Abstracts from THE MALTESE MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE – 05
by Fr John Caruana
Fr Dominic Ebejer and Fr Isnard Farrugia went to Brazil as missionaries through the Italian Vicariate of the Dominican Province of Bologna, Italy on the 21st December 1957, where they were welcomed by the Italian Friars. They were posted to the diocese of Goias, situated in the far west of Brazil, some 2500 kilometres away from Sao Paulo.
Their first assignment was in the city of Itapirapua where they took care of an extensive missionary area spread over six towns, at that time all of them cut off and primitive. Later they moved to the diocese of Londrina, serving in the towns of Faxinal,
Borrazopolis and Londrina itself, and to the dioceses of Ponta Grossa and Curitiba in the South of Parana. If all went well, the Order planned to open its own Maltese Dominican Mission. In fact this mission was a success story.
Fr Angelo Mamo in his series of articles ‘Mixja li Se Tibqa’ Sejra’ says that apart from their pastoral work in the various and numerous parishes, the Maltese Dominicans were constantly asked by the bishops to help on a diocesan level in the seminaries, participating in bishops’ conferences, religious conferences, youth movements, communications media and the many social movements concerned with the social injustice in Brazil. Fr Dominic Ebejer became titular bishop of União da Vitória, Fr John Xerri served for several years as president of the Commission for Human Rights of the Dominicans in Latin America and Fr Gino Sapiano, together with Fr Vince Fenech, were successively chosen as Provincials of the newly created Province.
As a witness to the good work done by the Maltese Dominicans, Fr Marcello, a Brazilian Dominican priest writes: “I was brought up with the Maltese friars. I learnt a lot from Fr John Xerri, Fr Angelo, Fr Vincent and Brother Anton who was the last to leave. The Maltese did marvellous work in Goias. These Dominican Fathers created other parishes and the impression they left during 25 years is lasting. I was mostly impressed by their option for the poor who were cared for individually and as a community. Fr Vincent and Fr John impressed me with their spirituality. Unfortunately, today despite the teachings of Vatican II, the Church in Brazil is being more introspective rather than outward looking. But still, Brother Anton for example, who is the administrator of the house, is much loved by the people because he is always present with the poor and he receives them with love. He is a holy man, a man of prayer. I consider myself very lucky to have lived with him.”
Fr Marcello remembers with satisfaction a Maltese nurse who worked with them for years teaching alternative medicine to the people. He proudly wore the black ring in his finger as a symbol of the poor, saying that “they might have had their defects, but the Maltese Dominicans which I came to know here in Curitiba had this special sensibility for the poor.”