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San Pedro has few followers left in Venezuela

Caracas, Nov 15 (EFE).- There are 622 young people training as priests in Venezuela and not all of them will be consecrated at the end of the eight years of study, but even giving cassocks to 100% of the students would cover the 1,136 parishes in the country. where the Catholic faith is in decline, just like in the seminaries, today with depleted enrollments. Just six years ago, the 21 seminaries housed 1,425 future priests, a total that was reduced to less than half due to a six-year economic recession and mass migration, which also resulted in less crowded churches and empty prayer halls. The largely Catholic Caribbean nation is no exception to the apostate trend seen throughout Latin America, the vast territory that has spent centuries praying to the virgins brought by the Europeans. But faith resists like honey and even today sweetens dozens of young people who attend to “the call” of God. A CLERGY IN THE BUDGET Dixon Torrealba entered the Major Seminary of Maracaibo, in the state of Zulia (west), at the age of 18, the minimum age required. In this place he eats, sleeps, is in his third year of studies and will leave there, if his vocation accompanies him, in 2028, when he will be able to officiate masses in a country that, predictably, will be less Catholic than now. At 20, he is immersed in philosophical lessons prior to the “configuration stage”, in which he will delve into theology for four years, according to the curriculum approved by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela (CEV). He is happy and speaks with emotion about his current life -which includes prayers, sports, household chores, memorizing texts-, as well as when he projects himself into the future with his goal achieved, because -he stresses- “from a very young age” he felt “the inclination towards religious life”. “One of the wonderful things that motivates me is being an administrator of the sacraments (…) so I can forgive, bring reconciliation, bring encouragement to those who need it,” the seminarian who invites young people to join “the great work that the Lord wants to do”. “God calls, it is up to us to respond with great courage”, he underlines. Dixon knows that there are fewer and fewer people interested in diocesan life and, precisely, that was one of the reasons that fueled his vocation, aware of “the lack of pastors” that the church of San Pedro has, especially now, when the people ” thirsty for God.” IN THE SEARCH OF CURES In Venezuela there are more Catholic temples than municipalities, an advantage for this creed when it comes to penetrating aspects of secular life, since it also controls schools, high schools, universities and health centers that are run by religious and serve to reinforce the uptake of potential cures. The executive secretary of the CEV Seminars Department, Alexis Piña, explained to EFE that vocations are discovered mainly within families close to the Church, as well as through diocesan promoters and parish priests who know their flock. in each town. The search for new priests, continues the presbyter, also makes use of two minor seminaries, in which more than a hundred adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17 are currently going through a discernment process with the aim of clarifying their ideas and moving towards adult consecration, or not. “Many young people, including youth groups that were committed to the Church, went to other places and it was a wealth for those countries,” says the priest, alluding to the seven million Venezuelans who have emigrated in recent years between -according to data from a UN platform – of the economic crisis that began to be reversed at the end of 2021. Of the 622 applicants for the cassock, just over 100 are young people who entered the major seminaries in October, where compliance is required of the sacraments preceding the priestly order, that is, being baptized, having received First Communion and Confirmation, as well as having confessed before a priest. Piña, with half a century of life – half of it “forming clergy” – believes that the vocation is a “gift from God” that comes and will continue to reach the hearts of children “to do good in a community.” The task is to help more young people transform their concerns into authentic paths towards a life full of “the things of God”, he adds. Héctor Pereira (c) EFE Agency

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