Tag Archives: Jesucristo Resucitado

Deacon Koop at Casa de Hogar

September 29, 2011

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Dear Friends,

One of my main assignments this summer is to visit the various barrios—the different neighborhoods that make up the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado—for catechesis, prayer meetings, Bible studies, etc. each night of the week. On these nights, I get in the truck, say a quick prayer, and drive off to one or another of the barrios. Some of the highlights have included bringing the Blessed Sacrament to the barrio chapels during the week of the Feast of Corpus Christi (it really doesn’t get any better than chauffeuring Jesus around in a Chevy Silverado as He graces the most troubled streets of San Felix with His Eucharistic presence), and guiding the various groups of parishioners through a workbook on how to understand and defend their Catholic faith. It is beautiful to see how each barrio community has its own particular character, and it really is a joy to act, in some small way, as a spiritual father to each of these little families of faith.

Speaking of spiritual fatherhood, what a beautiful privilege it has been over these last few weeks to be able to spend some time with the boys of the Casa de Hogar (literally ‘House of Home’) orphanage. This is an orphanage run by the Salesian Order for street boys who have been abandoned or otherwise neglected, located near our parish church. The house is under the charge of Maria, a single woman who has dedicated her life to serving the boys as a spiritual mother and caretaker. About once or twice a week, I’m able to walk over to the house and see what everyone is up to—and with eleven boys in what is effectively a three-bedroom house, it is certainly never boring. In the mornings the boys have school, in-house tutoring, and trips to the psychologist or local juvenile delinquency officer, but in the afternoons it’s all free time. We’ve been able to play soccer, marbles, board games, watch movies, and otherwise just have fun together in a healthy way.

What amazes me—and this really is a miracle of grace—is just how open, trusting, and innocent the boys are, especially given the troubled backgrounds of many of them. They treat each other as brothers—with all that entails—with the older boys looking after the younger ones. Local volunteers come to cook the mid-day meal, but in the evenings the boys cook for and clean up after one another. They are incredibly friendly with me, and the younger ones especially seem fascinated by even the smallest details of my clerical garb, etc. One thing is for sure: they never tire of asking me how to say their names in English!

On many evenings, Maria organizes some ongoing faith formation for the boys, in which she has graciously allowed me to participate. One evening I used a video of the story of David and Goliath to talk about true and false masculinity. On another evening, the boys were visited by two Salesian priests (missionaries from Italy), and after we talked about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the boys were able to go to Confession individually.

What strikes me so forcibly about the Casa de Hogar is the tangible presence there of the Holy Spirit. The house is filled with so much love, peace, joy, light, and openness, and I really have begun to see in a tangible way how God Himself is truly the “father of the orphan,” who “gives the desolate a home to dwell in” (Ps. 68:5-6). After all that these boys have been through, God in His mercy has prepared for them a sanctuary, a place of safety and abundant blessing. How many of the other children in this area who have parents are given the kind of personal care, or the depth of one-on-one religious instruction, that these boys receive? How many are able to have personal interaction with priests, religious, and holy lay people on a daily basis? For that matter, how many of their own parents, if they had been present in the lives of these boys, could have possibly raised them with the depth of love, wisdom and grace that Maria does? Having lost their natural families, these boys have now won an even greater spiritual family, so that in them is manifest the great mercy of God, who “raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people” (Ps. 113:7-8).

As always, friends, I ask for your prayers for all the various people and ministries I have shared about here, and for the whole parish of Jesucristo Resucitado. May God bless you all!

In Jesus Christ Our Risen Lord,

Deacon Evan

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Travel Reflections from Deacon Koop

August 23, 2011

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Dear Family and Friends,

 I recently visited a most incredible place; the world-famous Canaíma National Park, which boasts a stunning collection of upland prairies, table-top mountains (called ‘tepuis’), forests and waterfalls—together known as the Gran Sabana.  It was a three-day trip that I took with two other missionary priests of the diocese, one from Poland and the other from Guatemala.

 At a certain point, I found myself standing at a Venezuelan military checkpoint with a skeptical soldier rifling through my backpack looking for contraband.  He did not appear to be in a friendly mood and simply kept repeating under his breath, “American, huh?”  The first item of interest he found was my Spanish Bible which he proceeded to leaf through meticulously one page at a time. “It’s a Bible,” I said, and for a moment I considered asking him whether he cared to read it, but I thought that might be pushing my luck.

