By Renée Smith and Lara Pickford-Gordon
Parishes and communities throughout the Archdiocese of Port of Spain are opening their doors to support Venezuelan newcomers in their communities.
In Penal last weekend, the parish of St Dominic’s experienced an influx of migrants who appreciated their offers of hot meals, medical assistance and help with the government’s migrant pre-registration process.
The process was coordinated by Helen Salick and members of the parish’s Migrant and Refugee Ministry.
Parish priest, Fr Robert Christo shared the group’s structure is closely aligned to the Living Water Community and the Catholic Commission for Social Justice.
Catholic News learnt the young people of the parish were to be commended for their patience, commitment and charity as they were heavily involved in addressing the various needs of the Venezuelan migrants.
Eighteen-year-old, Seantelle Rajoon described her experience last weekend as a “life-changing one”. “I was quite emotional through it all especially seeing how many women who had babies were present. One male of the group I worked with was very thankful for what we had done for him and his family. As he spoke, he broke down in tears which brought me to tears. I think all in all, we should try to make them feel at home because they are all humans just like you and I.”
Adrianna Peters, 23, helped many of the visitors with their online registration and appreciated how her Form Five knowledge of Spanish came in handy. “Seeing the refugees on Sunday really broke my heart. I can’t imagine going through a situation where you have to uproot your entire life and move to a strange land. I felt happy knowing that I was able to assist in some small way,” she told the Catholic News.
While St Dominic’s is unable to open their doors 24/7, structures are being put in place to accommodate persons who visit and seek help.
In the Northern Vicariate, the third Spanish Mass was celebrated last Sunday at the Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin. Venezuelans came together to worship and also socialise as there was a sharing afterwards.
The migrant ministries of Nativity, St Finbar’s, St Anthony’s (Petit Valley), and St Peter’s (Carenage) came together to hold Masses for migrants and share non-perishable foodstuff and clothing.
Fr Harold Imamshah celebrated the Mass in Spanish but also gave English translations for the locals in attendance.
At the start of the liturgy, the congregation responded to Fr Imamshah’s rousing, sang and clapped along to the opening hymn Albaré a mi Senor – I will praise my Lord.
He shared that he has asked migrants, “Is it possible to remain with joy given the struggles in Venezuela? And they respond it is possible to continue in the Church with the sacraments, scripture and prayers”.
Spanish Masses took place in April and May at St Peter’s, where Fr Imamshah is parish priest. The next Mass will be hosted at St John the Evangelist, Diego Martin next month on a date to be announced.
In La Romaine as well, a school has been set up by the La Romaine Migrant Support group (LAMS) for Venezuelan children at St Benedict’s RC Church parish hall with the blessings of Msgr Christian Pereira.
The school began on March 25 with five children, but now houses about 50 children from the ages of three to thirteen. There they are taught basic literacy, numeracy and socialisation skills.
Learn more on how your parish can support migrants and refugees by downloading the Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees Toolkit