Training of 27 seminarians in the Amazon region
Posted to the web February 6, 2020
Currently there are 27 young men from the diocese of Rio Branco in western Brazil training to serve God and their fellow men in the Catholic priesthood. The life that awaits them as priests will be a far from easy one, since their diocese lies to a large extent in the Brazilian rainforest and covers an enormous area of over 40,000 square miles (104,000 km²). The distances they must travel are great, many places can only be reached via river travel.
Undoubtedly, their vocation is also in part a fruit of the decades of tireless commitment by the Italian missionary Paolino Baldassarri, who even at the age of almost 90 was still travelling long journeys into the wilderness on his simple boat in order to visit the Catholic riverside communities. Since he could not swim, he always wore a life vest and a motorcycle helmet. He was also a doctor, and continued to practice even at an advanced age, treating and helping innumerable patients.
When he first arrived in the region, almost half a century ago, he immediately fell victim to malaria in the first week of his stay. But somehow, miraculously, he survived and soon afterwards began to visit the jungle settlements in a simple canoe. Because of the shortage of priests in the region, many families had drifted away from the Catholic faith. Father Paolino won them back. He died in 2016, widely regarded as a saint.
Today the people’s faith is again in danger, because the 40 priests struggling to minister to the 450,000 or so Catholic faithful in this vast and inaccessible region can only rarely visit some of the remotest villages and settlements. Meanwhile, the religious sectarian groups are spreading rapidly, seemingly well-funded, wasting little time on training their preachers, and promising miracle healings to all the people.
In this light, the 27 future priests are a great ray of light and hope for the Church in the diocese of Rio Branco. ACN is supporting the diocese in providing formation with a total of $15,600 this year.