 The next item he found certainly appeared to be more incriminating. “What’s this?” he asked, as he held up a small metal cylinder which, I had to admit to myself, did in fact look suspiciously like a shell-casing or a small grenade.  It was my travel-size aspergilium—used to sprinkle holy water during liturgies—which I had forgotten was in my bag.  As I awkwardly tried to explain it to the soldier, I unscrewed the cap and proceeded to demonstrate its function by sprinkling  holy water throughout the small office.  He looked on in silence, evidently nonplussed.  The soldiers ended up letting us pass through and I suppose that it was the first (and probably last) time that their checkpoint had been blessed with holy water.

Somewhat forgetfully, and perhaps naively (well, in retrospect, most certainly naively) I had failed to bring along with me any form of identification, such as my passport or driver’s license, thinking that I would not need them when traveling within the country.  Yet, about every 100 km or so on our drive we had to pass through a checkpoint, and while most were either unstaffed or barely more than a speed-bump in the road, the soldiers at the checkpoint leading into the national park—who obviously took their job more seriously—asked to see our identification.  Fr. Tadeo, the Pole, calmly told the soldier in charge that he and Fr. Antonio were priests working in the diocese of Ciudad Guayana, and that the deacon, who was visiting for the summer from the United States, had not brought any identification with him.  To that, the soldier retorted, “That’s a lie. That’s a lie. An American without any papers? I can’t believe that.”  Fr. Tadeo calmly answered, “Let me tell you, neither can I, but it’s the truth.” Thanks Father, I thought.

Fr. Tadeo, who had recently visited the Twin Cities along with Fr. Schaffer, went on to explain to the soldier that I was from Minnesota, where all the people are so nice and trusting that they never carry any papers with them.  Not entirely accurate, but flattering nonetheless, I suppose.  In any case, it seemed to work and the crisis was averted.

Aside from that little misadventure we had a wonderful time on our trip to the Gran Sabana.  The place is truly one of the world’s wonders, looking like a strange mix of the African savannah, the American West, and the green hills of Ireland—all interspersed with patches of jungle and cascading waterfalls.  Apparently most geologists believe it is one of the oldest landscapes on earth, which, along with the primeval beauty of the place, makes one understand why it was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 literary classic, The Lost World.  If ever there were a place where dinosaurs could still be found to roam the earth, this would certainly be it.

Deacon Koop at Park

 The climate in the Gran Sabana is much more temperate than that of San Felix, which was a welcome relief. There is one main highway leading through the heart of the park, which we explored at a leisurely pace, stopping at a few waterfalls and scenic vistas along the way.

 As we traveled around and were treated to the wonders of nature, I found myself reflecting with joy and thanksgiving in my heart that God should have brought me to such a place.  For those of you who don’t know me as well, I spent much of my childhood watching the Discovery Channel and wanting to be a biologist in some wild, far away place like Africa or the Amazon Rainforest—and now, here I was, under circumstances I could never have predicted.  In choosing to pursue God’s call to priestly service, I suppose in some ways I had believed that meant ‘giving up’ such dreams in order to follow His will.  Yet God, in His infinite goodness and personal care for each one of us, marvelously finds ways to fulfill even the smallest desires of our hearts even as He calls forth from us a greater and more perfect love.  It brings to mind the words of Our Lord, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matt. 6:33).  So often the acceptance of a vocation is portrayed merely as an act of self-denial and sacrifice on our parts—where in fact it is a pure gift to us from God, the One who is never to be outdone in

 Such are the adventures which, in God’s providence, I have been able to experience in the last three weeks or so of my time here at the Archdiocesan mission in San Felix,Venezuela.

More to come!

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Reflections from Deacon Evan Koop

July 18, 2011

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Iglesia Jesucristo Resucitado, June 17, 2011

San Felix, Venezuela

Reflections from Deacon Evan Koop

Hello from the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado (‘Risen Christ’) in San Felix,Venezuela!  It’s hard to believe its only been two weeks since I got here to the mission.  The days have been packed with so many pastoral encounters and such a variety of different ministry opportunities that it feels like I’ve been down here for much longer than that. But I know the time will fly and before I know it I’ll be on a plane back home, so I thought it would be good to send you all a few updates while I’m here.  This is the first of what will hopefully be several updates during my time in Venezuela (though I make no promises!). I also hope that each one will include a few photos as well. Though I cannot possibly share the whole variety of beautiful encounters and incredible blessings the Lord grants me each day here, that certainly will not stop me from trying!

My Time at the Mission

 As to my own time here, I can only say that it has been a great blessing, an experience at once beautiful and challenging.  Last year, I was able to visit the mission with my classmates as part of a seminary course, after which, through prayer and discernment, I asked the seminary if I could be sent here for my summer deacon assignment this year.  The previous two years, in fact, two other deacons (now priests, Fr. Erik Lundgren and Fr. Jon Kelly) had done the same.

