D.R. Congo – Fr Mario Pérez, Salesian missionary: "We bring nothing to Heaven, only the emptiness of those we've loved"

04 March 2020

(ANS - Mbuji Mayi) – Even when very young, Fr Mario Pérez, a Salesian missionary, concerned himself with the excluded, the orphaned children and the people who suffered injustice. When he was a teenager in Venezuela he was attracted to the Marxist movement, as it seemed to provide solutions; but when he finished high school he decided to go to the seminary. There he met Don Bosco and his work for the most disadvantaged children and young people. Since then, this has been Fr Mario's life: protecting and educating the little ones.

Why did you decide to become a missionary?
It's something I feel in my heart, like a duty of justice. Now I work in Africa, but I was also in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to help in the camps for IDPs and to rebuild activities for street children. Today, I feel at home among my brothers and sisters in Mbuji Mayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And how is your life in Mbuji Mayi?
Mbuji Mayi is the capital of Eastern Kasai, a region known worldwide for its diamonds. But unfortunately, Congo is, above all, famous for violating children's rights. Many children are subject to all kinds of trafficking and exploitation, from sexual exploitation to forced labor. The children come to our works alone or accompanied by someone who knows our work, or from social services, the juvenile court or the police. In addition, we carry out activities on the street and in the juvenile prison.

What do you offer to the children of the Salesian houses?
The children and young people who come to our schools and participate in the oratory and parish activities come from poor families who have no means, neither for food nor for school. We have an elementary school, a literacy center, a vocational training center, a technical institute, a parish, an oratory and school for children at risk and those in prison; we're also present on the streets and in the markets where abandoned children and young people can be found.

What are your dreams?
I dream of being able to create small family-schools where, above all, mothers can be educated and supported to improve their economy, their independence, their dignity and to give a better life and care to their children. This could help decrease the number of abandoned children and change the culture. Women and children can make a positive contribution to the development of their communities. I think if each of us thought that the world must be left more beautiful and better than we found it, we would have a better and better world for everyone.

We do not bring anything with us to Heaven, only the emptiness of those we have loved.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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