Archive for category Making a difference

Letter from Father Greg

Dear Friends of the Venezuelan Mission,

I want to share with you how your support of the Venezuelan Mission is making a difference in the life of a young girl today, a family I have known for many years. Her name is Yoryelis Botaban. She is 14 years old and is being raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother, Noelia used to visit the sick at the public hospital every Saturday morning with other members of the Legion of Mary from our parish. Noelia helped me prepare for Mass at the hospital and if I was running late, she would lead the people in singing while they waited. She enjoyed visiting the sick and lifting their spirits with her positive attitude, warm heart and great sense of humor. Noelia is a woman of great faith and shares her faith and positive attitude with others.

Yoryelis Botaban

Yoryelis Botaban

About 10 years ago, Noelia witnessed the murder of her 17 year old son. He was called outside by a young girl and when he stepped out into his front yard, was shot by two gunmen waiting for him. He died in his mother’s arms. This was the second son Noelia had lost to the violence. This traumatic experience left Noelia unable to sleep at night and unable to walk. She was paralyzed from the waist down from the trauma. Dr. Luz Rodriguez visited Noelia at great length and helped find a psychiatrist for her. Noelia now sleeps better and gets around with the help of a walker supplied by our St. Vincent de Paul Conference. Over the last couple of years, she has slowly been able to return to Sunday morning Mass making her way up the hill with the help of her walker and then back down again afterwards. Yoryelis, Noelia’s granddaughter, has helped care for her and walk with her to Mass every Sunday.

Noelia’s daughter, Yoryelis’ mother, is mentally challenged. Noelia and her retired husband take care of Yoryelis and her mother on his pension check of $285.00 a month. They struggle to get by with food costs, medical costs and education expenses. We help this family through our St Vincent de Paul Conference.

Several days ago, Yoryelis came to Mass in the evening and asked to talk to me. She told me that she had received $500.00 worth of products to sell – AVON type products of lotions, creams, aftershaves and so forth. She was selling these products to raise money for much needed braces for her teeth. Last weekend, someone broke into their home and took all of the products she had and the money she had raised so far. Yoryelis’ family members paid for the products that were stolen but the amount was not enough for the braces. Thanks to your generosity and support, I was able to give her the money she lacked for the braces and she is off to have them put on. I feel very blessed to have been able to help this young girl and her family that have suffered so much and continues to struggle. Thank you! I hope someday you will be able to meet this wonderful family and have Yoryelis thank you herself for your help.

Thank you for your support of the Venezuelan Mission. Your prayers and support are making a difference in the lives of so many people!

May God bless you for all your kindness and generosity!!!

Fr Greg

Mother Teresa’s nuns bring love to Venezuela


Sister Laura Cecilia leads five other Missionaries of Charity in caring for those dying of AIDS and abandoned elderly men in a barrio in San Felilx, Venezuela. The sisters also teach children to help bring them up to speed to be able to attend regular school.

Sister Laura Cecilia’s face sparkles with the joy of life, perhaps not what you might expect from one who runs a hospice for AIDS sufferers and a home for abandoned elderly men.On the second day of our visit to the Venezuela parish where priests from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have served for 40 years, she and five other Missionaries of Charity made room for us Minnesota visitors in the tiny room that’s their chapel this morning. The perspiration dripped off our North American faces, but the heat and humidity — even at a 7  a.m. Mass — didn’t seem to phase the women who are following in the footsteps of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Bishop Lee Piche presided. He noted how much he appreciated being able to lead our prayer in English, since that’s the main language of Mother Teresa’s order and since he’s still working on his Spanish.

Afterward the bishop actually got along pretty well understanding the Spanish-speaking AIDS patients and “grandfathers” — that’s what the Missionaries of Charity call the abandoned elderly in their care — when Sister Laura Cecilia gave us a tour of their facility in a crowded barrio in San Felix.


A hospice full of life

The Missionaries of Charity have served the poorest of the poor there for 12 years now, and although death is never far off in the work the sisters do, the plant-laden inner court of the hospice is filled with the sounds of chirping parakeets, crowing roosters, clucking chichens and a parrot that says “Hola.” Grapes grow on vines draped above for shade, patients roll around in wheelchairs, and “grandfathers” are quick to wish you a “Buenas dias” and reach to shake your hand.

One even pulled a fast-one on our bishop.

Bishop Lee Piche offers a hand to stabilize a man walking in a home for abandoned elderly men. The bishop soon found he was the victim of a ruse: the man who appeared to be losing his balance was pretending, and when a Missionary of Charity called him on it, the sly senior winked.

An elderly man with a cane who was creeping along the inner pathway seemed to be losing his balance, and our ever-helpful auxiliary bishop reached out and steadied him, helping him walk until there was a place for him to get a hand-hold.

“He’s pretending!” Sister Laura Cecilia said. And sure enough, the sly old grandfather winked. He was just looking for attention, and he found the perfect sympathetic foil!


How can these nuns do it?

I couldn’t help but ask this smiling nun why she does what she does, caring for those that society can’t get far enough away from, taking in those even their families don’t want, and giving them all the love you would give to the person you loved the most.

“It’s for Jesus,” she said simply.

“I have realized that Jesus hides himself in the disguises of these gentlemen. Since I believe that God loves everyone, then God loves them, and that means they are of great value, even though society may not value them at all and shows them no dignity. It is such a privilege to help them recover that dignity.”

Of course, despite her smile, Sister Laura Cecilia said there are trying times in the kind of mission work she and her sisters do with the men, especially when they are dying and cannot be helped.

“Many times they get angry and depressed, and in their anger and frustration they throw things at you. And that’s when I remember what Mother said: ‘Love until it hurts.’”


Bishop Lee Piche and Father Thomas McCabe concelebrate Mass for the Missionaries of Charity in the sisters’ chapel in San Felix, Venezuela.


Missionaries of Charity, from several continents, sing at Mass in their chapel in San Felix, Venezuela.