I had several reasons for wanting to serve here for the summer. First, I had a desire to serve the poor here, where there is such need for the presence of Christ and His Church in the midst of so much suffering and despair.  There is a level and type of poverty here that, realistically speaking, does not exist to any great extent in the States.  Second, I wanted to offer some aid to the priests who serve here, who are incredibly dedicated and self-giving, but also burdened with many pastoral responsibilities.  In fact, though the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana has just about as many Catholics as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it has only 46 priests—most of them foreign missionaries—compared to over 300 in the Twin Cities.  Finally, in view of my future priestly ministry in Minnesota, I also wanted to continue improving my Spanish, so that at least I might offer Mass and hear confessions back home for Latino Catholics.

And while it has taken some time to get used to my new surroundings, God, in his goodness, has certainly allowed each of those desires to be fulfilled already in some way. One thing is for sure—I have not yet been bored! Each day is a kind of adventure, as new and unforeseen pastoral needs and opportunities arise. At the end of the day I find myself thanking God for the experiences He has given me, and for the awesome privilege of being His representative at times of both spiritual crisis and human joy.  All in all, it has been very confirming for me in the call He has given me to be his priest one day soon.

In many ways, Jesucristo Resucitado is just like any other Catholic parish around the world—which is what makes our Church so beautiful!  Its life is centered around the celebration of the sacraments, which in turn are centered around the most important moments in human life: birth, maturity, marriage, sickness, death, and the ever-present need for conversion and Daily Bread.

The Mass

As a Deacon, I serve at the daily Mass each day and I preach on occasion: four times thus far, and more often in the future, perhaps. Obviously, since the homilies are in Spanish, it takes me more time to prepare than it normally would—about two hours for a daily mass homily, and four for Sundays. That preparation alone has served my ongoing learning in Spanish well, as I search the dictionaries and grammar books to be able to say what I want, and then seek the corrections of others.  This has been one of the unexpected joys of my time here.  Of course, other than the difference in language, the Mass is the same here as it is throughout the world—though I must admit I don’t know that I’ve ever sensed its power so much as here, as Jesus makes Himself present amid such squalor and want, entering hearts with such simple and profound faith.

In addition to the Masses at the main parish church, the priests here are also responsible for bringing the sacraments to the many surrounding barrios (‘neighborhoods’), since most of the people do not have cars and cannot walk the long distance to church. In order to prevent the faithful in the barrios from falling away from the Eucharist entirely, Fr. Schaffer, the parish pastor, has begun building small chapels in each of the barrios to provide a center for the community’s practice of the faith.  And so, as I get in the truck with either Fr. Schaffer or Fr. McCabe to travel from barrio to barrio to say Mass on Sundays, I sometimes feel like one of those circuit-riding priests of the last century—bringing the grace of the sacraments where they are most needed.  And the need really cannot be overestimated: though the parish has a population of anywhere from 30,000-50,000 people, about 90% of whom are officially Catholic, only about 5-10% practice their faith to any degree.  Even among those who do practice the faith, the level of catechesis is generally lower than that found among Catholics in the States.  The lack of priests here and the inability of the people to frequent the sacraments must have a great deal to do with this growing problem.

Next Blog : read about how sacraments are delivered and some of the many mission activities in the barrios.

Deacon Evan Koop

Next Week: Reflection # 2

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24 years at Jesucristo Resucitado

February 15, 2011

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As Jesucristo Resucitado parish celebrates its 40 year anniversary, I am reminded of the many priests and deacons that have been assigned at this parish.  I have been secretary at Jesucristo Resucitado since July 7, 1986 and have had the pleasure of working many of them.

Fr. Larry Hubbard and Deacon Malave

When I began working, Fr. Leo Huber had just left the parish and Deacon Jose Malave remained to help.  Fr. Larry Hubbard, who also assisted, had previously been assigned to work with Deacon Malave at Jesucristo Resucitado parish.  However, much of Fr. Hubbard’s work was at the diocesan level organizing teams to lead the Charismatic renewal, Marriage Preparation classes, and leaders for youth groups and cursillo groups for the diocese of Ciudad Guayana.  Fr. Larry Hubbard is very kind, laid back and friendly.  He is a very wise person and many people came from around the diocese to the office seeking his advice.

Fr. Mark Dosh

Fr. Mark Dosh was the pastor San Francisco de Assisi parish.  He is a great priest who is highly educated in theology which was evident in his homilies.  He has a special gift of teaching people difficult concepts of the faith in ways they can understand in his homilies. 

