This report is contributed by Rodrigo Arantes of Aid to the Church in Need.
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“You have to get used to the distances,” the missionary says. That was one of the first lessons that Father Pedro Paulo Schewior had to learn when—20 years ago, after leaving his native Poland—he first came to Tefe, a town in the Amazon region of Brazil. In practical terms, this means the priests spends days on end traveling by boat visiting the various far-flung Catholic communities in Amazonia.
His boat, the Zé Bezerra—recently repaired and spruced up to make it faster—is indeed a vital tool for his missionary work spreading the Gospel among native people. For example, there is the ‘parish’ of San Antonio de Ipapucu, which has become a model of community life: inspired by example of the Apostles, the people help one another in their work on the plantations, above all when a workers falls ill. There is also a community orchard, plus collectives for every type of work.
Father Schewior can only be present there to say Mass about 10 times a year; hence lay catechists have a crucial role beyond formation of the people—they organize Liturgies of the Word on priestless Sundays. Raimundo Menezes, the “pastoral animator” for the region, emphasizes the importance of these liturgical celebrations for the strengthening of the community: “In order to remain alive and active, a Catholic community has to celebrate the liturgy,” he told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Life, in any case, is not easy for these locals, for whom the arrival of the priest is a great consolation and cause for joy. “The life of these people is not exactly idyllic,” despite the gorgeous natural setting, said the missionary.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)