Stories from the Amazon: two hectic months
January 2023 wake up
We started on January 1 with the fireworks of the change of year still not turned off and with a solemn celebration in the urban community of San José to confirm and give the first communion to a large group of adolescents and young people. Celebration framed in the process of initiation to the Christian life (IVC) that little by little implanting in the Prelature.
There is resistance to implement this new method due to the deep-rooted tradition of live and receive the sacraments as old customs of "it has always been like this", "we are going to take away faith if they are so demanding”; “That is why they become evangelicals, because they are more welcoming and understanding”… And it is good and timely to note that this group followed the process, being an example for the community and the Parish.
A few days later, on Saturday, January 7, it was in the community of Santa Monica where three young people received their first communion; a much smaller group, but also following in the footsteps of this "new" way of being Church.
The month of January passed with considerable activity, since several friars were in vacation. It should be noted that we received the visit of Fr. Kléber, a priest from Ponta Grossa, companion of Fr. Osvaldo, parish priest of Canutama, to get to know the mission, and that we celebrated the closing of the 75 years of the Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Missionaries. We had online and face-to-face training to prepare the Assembly of the Prelature, and we celebrated the feast of Saint Sebastian, a very popular saint in the Prelature, in the city and various communities, highlighting the Parish of San Francisco and San Sebastián of which he is co-patron.
XIV Assembly of the Prelature of Labrea
A strong moment in the Prelature was the XIV general and elective assembly that takes place every three years, although this time there were four, due to the pandemic. Was held in Tapauá and we had been preparing for more than two years studying the topics synodally as Pope Francis wants.
On January 20, the most distant; On the 22nd we joined those of Lábrea and those who arrived from the missionary area of Km 70. On the 23rd, those of Canutama, Belo Monte and Foz de Tapauá were added, according to we were going through each place. Tighter and tighter on the boat, but each time more fraternal community. We had daily mass, sometimes on the boat, other times in land; interventions, celebrations were prepared... finalizing the calendar of what was going to happen.
We arrived in Tapauá on the 25th where we were welcomed by a hospitable people and a generous rain. And at 5 in the afternoon was the opening of the Assembly and at 7:00 p.m. the opening mass.
The works of the Assembly followed one another according to the programming made by fray Luis Antonio Fernández Aguado and Fr. Éder Carvalho. The first topic was the application of the Synod of Amazonas, with a video conference with Cardinal Dom Leonardo Ulrich, Archbishop of Manaus, who, for logistical reasons, could not be present. Then meeting in groups to prepare the proposals, taking as a guide the document of job.
The second topic was the Initiation to the Christian Life (IVC), advised by the layman Ireneo Castro, come from Manaus for this purpose. They also followed the groups of work and plenary meetings to finalize the documents and guidelines of the Assembly.
The third theme was Synodality, a theme coordinated by Fray Luis Antonio Fernández Aguado with the same dynamics.
Strong moments of spirituality, prayer and Eucharist framed the work, with celebrations in the work room, in urban communities, in the chapel fluctuating... An Amazonian Mass with celebration, part in the plaza and part in the temple... and the closing Mass on Sunday in the matrix with reading and approval of the act that would later be legally registered.
Before embarking for the return we had a cultural act to honor the veteran missionaries: the Augustinian Recollects Monsignor Jesús Moraza, Miguel Angel Peralta and Henrique Giera. The people of Tapauá took advantage of the moment to say goodbye to the one who in recent years has been his parish priest, Fray Luis Antonio Fernández Aguado, who, at the end of the assembly, moved to Lábrea, his new destination.
The Assembly was an experience of practical synodality. the catholic people of Tapauá literally turned in every way so that this could be carried out historical event. Thank you all: welcoming families, kitchen staff, teams for liturgy, animation, logistics, singing, decoration, preparation of details and memories, secretariat... Hugs and blessings to all...
In the early morning of the 30th, with the ship full of passengers, we undertook the trip to return, being more and more comfortable until arriving at Lábrea. Even the religious Augustinian Recollects from Pauiní had to wait a few days before leaving. they arrived to its destination on February 7.
