Help for the training of seminarians
Thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, eight seminarians from the diocese of Santarém are able to continue their studies. “The fact that we can count on such people who help us so generously, without expecting anything from us, fills me with great joy,” writes one seminarian. “I am praying for you and ask the Lord to bless you and accompany you. My heart is touched that you are helping so many young men to train for the priesthood. May God reward you a hundredfold.”
Most of the 500,000 or so people in the diocese of Santarém live in the city, while the rest live in the 11 parishes of the hinterland and can only be accessed by boat. “In order to visit one parish, the pastoral workers must plan for a boat journey of up to 40 hours. The shortage of priests, religious sisters and lay missionaries makes the pastoral outreach still more difficult,” explains Ulrich Kny, ACN’s section head responsible for our projects in Brazil. Currently there are 15 such “boat communities”, which are ministered to by 37 priests – too few, given the sheer size of diocese. An additional problem is the expansion of the sects, such as the Igreja da Paz, a movement that is widespread in Santarém.
These are also the sorts of challenges for which future priests of the diocese must be prepared. In order to study well, they will need: computers, teaching manuals, writing materials, food and a room to sleep in. However, the diocese only has the funds to cover a quarter of these costs, and so Bishop Esmeraldo Barreto de Farias has turned to ACN for help. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to commit to $5,000, a sufficient amount to cover the formation of his seminarians for the current academic year.
Thanks to you, we were able to help!
Support for the apostolate of religious sisters
In Grajaú, situated in the northeast sector of Brazil, the overwhelming majority of the population is very poor, compared with a small wealthy segment of the population. Within the diocese, 36 religious sisters from nine different congregations are working among the people, ministering to their social, pastoral and spiritual needs. Although Bishop Franco Cuter has made every effort to provide for their support, the funds available remain insufficient. Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to help with a contribution of $20,500. This help, has proven to be “very precious” as the Bishop Cuter assures us, “We are extremely grateful to all our benefactors for having supported these sisters, so that their life and mission in our diocese can continue.”
For Bishop Franco Cuter, these sisters are of vital importance since their pastoral work helps to compensate for a shortage of priests. The range of their collective contribution fulfills many functions and is as varied as the sisters themselves. They run children’s and youth groups, family and liturgy study circles, support missionaries, assist in parishes, visit the sick and elderly, host radio talks; organize conferences, mission weeks and teach in the schools and other Catholic establishments. Their presence strengthens the Catholic faithful as they bring their knowledge to conveying teachings from the Bible and catechesis.… With all these gestures of love, whether big or small, they are putting the Gospel into concrete practice.
The Diocese of Grajaú is faced with many difficulties and problems – such as unemployment, prostitution and teen pregnancies – all are part of daily life in a world of great moral, material and spiritual poverty. “Young people face a bleak future,” write the catechetical Franciscan sisters, one of many religious communities working in to help this needy population. Some of the sisters run a mission among the indigenous tribes, while holding great respect for their particular culture and way of life. They baptize and teach, resolve disputes and give counsel, and participate in the cultural festivities. “We organize an “Indian Week” in April, with an exhibit about their way of life,” they explain. In Aramé, Sister Godelive of the Little Apostles of Jesus has been responsible, for the past eight years, for the preparation of young people for the sacrament of Confirmation. She, and her two fellow sisters, are extremely grateful for the support you have provided. “The challenges are big, and our work is little. Please pray for us and thank you for all the help you have given us, so that we can continue our work.”
Thanks to you, we will be able to help!
Giving young people hope for the future
The parish of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque stands proudly on a hill on the outskirts of the city of Belo Horizonte, in the suburb of Sagrados Corações. Beyond these roofs in the third-largest metropolis in Brazil, the poor of the city live – in the Favela São José. Since 1998, pastoral work in the parish has been carried-out by the lay community: Chemin Neuf who regularly visiting around 40 of the poorest families and providing practical help where needed. For example, with the help of the community, Claudia, a single mother living in the Favela with her three children, was able to move out of her miserable dwelling and into a more dignified apartment.
Over the years, Chemin Neuf has established a building complex right next to the Favela, in order to better help the poor. They have a school, a football field, a daycare, a hospital and a social centre – though as of yet, no church. The population of Sagrados Corações is exceptionally youthful, over 50% of the people are under the age of 21. According to Father Philippe Jacques and Father Philippe Robert of the Chemin Neuf community, 67.3 % of the population in Sao José earn less than 400 Reals ($200) per month. The two priests are particularly involved in the youth apostolate. “Many young people have no work,” they say. And so they hang around on the streets, without any hope or sense of direction, for they are growing up in an environment that offers them little chance of any future. The two priests often visit individual families in the favela, and organize Alpha courses and meetings for couples and families. Wherever they go, the message they bring is, “God loves you.”
Because of the extensive territory of this parish, the pastoral activities take place in four separate locations. In order to create a common space and meeting point for everyone, the Chemin Neuf community began working on a new pastoral centre two years ago, which is to have its own church and parish rooms. Their plan includes a four-storey building with an underground garage, a church, complete with an adoration chapel and sacristy. The ground floor will house the group activity rooms and services on the upper floors. The front of the building, with a tower-like appearance and ordained with a cross, was designed to signal the center’s Catholic identity. It is a major project. And much of the construction is still to be done. This pastoral centre is of great importance for the whole of this very lively parish. ACN is helping with a contribution of $77, 000.
All texts by Teresa Engländer, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
These projects are examples of our work. Your donation will be used for a similar project that accords with the pastoral priorities of ACN.
Thank you for journeying with us through Brazil ,and for sharing these stories with those around you through your networks!