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Church alive: Helping our Venezuelan brothers and sisters

By Renee Smith and Lara Pickford-Gordon

Parishes and communities throughout the Archdiocese of Port of Spain are opening its doors to support Venezuelan newcomers in their communities.

In Penal last weekend, the parish of St Dominic experienced an influx of migrants who appreciated their offers of hot meals, medical assistance and help with the government’s migrant pre-registration process.

Pre-registration can be found online here

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 North West, the third Spanish Mass took place yesterday (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 St Anthony’s Petit Valley, Nativity, St Peter’s Carenage and St Finbar’s, Morne Coco came together for the holding of 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 opening, 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”.

A Spanish Mass took place in May at St Peter’s, where Fr Imamshah is parish priest. The next Mass will be hosted at St John’s Diego Martin next month on a date to be announced.

Learn more on how your parish can support migrants and refugees by clicking here