Abstracts from THE MALTESE MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE – 09
By Fr John Caruana
The Archdiocese of Londrina formally created on the 17th February 1957, had as its first Bishop, Mgr Geraldo Fernandez. It was at this time that Bishop Fernandez visited Malta asking for priests and possibly even seminarians to work in these new pastures.
The new diocese and later the dioceses of Maringa and Apucarana, had to start everything from scratch. Anything and everything done was inspired by faith and trust in God.
During his first visit to Brazil in 1980, Pope John Paul II, when referring to the arrival of the missionaries, said: “They didn’t come as conquerors in search of land or in search of good deals and money. No! They came as missionaries to announce Jesus Christ and spread the Gospel.”
The first group of seminarians that arrived in this diocese were Mgr Joseph Agius and Joseph Xuereb both of Gozo, the late Fr Francis Debattista and Fr Carmelo Mercieca, and Mgr Bernard Gafa. Agius was appointed parish priest in Rolandia, Debattista in the distant and poor district of Tamarana where he died very young. Gafa started his pastoral work in the Immaculate Conception parish and had Peter Camilleri as his assistant. Today, he is responsible for the Catheral. The late Fr Carmelo Mercieca’s son moved to the diocese of Apucarana when this was created. The late Fr Peter Fenech and Fr Frankie Tabone Adami today of Apucarana, both started their mission in Londrina.
At a later stage Fr Paul Brincat, who apart from serving in a parish, served as a Seminary Rector for ten years, and the late Fr Carmelo Bezzina who was deeply respected in the various parishes he served, arrived in Londrina as seminarians in 1965. The late Fr Philip Said served for a long period in the parish of Our Lady of Rocio, but his special mark was his chaplaincy at the University Hospital of Londrina.
The Archdiocese of Maringa
Fr Vincent Costa who later became bishop, together with Edwin Parascandolo and Lawrence Gauci, had started as seminarians in Londrina and later moved to the Archdiocese of Maringa. They all studied in the Seminary of Curitiba at a time when the Church in Brazil was being influenced by Vatican II. However, Fr Costa attributes the fact that he and his colleagues had grown more conscious of the new way of being the Church in line with Vatican II, to the late Fr Francis Debattista in Tamarana, and to Fr Thomas Bonnici at Vila Olveira in Rolandia, where they used to spend their holidays, rather to anything else. According to Fr Costa, Thomas Bonnici had embarked on a different type of pastoral activity, passing from a pastoral of conservation, of simply preparing the faithful to receive the sacraments, to that better known method of see, judge and act. Fr Costa was the first parish priest in the town of Sarandi where he served for six years. When I eventually arrived in Brazil in 1984 on the 17th year of my priesthood, I succeeded him as the second parish priest. Along the years, this parish was divided into four parishes. I am still serving in one of the four parishes, namely, Sao Paulo Apostolo. Fr Lawrence Gauci served in Maringa for 20 years and then moved to Sao Paulo where he served for another 20 years, before returning to Malta.
The Diocese of Apucarana
The bishop of Londrina, Mgr Geraldo Fernandez, had for some time now, felt the need to suggest to Rome, the creation of another diocese. This would have its seat in the city of Apucarana, which was fast developing into a medium-sized city, known as Cidade Alta, (High City), situated 1000 metres above sea level. Bishop Fernandez presented to the Apostolic Nunciature the project of a new diocese, with parishes coming from the dioceses of Londrina and Campo Moura.
Fr Frankie Tabone Adami moved to this new diocese from the diocese of Londrina and was later joined by Fr Carmelo Mercieca. Fr Frankie was working in Sabaudia when the new diocese was created and so he moved on to the diocese of Apucarana. Later he went on to serve in the parish dedicated to St Joseph in Cambira. In the meantime, during all these years, he lectured philosophy at the Seminary and served as Vicar General of the diocese.
Three other Maltese priests who served in the diocese of Apucarana, were, Fr Michael Pace who served in the parish of Ivaipora and later in the parish of Sao Ignacio from where he went on to serve as Pastoral Coordinator of the diocese and lately as Seminary Rector, and the late Fr Dominic Camilleri who was ordained on Christmas Day 1966 and served in the parish of Vila Regina in the periphery of Apucarana from where he went to Caixa Sao Pedro. He served in the Ecclesiastical Chamber of the Diocese together with Fr Lucas Azzopardi who served in three parishes; Iguaraçu, Angulo and later in Pitangueiuras.