The Church in Venezuela is losing faithful


Hector Pereira |

Caracas, Nov. 15 (EFE).- There are 622 young people in priestly formation in Venezuela and not all of them will be consecrated at the end of the eight years of study, but even giving cassocks to 100% of the students would cover the 1,136 parishes in the country where the Catholic faith is in decline, just like in the seminaries, today with depleted numbers.

Just six years ago, the 21 seminaries housed 1,425 future priests, a total that has been reduced to less than half due to a six-year economic recession and mass migration, which have also led to less crowded churches and empty prayer halls.

The predominantly Catholic Caribbean nation is no exception to the apostate trend seen across Latin America, the vast territory that has spent centuries praying to virgins brought by Europeans.

But faith resists like honey and still sweetens dozens of young people who respond to God’s “call”.

A budding clergyman

Dixon Torrealba entered the Major Seminary of Maracaibo, in the state of Zulia (west), at the age of 18, the minimum age required. It is in this place that he eats, sleeps, is in his third year of studies and will leave, if his vocation accompanies him, in 2028, when he will be able to officiate masses in a country which, as one could s expecting it will be less Catholic than now. .

At the age of 20, he was immersed in philosophical courses prior to the “configuration phase”, during which he would immerse himself in theology for four years, according to the program approved by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela (CEV ).

Young people go to church at the Major Seminary of Maracaibo, in Maracaibo (Venezuela). EFE / Henri Chirinos

He is happy and talks with emotion about his current life -which includes prayers, sports, household chores, memorizing texts-, as well as when he projects himself into the future with his goal achieved, because -he underlines- “from a very young age” he felt “the inclination to religious life.

“One of the wonderful things that motivates me is to be an administrator of the sacraments (…) to be able to forgive, to bring reconciliation, to bring encouragement to those who need it,” the seminarian who invites young people to join the group. “the great work that the Lord wants to do”.

“God is calling, it is up to us to respond with great courage,” he said.

Dixon knows that there are fewer and fewer people interested in diocesan life and, precisely, this is one of the reasons that have fueled his vocation, aware of the “lack of pastors” that the Church of San Pedro, especially now, when people “thirst for God”.

In search of cures

The executive secretary of the Seminary Department of the CEV, Alexis Piña, explained to EFE that vocations are discovered mainly within families close to the Church, as well as through diocesan promoters and parish priests who know their flock. in each municipality.

The search for new priests, the priest continues, also relies on two minor seminaries, in which more than a hundred teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 are currently going through a process of discernment with the aim of clarifying their ideas and evolve into adulthood. consecration or not.

In Venezuela there are more Catholic temples than municipalities, an advantage for this belief when it comes to penetrating aspects of secular life, since it also controls schools, high schools, universities and centers of which are run by clerics and which serve to boost recruitment. potential remedies.

The Church loses faithful because of migration

“Many young people, including groups of young people committed to the Church, went to other places and it was a richness for these countries”, says the priest, referring to the seven million Venezuelans who emigrated these years – according to data from a UN platform – of the economic crisis that began to reverse at the end of 2021.

Of the 622 candidates for the cassock, just over 100 are young people who entered the major seminaries in October, where they are required to conform to the sacraments preceding the priestly order, that is to say to being baptized, having received First Communion and Confirmation, as well as having confessed before a priest.

Piña, with half a century of life – half of which “training the clergy” – believes that vocation is a “gift of God” that comes and will continue to reach the hearts of children “to do good in a community” .

The task is to help more young people turn their concerns into authentic paths to a life full of “the things of God”, he adds.


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