Assembly of the Delegation of Augustinian Recoletos, in Brazil
The same day we arrived in Lábrea, the prior provincial Carlos González arrived and the recollects of Guaraciaba, Fortaleza and Manaus for the Assembly of the Delegation of Brazil of our Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine. After a brotherly meeting We started work on February 3. The dynamic was work in the morning to study the priorities and arrangements of the last Provincial Chapter, and for the afternoon shared work on the situation and particularities of each community.
As bishop of the Prelature I had my time and opportunity to speak: I recognize the work and dedication of the religious who are here, but I see them overloaded because the determinations of the General and Provincial Chapters to be four members in each community. The prior provincial says that he does not have who to send, that those who want to have their positions and those who could come do not want.
I spoke that I was tempted to send a letter to the General and Provincial Councils exposing the situation and asking for volunteers with several objectives: encourage the spirit missionary and recollect, invite us to look at the mission as our best image as Church, instill more courage to be more Augustinian by going where the Church leads us really needs it and to be intrepid recollects, like the first, who went out to the missions being few and new, but guided by the desire to surrender to God and his Church... I did not write that letter, I am only sharing here what my intention was..., but I did not give up doing it one day.
Those days lived in the Assembly were fraternal, we were encouraged and strengthened by the formations, sharing, dialogue, praying... It was great to meet again the friars.
On February 9, almost everyone traveled, and shortly after we were all back in the normal life; some, premiering a new destination. It was time to renew contract between the Province and the Prelature. I hope volunteers to make effective that contract.
Trip to Guajará-Mirim
Shortly after, on the 13th, I was traveling again. I left Lábrea and made a stopover in the area missionary at kilometer 70 near the city of Porto Velho. Almost canonical visitation in that, in a meeting with the missionary team: Fr. Silvio, Deacon Methodio and his wife Vera, of the Diocese of Ponta Grosa de Paraná, the proposal that Fr. Silvio came to Labrea to reinforce some pastorals and celebrations in the absence of Priests. The next day the deacon took me to Porto Velho where they were waiting for the bishop of Humaita, Dom Antonio Fontinele; the Bishop of Ji-Paraná, Dom Norberto Christoph, and the Bishop of Porto Velho, Dom Roque Paloski; and the four of us set out on a trip to Guajará-Mirim to celebrate the Regional Council of Bishops (CONSER). there was the bishop host Dom Benedito Araújo and the one from Cruzeiro do Sur Dom Flavio Governalle arrived; only our Dom Joaquín Pertíñez, an Augustinian Recollect, was absent due to illness.
Intense days, with a tight and abundant list of themes that we gave account in line with the social and historical situation of our extensive, poor, exploited, ignored, with a lack of clergy and vocations, politically confronted, not respected in its indigenous and riverside... with all the collateral problems that they affected the Church in its evangelizing and missionary task.
We also enter into the analysis of our journey and future projects to present it in April at the Plenary of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, which this year it is also elective. On the 18th at dawn I was back in Lábrea where Don Jesús Moraza, Father Éder Carvalho and the seminarian Thiago Mendes.
Diaconal ordination of Thiago Mendes
Yes, they were already at home preparing and preparing for the diaconal ordination of Thiago. Historic event because he is the first original deacon of the Prelature and for the Prelature. We had a preparatory triduum in several of the parishes of the Prelature and here in Lábrea in the communities. some arrived Thiago's fellow neo-priests and seminarians; a guest boat from Canutama, his city, and Porto Velho, where he studied philosophy and theology and made his pastoral experience. The presence of his mother was very important, since he is an only child, and she was the protagonist with him in the celebration. The ceremony was austere and emotional, letting the liturgy speak for itself, since for most of the attendees it was the first time they attended a celebration of this type.
In the final words, Thiago expressed his vocational feelings on a tour history since his childhood, and his availability at the service of his particular church of the Prelature. We ended the day with a popular dinner accompanied by music and dance that cannot be missing in these Amazonian lands.
In the midst of these celebrations we begin Lent with Ash Wednesday and, after several conversations with the presbyteral council, we have assigned the new deacon to the parish of Labrea until September and, from then until his priestly ordination in Canutama. And we continue to celebrate this vocational year in Brazil, taking advantage of this event to motivate and create that vocational culture while waiting not to have to spend another 98 years so that another deacon may emerge in the Prelature.