Bishop Jaime José Villarroel Rodríguez of Carupano – geographically the closest Venezuelan diocese to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, made a four-day pastoral visit to Trinidad August 22–25. On his second day, he journeyed to the Southern parishes of La Romaine, Penal and San Fernando to speak with migrants in those communities. Bishop Rodríguez later concelebrated a bilingual Mass. Parishioner Tricia Matthews-De Bique reports.
On Saturday, August 24 the worshipping community at the 6 p.m. Holy Mass at the Pro Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando were honoured to have Bishop Jaime José Villarroel Rodríguez of the Diocese of Carupano, Venezuela as the main celebrant.
Parish priest, Fr David Khan and Fr Alan Hall concelebrated this special bilingual (Spanish and English) Mass to which the Venezuelan migrant community was specially invited. Deacon Roy Raghunanan assisted. Members of the Hospitality Committee assisted in the execution of all the proceedings for the entire event.
Upon his arrival at the church compound, the Bishop was escorted to the Bishop Mendes Auditorium where he met and held informal discussions with those migrants present. Holy Mass followed promptly at 6 p.m.
At the start of the Liturgy, Fr Hall welcomed Bishop Rodríguez in Spanish as well as in English. The first and second readings were done in Spanish by Onelis Pérez Gálvez from Cuba and Terri Ragoonanan of St Andrew Kaggwa RC Church community, Vistabella, while Deacon Raghunanan proclaimed the gospel in English. The Responsorial Psalm and the Prayers of the Faithful were done in both languages.
Bishop Rodríguez preached the homily which was translated into English by Francisca Allard of St Andrew Kaggwa community. Bishop Rodríguez expressed heartfelt gratitude to Archbishop Jason Gordon, the Catholic Church community and the people of Trinidad and Tobago for all the assistance and support given to Venezuelan migrants.
He extended special thanks to Fr Khan. He likened the scenario in Venezuela to the words of St Paul to the Hebrews in the Second Reading (Heb 12:5–7, 11–13).
Bishop Rodríguez reflected that Venezuelans are experiencing something like a punishment. He identified their suffering as a tragedy beyond one’s imagination. He lamented that six million Venezuelans are living in a sad state as if in a concentration camp. Many are murdered and as much as 20,000 children died last year due to a lack of medication.
However, he reassured the migrants using the message of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading (Is 66:18–21) that God will return everything to Venezuela in time, but they must believe in God and have faith. He urged them not to give up and allow themselves to be overcome by the misfortune.
He expounded that the path of faith will help them to survive their troubles and stated that without faith and love of God, no amount of money will help them rise above their tribulations. He exhorted them to not be afraid and to fight in the proper way for all that is good.
Bishop Rodríguez then appealed for continued assistance from the churches, governments, international institutions and most of all from our hearts. He pleaded for prayers for Venezuela whose people have endured so much pain and suffering.
Fr Khan later pledged to donate TT$50,000 (US$7,000) to the cause and entreated members of the congregation to give generously towards this end. A light sharing of refreshment followed the Mass.