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Where seminarians struggle to survive

Seminarians in Venezuela are giving up their studies to support their families in the country’s economic crisis, reported Jonathan Liedl in the National Catholic Register.

He described the case of Oscar, a gifted 19-year-old in his second year of formation. His mother is “living alone and unable to work or walk much after losing part of her foot to diabetes”. As the youngest of seven, he feels the pressure to support her – and is trying to get a passport so he can work abroad. “He’s making plans somewhat on the fly, and, at least when we first spoke about it, he hasn’t even told his rector or bishop yet.” He plans to return to his studies eventually.

According to some Church leaders, Liedl said, as many as a tenth of seminarians have interrupted their formation in the past five years to look after their family.

For those who stay, there is conflict. Luis, 37, is a year away from his ordination as a deacon, but struggles with thoughts of pausing his studies. In 2013 his father died after the family could not access medication for a treatable heart condition. His mother now lives alone in a rural village. In order to continue at seminary, Liedl said, Luis “sometimes has to ‘turn off’ thoughts about his family”.

For Fr Hermes, the rector at the seminary at Ciudad Bolívar, finding enough food for the students is “one of the hardest parts of the job”. The diet is minimal. One student pointed to his ribs when Liedl asked him how he was affected by the country’s crisis.

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