisters and the deacons to do. They care for the elderly and for orphans, run a midday meal service for children who have no one to care for them at home, run a charity clothing store for the poor and care for the sick. Above all important, however is their pastoral work, since through it they are bringing light and hope to the hearts of the people. So they are proclaiming the Good News to the children and young people in the catechism classes, taking Holy Communion to the sick, leading Bible study groups, running day retreats and going out visiting the remotest villages. They are also training lay catechists who can prepare people in the parishes for the sacraments and explain the Word of God to them. All of this work represents a vital contribution to helping the people escape from the vicious spiral of despair and hopelessness.
Needless to say, however, the sisters and the deacons themselves are profoundly affected by the economic crisis. They too have to struggle for their daily bread, for vital medical care and for the essential tools they urgently need for themselves and for others.