Success Story: Two river boats for pastoral work in the Amazon region

The Catholic territorial prelature of Tefé lies in the state of Amazonas in Northwest Brazil. The prelature alone covers an area of over 100,000 square miles (265,000 km²) – roughly the size of Italy – and vast sections of it are accessible only by river. The distances are immense.

Needless to say, the sheer scale of the prelature represents a major challenge for the Catholic Church, since the 14 parishes and the 520 sub-parishes lie scattered across this whole vast area, along the river banks. Until recently it took the priests and lay missionaries somewhere between two and three days just to travel from one riverside community to another. This was partly because the boats they were using were at least 20 years old and made of wood. They were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and consumed an excessive amount of fuel. Moreover, on account of the tightening of environmental laws, it was becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain the necessary timber to repair the boats when they were damaged. And of course the long and arduous journeys, sometimes of several hundred kilometers, took a heavy toll on those involved. The journey to the most distant parish took up to 120 hours, or five days.

The Catholic faithful in the villages also had to wait for very long periods from one visit to the next. And meanwhile, the less they were able to play an active part in the life of the Church and be given the necessary pastoral accompaniment, the more they became easy prey for the often well funded sectarian groups seeking to expand into the area and proselytize.

Now, however, thanks to the generosity of our kind benefactors, ACN has been able to help the prelature to purchase two new, aluminium hulled boats. These have cut down the journey time by half from one community to the next, so that the missionaries can now visit the communities more frequently. And at the same time they have greatly reduced the fuel costs. Each boat is 12 m long by 3 m wide, a veritable “floating mission station” with a kitchen or galley area and a bathroom. It has sleeping accommodation for up to 10 people and seating for up to 35 people, so that Holy Mass and other ceremonies can be held on board. Both boats bear the logo of the prelature, plus an individual religious name, so that they can be easily recognized as mission boats.

In fact, one of them is even named after Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN. And of course the Catholics of the region are delighted that the Church can now come to them more frequently. They all express their heartfelt thanks to all our generous benefactors! And with your help, we are planning to fund two more similar mission boats in the near future!

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