Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Tom Tracy - Florida Catholic
Photography: TOM TRACY | FC
WESTON | Hundreds of Broward County Catholics, including many from the Venezuelan diaspora, turned out May 1, 2022 to greet the cardinal from Caracas and relics of Blessed Jose Gregorio Hernandez, affectionately as the “doctor of the poor,” whom Pope Francis beatified last year.
Cardinal Baltazar Porras, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Caracas, celebrated Sunday Mass for parishioners at St. Katharine Drexel Parish west of Fort Lauderdale. He brought with him the relics of Blessed Jose Gregorio, which were placed for veneration at the front of the church.
Born in 1864, and after studying medicine in Europe, Blessed Jose Gregorio practiced in Caracas, where he would often visit sick patients without asking for payment. His generosity led to locals calling him “the doctor of the poor.”
But in 1919, after picking up medicine for a patient at a pharmacy, Blessed Jose Gregorio was struck down by a passing car. Since then, Venezuelans remain devoted to the saintly doctor and have attributed healings to his intercession. He is the first Venezuelan lay person to be beatified.
Years of strife and political upheaval in socialist Venezuela have resulted in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans and the rapid growth of exile communities in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. and Latin America.
According to background information distributed by the cardinal’s staff, more than six million Venezuelans have sought refuge outside their homeland, with 5 million settling in other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The 2020 U.S. census counted 500,000 Venezuelans living in the U.S., with the greatest numbers living in Florida (more than 273,000), Texas (75,000), New York and Georgia (both with around 23,000) and California (20,000).
Cardinal Baltazar’s visit to the U.S. began April 23 in New York, continuing to Washington, D.C. and Boston before arriving in South Florida.
“When we announced that Cardinal Baltazar was coming people were excited, because he is a man who speaks about rights and freedoms — he was always a man who takes care of his people,” said Father Yonhatan Londoño, parochial vicar at St. Katharine Drexel Parish and a native of Colombia. “He is a shepherd who wanted to come and greet all his people.”
“One of his requests is that he wants to say hi to everybody and to meet and bless everybody with the relics,” Father Londoño told the Florida Catholic of Miami. “There is a lot of emotional happiness here today.”
People in South Florida have not given up hope on a turnaround of the economic and political turmoil back in Venezuela, the priest added.
“They come every day to pray the rosary for the freedom of Venezuela and they do a lot of things at the church, collecting stuff to send to Venezuela to help the people there. Both communities — the people in Venezuela and the exile community — are just one, they support each other, they help each other, they love each other,” Father Londoño said.
Traveling with the cardinal and the relics was Carlota Blanco, a fundraiser for the Church and for charitable projects in Venezuela. Blanco is also helping the Church promote and investigate the cause of Blessed Jose Gregorio.
Last June, Pope Francis signed a decree approving a miracle attributed to him, paving the way for his beatification. According to the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, the miracle in question was the healing of Yaxury Solorzano Ortega, a 10-year-old girl who was shot in the head by thieves attempting to rob her father.
During surgery, the young girl’s mother prayed to Blessed Jose Gregorio. She said she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice that said, “Stay calm, everything will be fine.”
Doctors initially said Solorzano would remain disabled, including losing her ability to speak and see, if she survived her surgery. Nevertheless, she fully recovered 20 days after her surgery.
In January 2020, a medical commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints confirmed there was no medical explanation for her healing.
“We are here to analyze a possible new miracle and traveling with a message of peace and service to people,” said Blanco, pointing out that the possible miracle associated with Blessed Jose Gregorio is under investigation in Miami.
After the Mass in Weston, Cardinal Baltazar traveled an hour south for a visit with the Catholic community at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral, not far from the Miami airport. That parish is considered the largest spiritual home of the Venezuelan diaspora in Florida.