Welcome to a brief overview of the Saskatoon diocesan mission in northeastern Brazil which operated from 1964-2014.
Video about the Brazil Mission (1964-2014)
Click here to view Brazil Mission video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xOTzBZSQbc&feature=youtu.be
A video documentary about the Brazil Mission, its history and its impact: "Walking Together in God's Mercy: The Joy and Suffering of the Brazil Mission" can be viewed online at: http://www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/videos
The video DVD is also available on loan from the Msgr. Michael J. Koch Resource Library at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 2nd floor, Cathedral of the Holy Family, 123 Nelson Road, Saskatoon.
Copies of this hour-long DVD are also available for purchase: $10 in a paper sleeve, or $20 in an archival case. To order, call or e-mail the diocesan communications office: (306) 659-5844 or communications [at] saskatoonrcdiocese.com
A family video tribute to the late Msgr. Don Macgillivray (including his own words about his experience in the Brazil Mission) is posted at: https://youtu.be/oe18ZGFHAuk
The four sisters who are serving in the diocesan mission in Brazil returned to the diocese of Saskatoon in the summer of 2014:
Celebration of our Brazil Mission 1964 to 2014:
Celebrating 50 years of service, solidarity and friendship with Brazil!
A celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the diocesan mission in Brazil and to welcome our missionaries home was held Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. It included celebration of Eucharist with Bishop Bolen, followed by a program and reception, that included the premiere of a documentary video about the history and impact of the Brazil Mission.
More information about the Brazil Mission can be found in the Brazil Bulletin pages in each of the back issues of the Diocesan Newsletter (2010-2013) – link: http://saskatoonrcdiocese.com/newsletters
The Saskatoon diocese has had a mission in the archdiocese of Maceio in northeastern Brazil since 1964.
The most recent mission team consisted of two Sisters of Mission Service and two Ursulines of Bruno. These four sisters returned to Saskatchewan in the summer of 2014.
The Sisters of Mission Service are Srs. Jeannine Rondot and Marie-Noelle Rondot.
Sr. Jeannine (left) visiting youngers
Sr. Marie-Noelle with an elderly friend
The Rondots lived and worked in the small city of Sao Jose da Lage, located some 100 kilometres inland from the Atlantic coast in the midst of an agricultural area devoted almost exclusively to raising sugar cane and cattle. They helped with the normal pastoral activities of their parish in Lage but also developed a special ministry to the people living in one part of the city which has been most ignored by both civic and church administrations over the years.
Ursulines of Bruno, Sr. Claire Novecosky and Sr. Louise Hinz, also served in Brazil for many decades.
Sr. Claire holding cashew fruit
Sr. Louise showing local crafts to a visitor
They lived and worked on the island of St. Rita in the municipality of Marechal Deodoro, about 10 kilometers from Maceio, the capital city of the state of Alagoas, which is located on the Atlantic coast and is famous for its excellent beaches.
View of Maceio skyline with ocean in distance
Many of the people with whom the sisters worked make their living from fishing, creating crafts to sell to tourists or working in the tourist industry itself. Others worked for the municipality as teachers, in the health post or as street cleaners. Of course, as is typical in Brazil, there are many people who cannot find employment of any kind and who are forced to live in slums, in houses and on streets such at these.
Brazilian sister Sr. Ana Lucia is a trained psychologist and volunteers at a centre in one of the communities where the Ursulines worked, which houses a Pastoral for Children. The Pastoral is a program, found across Brazil, which aims to improve the lives of poor youngsters through better infant nutrition. Mothers are taught the value of feeding their babies a highly nutritious “multi-mixture” which is made at the local centres from plants commonly found in any backyard.
Sr. Ana demonstrates a machine used to dry the leaves used as part of the multi-mixture
Other ingredients include sesame and sunflower seeds
Sr. Louise helps weigh a child at the Pastoral for Children
The babies are weighed regularly to keep track of their progress.
The centre where Brazilian sister Sr. Ana Lucia worked is considerably more advanced than some others. It has been able to obtain support from Canada through Rainbow of Hope for Children and matching grants from CIDA. As a result, it has a van and a modern building which serves as a community centre, daycare and classroom for both adults and children in the nearby slum.
Mothers are able to learn such skills as baking or doing crafts.
A donation of reconditioned musical instruments by Saskatoon’s Kevin Junk has led to the creation of a children’s band at the centre, which offers the youngsters an alternative to the drug scene on the streets outside.
The Pastoral da Crianca Centre
A group taking a cooking class at the Centre
Children’s band at the Centre
Meanwhile, Sr. Louise was highly involved in a home, established jointly by a collective of Maceio’s women religious orders, for rescuing girls from prostitution. Again with help from Rainbow of Hope for Children, the sisters have purchased a house where their young charges found safety from the abuse that had them headed toward a life on the streets. They call the home Talitha, after Jesus’ words of healing.
Sr. Louise with some of the girls from the Talitha shelter
Sr. Louise also did a lot of work in a slum near the sisters’ home. The slum sprang up along the side of the busy highway leading to the beach, making it an exceptionally dangerous and noisy place to live. With the help of dedicated Brazilian volunteers, Sr. Louise managed to create a certain pride of community amid the poverty and, in honour of her contributions, the people have dubbed their bairro Vila Angela (for St. Angela, the Ursulines’ foundress).
Sr. Claire did a lot of work with the groups of faithful who meet in their small community chapels to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word. Because of the shortage of priests, these communities rarely have Eucharist and Sr. Claire helped to train lay people to catechize, visit the sick and lead celebrations. She also had Bible study groups and gave liturgical formation.
Sr. Claire doing parish work and visiting
Sr. Claire also helped with the formation of the young Ursuline candidates and the vocation retreats the sisters offer to deepen people’s appreciation of the call to single, married or religious life.
Interior and exterior views of the Ursulines' retreat centre on the island of St. Rita near Maceio
Brazilian sister, Sr. Neudes is a teacher who, while hoping to enter university to advance her training, is working to evangelize in some of the most remote communities of the parish. Her work as the parish coordinator of the catechetical program involved a lot of formation and support of the catechists.
Meanwhile, the Sisters of Mission Service in Lage focused much of their attention on the poorest area in their city. Located high up on a hillside on the edge of Lage, the slum area does not have proper streets, water services or other basics. When it rains, the mud paths leading up to thebairro become extremely treacherous to navigate and it becomes difficult, for example, for women to walk down to the river to wash their families’ clothes. Here are some pictures taken in the slum area.
Srs. Jeannine and Marie-Noelle describe being engaged in a “ministry of presence,” simply journeying with the poor people in their daily struggles. Just by showing that they care, the sisters gave a sense of self-worth to downtrodden folks who never before have been given any value. The sisters visited in their homes and had informal Bible study sessions where, for example, they were able to teach people who have never before known what Christmas means. Occasionally, they wee able to help supply food or medication in desperate situations.
During her visit to Saskatoon in the summer of 2005, Sr. Marie-Noelle explained that she planned to use money given her by Canadian friends to help one child in each family in the bairro to get the clothes and supplies needed in order to attend school. This, in turn, enabled that family to qualify for government aid that it would not obtain as long as it did not have someone in the school system. Sister said picking one child per family might seem arbitrary but that child’s good fortune would also benefit others in his/her family.