Cuban cardinal tells Canadians to start small, ‘we may not get tired’

“We have to start, knowing someone is going up a ladder”: Cardinal Ortega

Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino urged Canadian bishops to start small, sharing examples that helped renew the Catholic Church in Cuba.

Cardinal Ortega told them how the cathedral parish in Havana would organise a celebration of all young people from the well-populated neighbourhoods.

Few come for Communion, some are preparing for baptism, but all will go out and do social service for the poor, he said. At night, when it's cold, they will go out and help the people sleeping in the streets, perhaps giving them hot chocolate.

Young people

Groups of young people also got involved in visiting a state residence for elderly people. Their efforts attracted the attention of a doctor who worked there. He became friends with these young people, who worked to improve the facility by painting it and continuing their visits. The doctor became a friend of that community, became baptised, had his child baptised and started to attend church, the cardinal said. He eventually became the director of that residence and now, every 15 days, Mass is celebrated at that facility.

 "We have to start, knowing someone is going up a ladder," Cardinal Ortega told the Canadian bishops at their plenary meeting September 16.

He said in a neighbourhood, someone might hold prayer meetings in their home. He might send a seminarian to visit each Saturday.

He recalled one woman in his diocese who lent her house for 12 years every Saturday. People filled the garden, the garage, the patio, filling every available space. Even more packed in for Holy Week and Christmas, he said.