(Photo: Luisana Zerpa/Unsplash)

Venezuela: the fixed point among the waves of the sea

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Leonardo managed to visit some CL communities across the country. The surprise of seeing - in such precarious situations- life that blossoms.

After more than two years of not being able to travel because of the pandemic, I was able to visit the communities of Duaca, El Tocuyo, Humocaro and the Trappist Monastery of Humocaro. It was a trip I was looking forward to.
The day before my departure, the husband of Yannely, one of the people who started the community in Duaca, died from Covid. When I heard about this, I immediately went to see her on my way to El Tocuyo. I found her very worn out, but for me it was an encounter with a great friend even though we had seen each other in person very few times. We had a rich dialogue, prayed together and celebrated the funeral. On the way back, one of the religious women who was with me asked me: "I do not understand, have you worked in this country?" I replied: "No, in fact I was getting lost in the streets... This is the second time I have been to Duaca and the fifth time I have seen Yannely in person.” She was stunned: "Where does all this closeness and familiarity come from?" "It is communion." As I said this to her, I realised how great the power of the charism is to generate such a deep bond between us. Yannely had not eaten or slept all day and when I left I told her: “Go and eat and sleep.” Her sisters wrote to me, surprised, saying that as soon as I had left she had done so.

I visited the community in El Tocuyo for a week, going from house to house, aware of the risk of having many encounters. It was impressive: amid the poverty and precariousness, in the impossibility of finding alternatives to economic sustenance, I did not see anyone in the community destroyed by the crisis, there was no lament, but a profound gratitude for such closeness, for the communion that is lived, for the path that they are undertaking in School of Community.

At a friend's house, I met her niece, a university student, who in turn introduced me to a friend of hers. They told me that during these months, since they could not go to their department to study, they had been selling food at the petrol station (there are queues for days for petrol), and it went so well that they have now rented a place where on Fridays and Saturdays they sell food and play music. I went with them to lunch and invited other young people, children of friends in the community, who are not experiencing the movement and are finishing high school or starting university, just to hang out. A friendship at work was immediately evident, for example in finding a girl a room in the university halls. For these young people, who have almost no chance to study, a moment like this was enough to discover new possibilities.

At the Trappist monastery of Humocaro I met Sister Cristiana Piccardo. She has just turned 96 years old and although she is in a wheelchair she looks young, with the desire to renew her life. As we spoke she told me: "Leonardo, the Rimini Meeting is a unique proposal, which shows a capacity for encounter, for dialogue. It is an intelligent proposal that comes from faith, of an impressive beauty!" And to think that because of the lack of internet she had only seen two meetings.

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Lastly, I met Sister Rafaela, who is the soul of the "La Concordia" Institute in El Tocuyo. This school, in a depressed village with many limitations, is a place of life and communion. Today, in the secondary schools of Caracas, teachers are leaving, whereas there, at “La Concordia”, teachers even wanted to return during the holidays. Nobody leaves and they earn $15 a month. The power of communion they experience, the joy they have, comes from the experience of the movement, which is shared by most of them and by Sister Rafaela who lives it with such a force that it spreads throughout the school.

After a visit to such a tried and tested place, where there is only life in the morning as everything is closed for the rest of the day, where poverty reigns in every corner and the possibilities for growth and study lack... there are faces and places that bear witness to the newness of life, a fixed point among the waves of the sea. What an enormous grace I have received in being able to see these living presences!

Leonardo, Caracas, Venezuela