Abstracts from THE MALTESE MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE – 06
by Fr John Caruana
The Augustinian Province in Brazil was established in 1962. It was the year of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II when the bishop of the State of Mato Grosso. Campo Grande, met a Maltese Augustinian priest, Fr Fulgensius Galea OSA in Rome. They discussed the possibility of the Maltese Augustinian Province opening a mission in his diocese. Fr Fulgensius welcomed the invitation and presented this proposal to the Provincial Fr Ugolin Gatt. Together with Fr Paul Spiteri he proceeded to Mato Grosso which lies some 2500 kilometres away from Sao Paulo in the heart of Brazil, to discuss the project with Mgr Anthony Barbosa SDB. The decision to join the mission was taken.
The response was immediate and positive. The first appointment for Fr Paul Spiteri was the little village of Piloto. A big dyke was being built and the Augustinians were asked to take care of the spiritual needs of the hundreds of workers. Fr Spiteri was eventually joined by Fr George Debono and Fr Richard Aquilina.
The Maltese Province was asked to serve in the town of Paranaiba – a large city with several urban and rural communities around it. The Maltese Province provided them with a jeep, which helped them serve the communities better.
Mato Grosso was too far out from the Centre of Brazil. The fathers felt the necessity of opening another House and a Parish in the capital city of Sao Paulo, without abandoning their mission in Mato Grosso. Cardinal Evaristo Arns, the Archbishop of the city of Sao Paulo, offered them the parish of St Rita of Cassia in the periphery of Novo Mundo. A lady donated a piece of land to build a church. As a result their pastoral activity improved immensely.
An important development was meanwhile taking place amongst the Augustinians in Brazil. It was thought practical to set up a Brazilian Federation of all Augustinians. It was planned that by 2013 all the Augustinian missionaries of all nationalities in Brazil (Maltese, Spanish and Brazilians) would eventually form part of this Province. They are already giving the same formation to all students together in the same Faculty as a first step prior to forming one Province. Today they have two Centres of Formation: one in Sao Paulo and another in Curitiba, Parana. At the moment they have 15 aspirants, and a local adult was ordained recently.
Another activity, meant to raise awareness of the Maltese, is that since 1994 the Augustinians in Brazil are receiving youths from Malta. The initiative has now entered in the calendar of the Order and is bearing its fruit. Of late, a new experience was started: sending their novices to Argentina in order to exercise and learn Spanish. The Province of Argentina is sending its students to Brazil to study Theology.
Testimony of Reginaldo Abreu Araujo Da Silva:
“I am a Brazilian Augustinian friar and I belong to the Maltese Province. When I was sixteen years old I was looking for a Seminary, but when I came to know the Maltese Augustinians through Fr Raphael, I learned to look up to him. That helped me decide to enter a Seminary run by the Maltese Augustinian monks.
In their sermons the Augustinians sowed Hope in well prepared homilies. This gave me the necessary courage to face life as an Augustinian monk. Their simple life attracted me. They lacked nothing, but a spirit of poverty reigned in the house. The way they lived as a community in the convent had a special charisma. I was fascinated by their work with the poor in the favela. Ten years have passed since my ordination. I prefer to live with those older than me, learning from their experience and spirituality.”
The Brazilian Augustinian Fathers, fruit of this 50-year activity were Fr Luiz Augusto de Matos, Fr Jorge Manzini, Fr Reginaldo de Abreu Silva, Fr Maciel Bueno, Fr Heres de Oliveira, Fr Rodrigo Vieira da Silva and Bro William Micheletti da Silva.
Fr John Caruana may be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org