On Thursday, January 3rd, Fr Michael O’Connell, Director of the MSC Missions Office in Cork, embarked on a three-week visit to Venezuela, where he will visit MSC parishes and spend time with the communities who benefit from the care of our missionaries.
Venezuela is currently in the grip of the worst political, social, economic, and humanitarian crisis ever experienced in the country’s history, and local people struggle daily with extreme poverty and hardship. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart first started their work in this deeply troubled country over 50 years ago, when four Irish MSCs began the first MSC mission in Maracaibo, and today, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are the only Irish priests working to bring relief to local communities who are trapped in the dreadful conditions brought about by the current social and political unrest.
The situation has become increasingly worrying in recent years. Former Irish Provincial Leader Fr Joseph McGee MSC was greatly affected by his trip to Venezuela in 2017. “The most difficult thing I witnessed was seeing people scavenge in the rubbish heaps for scraps that have burst through the overflowing rubbish bags and appear to be edible,” he recalls. “People are doing all they can to leave the country and start a new life”.
In October 2018, we reported that Pope Francis had encouraged the Venezuelan bishops to “stay close to the people of Venezuela, especially to those who are suffering,” while Simon Coveney, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed the “serious, volatile, and rapidly deteriorating situation,” where “reports of human rights violations are a cause of real concern”.
Having marked 50 years of ministry in Venezuela in the summer of 2017, the our MSCs continue to do all they can to help vulnerable families affected by the ongoing crisis. On this trip, Fr Michael is travelling with an extra suitcase filled with essentials for local families who are enduring the consequences of hyperinflation, which has pushed the cost of necessities sky-high – far beyond the reach of parents who don’t know where their children’s next meal is coming from. His case is packed full of supplies including toothpaste, soap, nappies, and other basic hygiene products – everyday items that we might not think twice about using, but which will be very welcome to families who have very little.
Be sure to check back in the coming weeks, as Fr Michael continues on his travels and keeps us updated on the MSC Venezuelan mission.