Fr. Bob White

Fr. Bob White was very young when he was here in Venezuela.  He worked in the parish of San Francisco de Assisi.  He was always willing to help with projects and share his talents and interests in sports with the youth. 

Fr. Pat Ryan

When Deacon Malave was reassigned, Fr. Pat Ryan was named pastor of Jesucristo Resucitado.  I always refer to him as “Reverendo” (Reverend) out of the great respect and admiration I have for him.  He worked very hard for five years drawing up the plans and getting the permissions from City Hall to build a church. I learned many things from him, especially patience. Thanks to his hard work and the help of many of his friends and people in Minnesota we have a beautiful church that people admire from all around our diocese. He is very honorable and very kind, he is a very special friend of mine and of my daughter Greicys.

Fr. Denny Dempsey

After Fr. Ryan, Fr. Denny Dempsey was named our pastor.  Fr. Denny was very active with many different groups in all the different communities of our parish – there are 11 different barrios is all.  Fr. Denny is very charismatic and has many gifts.  He built up faith communities in each of our barrios and got many people interested and active in the Church, especially many youth.      

Fr. Greg Schaffer

Fr. Denny received two young priests from Minnesota to work with him – Fr. Paul Magee and Fr. Gregorio Schaffer.  Fr. Paul was very well liked but God had other plans for him, so he left Jesucristo Resucitado.  Fr. Gregorio is a very charismatic priest who currently serves the spiritual and physical needs of the people in all of our communities.  He looks out for the people who work with the parish especially the parish staff.  He is a visionary who has begun many programs and projects we never had before that benefit many people. 

Fr. Tim Norris

Fr. Tim Norris came to minister here when Fr. Magee left.  Fr. Tim is very wise and very knowledgeable about many things.  He doesn’t talk much but he has a way of making people feel comfortable and at ease around him.  He has many friends here in all the different barrios.  He is a very good priest and we love him very much. 

Fr. Tom McCabe

After Fr. Tim left, Fr. Thomas McCabe arrived. I have a new friend in him who I am still getting to know.  He works very hard with the Mass servers.  He likes to celebrate the sacrament of confession and I really like how he preaches at weddings.   

From my first day of working at Jesucristo Resucitado I have worked with many different priests from Minnesota – some have worked at the parish of San Francisco de Assisi and others at Jesucristo Resucitado parish.  I have been blessed to have worked with them and to have them as friends!  They have blessed by life and my parish by their love and presence.          

 

Gregoria Ramos
Secretary at Jesucristo Resucitado Parish
 
 

 

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St. John Bosco Honored

September 7, 2010

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On June 11 and 12, 2010, a glass coffin encasing the likeness of St. John Bosco and his relics passed through the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado on the way to Don Bosco parish where there was an all-night vigil. This visit was in preparation for the bicentennial celebration of the birth of St. John Bosco, founder of the Society of St. Francis de Sales, known as the Salesians.  Huge numbers of young and old turned out to welcome this great saint and to pray before him. The glass coffin and a number of his relics are visiting Salesian parishes around the world. 

St. Don Bosco

 ¨Don Bosco¨ was a title of endearment and respect given to Fr. John Bosco (1815 -1888), who dedicated his priesthood to helping and educating poor youth, initially in the area of Turin, Italy.  He was an innovative educator who promoted a teaching system that emphasized love and patience over punishment.  His ¨Preventive System¨ of education stressed reason, religion, and kindness while using music and games to keep the youth engaged. Fr. Bosco often said that education was a ¨matter of the heart¨ and that a student must not only be loved, but knowthat he or she is loved.  Pope Pius XI had known Fr. Bosco and canonized him a saint on Easter Sunday in 1934 giving him the title of ¨Father and Teacher of Youth.”

 The Salesians continue to be a very active missionary order throughout the world, especially in Venezuela.  Don Bosco parish is the neighboring parish of our Archdiocesan mission parish of Jesucristo Resucitado.  It is staffed by four Salesian priests from Poland and Venezuela.  This parish runs a well-respected vocational technical school preparing youth as carpenters, auto mechanics, refrigerator repairmen, and bi-lingual secretaries. 

 The parish of Don Bosco works with our mission parish of Jesucristo Resucitado in running a home for boys that have been abandoned and living on the streets.  This refuge is currently located in the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado and is the home for ten boys ages 9 to 17.  Visiting groups from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis enjoy getting to know them and participating in activities with the boys as a part of their mission experience.

 The visit of St. John Bosco’s likeness and relics were a great blessing not only for the Salesians but for all at the diocese of Ciudad Guayana.

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