In February the Willow Wheelers completed their annual mission trip to learn more about the work of the Spiritans and to have the chance to (re-)visit supported projects. This year the trip was to Brazil.
In Belém Mission, a facility that provides help for people who are seeking to recover from the scourge of addiction, Fr. Pat McNamara explains the challenge. Homeless addicts are offered a way out of a life that many would call ‘hell’. To do this, Mission Belém becomes the family that they haven’t otherwise got.
The theme of family was also apparent in City of the Angels, a special space away from the harsh realities of life where children from some of São Paulo’s cramped and squalid favelas can have fun and enjoy nature. In Vila Prudente, we attended the regular Sunday Mass with the local community.
Fr. Pat Clarke, who sees his role as working in solidarity with the people to maintain human dignity, detailed the difficult realities of life in gang-riddled favelas where opportunities are few, life is uncertain, and evictions can happen at any time. Local children, who have an opportunity to engage in a range of art projects, did a striking dance based on conservation and the beauty of the rain-forests.
We visited a recycling cooperative, initiated in 2007 by Fr. Assis Tavares who also works in the favelas and advises his co-workers on rights. In the recycling centre, many of the workers formerly were addicts or prisoners, who would have little or no opportunity to find alternative work elsewhere.
Brazil was a great experience. We particularly thank Fr Brendan Foley for his very thorough itinerary. His Mass at the chapel below the statue of Christ the Redeemer was very special. The students in our group took a sincere interest in all that they saw, and had their eyes opened to abuse of human rights. We also saw some of the dangers faced daily by confrères and understand the sacrifices they make.
Having previously seen Spiritan works in various African countries, it seems to me that the focus of the Brazilian mission model is human dignity and human rights. In solidarity with marginalized people and seeking to light the first flame of hope in their lives, the Church is at the core of communities, and with small parishes dotted across the favelas, Spiritans are at the heart of their lives.+