LATIN AMERICAThe Community Refrigerator
Father Antonio MARIANGELI, Provincial of Argentina-Chile, shares with us a letter from Pamela Luján Zilli (Caritas Volunteer), from the Parish of Our Lady of Luján in Santa Fe, Argentina.
"Community Refrigerator” & Our Lady of Luján
The "Community Refrigerator” began when Father Pablo FUENTES suggested to the Caritas Volunteers a project known as "Mary’s Refrigerator.”
There are eleven of us who get together seven days a week to offer a meal to persons living on the streets. We follow the parish schedule. It is a daily task that requires patience and trust in the Lord. We soon realized that it took a daily effort for those of us who could offer this service. Some volunteers stopped coming because they were unable to do it or they did not feel able to be with those who came to our door.
Father Pablo FUENTES, OMI
Personally, I am where I want to be… According to Pope Francis, hearing the cry and the needs of the poor and responding concretely is not a task reserved for the few. The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and love of humanity, hears the cry for justice and wants to respond to it with all her strength. In this context, we understand the demand of Jesus to his disciples: "You give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37.) It’s a simple, everyday gesture of solidarity with the very concrete sufferings we encounter.
In particular I believe and am left with this: "Love my neighbor as myself.” So we learn to see ourselves in them. We overcome every obstacle: fatigue, anger, disagreements. All that passed when we started receiving what we are giving: love.
We give of ourselves as we are, always going out of ourselves, to be the bridge, the instrument, every moment learning and growing, not asking but only listening.
Often, we find ourselves without the main thing, food; many divide a plate into three so that no one goes away without anything. Some of us come crying, sad, looking for the right words to tell them that there is no food and seeing uncertainty in their faces. Many others come joyfully, knowing that if our refrigerator is empty, it will fill up again, because we are beginning to get food from the parish community. We look at Padre Pablo and together we say: "These things belong to Mary!”
Parish of Our Lady of Luján in Santa Fe, Argentina
It is also an opportunity to tell, especially to the young street persons, who she is and what she is called: Our Mother, the Virgin of Luján, who protects them and who opens her doors to those who have so many doors closed in their faces. "And who is it in that painting that looks down on them, with such a strange look?” And then we find ourselves leading them to prayer, telling them that it is the paining of Saint Eugene and that he is not bothered by them; like Jesus, he looks upon them and also listens to them.
Mary’s Refrigerator is their place and their opportunity to be heard in their many needs. They learn that a "Good morning” and the joy of being welcomed help them to forget and to be healed, even a little, of the cold they experienced the previous night.
On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall near Les Anglais in southwestern Haiti as a Category 4 storm. As a result, Matthew left billions of US dollars in damage over 600 dead. The winds and floods destroyed thousands of homes as well as the crops of the people.
The Oblate Provincial of Haiti, Fr. Loudeger MAZILE, was in Rome for the General Chapter at the time of this disaster. He and other Haitian Oblates in Rome made sometimes futile attempts to be in contact with their homeland, their brother Oblates and their families.
News has finally confirmed that all of the Oblates are unharmed personally, but they, like the people they serve, are victims of the terrible storm.
Below is a list of damage sustained by places where the Oblates serve the poor in Haiti:
· Camp Perrin: St. Anne Parish church was severely damaged; the pews were damaged after the roof collapsed. The parish hall is in a critical state.
· Camp Perrin: Holy Angels Parish lost the entire church and rectory roofs.
· Les Cayes: Our Lady of Grace Novitiate lost its radio antenna and many trees are down.
· Charpentier: St. Michael Church had two sides of its roof damaged by fallen trees and the infirmary is severely damaged.
· Mazenod: The Oblate Minor Seminary chapel, gymnasium, dormitories, and conference rooms all suffered major damage. All trees are down and barred entrance to the property
· Port-Salut: The parish church was completely destroyed (only the bell tower remains)
Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti in this time of suffering and loss.
These are comments of Father Javier ÁLVAREZ LODEIRO, superior of the OMI Mission, made a few weeks prior to the October 24, 2016, announcement that the Holy See will try to act as mediator in the process of searching for a lasting peace in that conflicted country. Because the situation is so volatile, things could change day by day. This is the testimony of an Oblate on the scene and it tells of the tensions and the difficulties our Oblates there face each day.
Waiting and discouragement. These two words could define the situation in Venezuela, given the rapid worsening of the situation. In less than a year, we are living an enormous crisis, already foreseen, but now present in every home. Food is scarce; it is difficult to find any and on top of that, the prices are exorbitant. If in 2012, a kilo of Cachama (a river fish) cost 20 bolivar, in 2014, it reached 200. At the end of 2015, it was going for 800 and today, this typical product of my area costs 2000 bolivar per kilo. If we consider that the minimum wage is 15,000 bolivar, one can well imagine the situation. Furthermore, medications for the most common illnesses are lacking, not to mention the more serious cases. Illnesses become worse because of a lack of medicine. Everything is becoming difficult. And the worst is yet to come.
Looting is a forerunner of societal collapse that, thanks be to God, for now has not shown its face. In some places there has been looting and clashes with the military: from Cumanà, recently we have had reports of repression after the looting that devastated the city. The media do not report it, but fellow priests speak of many deaths. They arrested more than 400 people, crowded for days in a shed, without water or a bathroom...
In the midst of discouragement in the face of an untenable situation, the only hope is a change of government through a referendum, to be accomplished before the end of 2016, because if they do it in 2017, the government would pass into the hands of the vice-president and nothing would change. If we miss this occasion, the pressure cooker which is Venezuelan society would explode, with a trail of pain and violence, in a country where the murder rate is higher than in any other country, including Afghanistan.
Our communities are found in different areas. In Santa Barbara, we live in a rural village and that resolves in part the food problem, thanks to the being in the country. San Cristobal is near places where there are vegetable farms, and from those, in general, you can get something. The situation of the community in Catia is more serious: they lack food and water and they do not have access to the sources of produce. Furthermore, the crime level is greater in the areas near Caracas, considered the most violent city in the world.
The Oblates are committed to being with these people, helping them to overcome the general discouragement and offering them hope and faith in the Lord who walks with his people. We are not in a grave situation, although we suffer with the neediest, victims of a great lack of food. But the shadow of a societal explosion that would have unforeseeable consequences is already on the horizon. What happens next will be determining in this long agony of the country.