From 10th to 16th February, I animated together with sr. Vivian Bok for a week animation organized by the PIME fathers in preparation for the missionary mandate of Fr. Estevão Magro, of the mission in Myanmar in the Southeast Asia.
We left San Paolo during the heavy rain that blocked the city. After a day of travelling, we arrived at our destination of Espera Feliz, the birthplace of Fr. Estevão in the state of Minas Gerais (southeast of Brazil).
We found a city devastated by heavy rains that hit the state of Minas at the end of January, causing landslides, destroying bridges and leaving many people homeless. Indeed, we arrived in a difficult moment! Initially we thought we should cancel our missionary animation, but the bishop of Caratinga and the fathers decided to continue to be a sign of hope in that critical situation.
The rain did not allow us to follow the scheduled program that we had planned, many of the schools that we should have visited were closed and so we had to depend on the Providence and leave our plans aside.
We went from house to house visiting various communities in the rain and sometimes in the dirty mud.
The family visits gave us the opportunity to share our faith and bring hope to people’s hearts. During the visits, I was very impressed by the beauty of the nature, the immense spaces, the waterfalls and above all the many coffee plantations, a context where the everyday life unfolds almost all people.
The families we visited welcomed us as people sent by God, offering the little they had with great generosity, sharing their sufferings, family vicissitudes and asking us to pray for them. In their hospitality, I perceived the presence of God who welcomed me and so by visiting them I was also visited by Him.
In the afternoon, we used to meet the young people, showing the beauty of the missionary vocation through our joy and our testimony. We met many young people full of enthusiasm, but with few prospectives for the future.
It was an experience of profound communion with the people as well as with PIME fathers with whom we have created a beautiful fraternity. It reminded me of our origins of communion between our our founders. In fact, we are a single family with the same charism proclaiming and witnessing Christ with our whole life.
The missionary animation week concluded with Fr. Estevão’s missionary mandate mass on Sunday 16th February in the Cathedral of St. John Baptist of Caratinga. The choice of the cathedral, the residence of the diocese, as the place of missionary mandate means that Fr. Estevão has become a bridge between Caratinga and the other side of the world, an expression of the missionary character of the particular Church.
The missionary week was blessed by God, where I recognized the presence of the Lord who came to encounter me in the simple and persevering faith of this people, in the generous hospitality received, in the fraternity that was created, which made me feel part of a bigger family. In fact, it is true that whoever leaves it all for Jesus already receives a hundred times more now: houses and brothers and sisters …
Sr. Maria Garofalo – South Brazil province