(ANS – Caracas, Venezuela – July 18) – Fr. Francisco Mendez is in his fifth year as the Salesian provincial of Venezuela. In the country’s current situation, his task is difficult yet stimulating – to animate, encourage, and give hope to the Salesians in the midst of the difficult conditions facing Venezuela and its people.
Fr. Francisco, we know of the terrible situation in Venezuela. How are the sons of Don Bosco?
We live with the same problems as other people, but we are convinced that we must work without becoming discouraged. The work is exhausting because of the circumstances, but the difference is in the attitude. We know that this situation will pass, that this reality will not last long, and we are here to offer hope to everyone, especially to young people.
What are the challenges in this context?
I believe we must go forth to meet people, especially when we see the needs of those who suffer. We are very busy with the neediest, and in this field the Salesian mission offices and some people of Venezuela support us. With them, we help people with the most essential needs, like offering meals, or at least a snack.
And where do you offer these basic services?
We offer them to all those who ask for them. We do it in the parishes, in schools, in the network of Don Bosco houses. Our answer consists in being present there among the immediate needs of people.
What is the attitude of the Salesians?
The attitude is very clear on our part: it is the attitude of those who remain. All of us have decided to stay with the people. We don’t abandon Venezuela! We will not leave our works! We share the poverty, the misery, the situation in which our Venezuelan brothers live, and we will stay with them.
What does it mean to the Salesians around the world?
The meaning of this experience is to put God and young people above all else. We Salesians are convinced that whatever happens, we must bring our mission to completion. With all the difficulties in the world, we shall work for young people. It is true, “We do what we can,” because in the middle of this situation it’s not easy. We encourage each other, and we have not given up, nor will we surrender, because we are very close to God and we have met the Lord in the neediest people.