Besides the economic issues plaguing Cuba, one Catholic priest believes that the country’s primary problem is the collapse of the traditional family. “The father figure has ceased to exist,” said Fr Jean Pichon, a priest from the Community of St Martin who serves in Santa Clara, a diocese located in the heart of Cuba.
Fr Pichon shared when he arrived on the island, an older priest told him that there were only biological fathers there, no real fathers.
“I believe that the communist ideology has fundamentally changed society. For half a century, it was not the father who protected and nurtured in Cuba, but Fidel Castro!” he said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a non-profit organisation which supports the Community with a number of evangelisation projects.
Fr Pichon also observed a very strong bond between mothers and their children, but the fathers are not around. He believes that the pressure exerted by the regime has led young people to see sexuality as one area in which they can be free.
There are a lot of single mothers and prostitution has become “a gigantic problem” he said. Weddings, Fr Pichon said, are a rare occurrence and most young people just go from one partner to the next.
Another problem is that there are hardly any vocations to the priesthood; this is “a well-known problem” in Cuba. Fr Pichon said when he drove to a remote village in 2009, an old lady told him that she had not seen a priest in more than 50 years.
Cubans, however are an endearing people and full of paradoxes, he said.
He explained there are many followers of the Santeria—an Afro-Caribbean religion based on Yoruba beliefs and traditions, with some Roman Catholic elements added—among the Catholics. This religion is inspired by animism and likes to recruit its followers from among people who have been baptised in the Catholic faith.
The influence of the materialistic Marxist ideology is also palpable, Fr Pichon added. He mentioned Cubans who define themselves as atheists or agnostics are often the ones who deeply revere the Virgen de la Caridad (Virgin of Charity). “This statue of Our Lady was found on a beach by slaves gathering salt and has become a point of reference for all Cubans of all religious persuasions,” he shared.
Fr Pichon shared that one day he knocked on the door of a Cuban who at first refused to open the door when he saw that he was a priest. However, when he told him that they were organising a procession in honour of the Virgen de la Caridad, “his eyes lit up”.
“He answered that if it were for her, then he would also attend”. Fr Pichon observed that the Virgin of Charity is often able to open the door to the hearts of the Cuban people for them. (Taken from Aleteia)