Adapting is way of life in missions - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Adapting is way of life in missions

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment of Bishop Clark’s report on his visit to the Sisters of St. Joseph missions in Brazil.

Saturday, Jan. 21: We traveled from Caldas Novas to Goiania today. Somehow the sisters managed to pack five people and all of our bags into a medium-sized car and we rode in peace and comfort.

We chatted most of the way and stopped at a small village for lunch shortly after noon. The gentleman who owned the small buffet place was quite friendly. In the course of our brief conversation with him, we discovered that he has a daughter in the hotel business in Florida and a son who is a veterinarian in New York City. He goes to the United States every year to see them and his two grandchildren.

In the evening, I went to the community where Ellen Kuhl ministers. Father Roque presided at the celebration, which included the renewal of marriage vows by parishioners Jose Maria and Lourdes, who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. The whole liturgy was joyful. I am especially impressed by the wonderful participation in the music.

In the afternoon I had a conversation with Sister Katherine Popowich, who has been in Brazil from the very early days of the mission. I was grateful for her willingness to share with me some of the ups and downs she has experienced through the years here. So much change in society. So much change in the church. So much change in religious life. I wondered how she kept steady, pushing in directions that lead to deeper life. I always find it helpful to learn how people I admire keep their faces to the sun. Katherine is certainly one of those people.

We ended the day at the home of Jose Maria and Lourdes for an anniversary celebration I am sure continued well into the night. It was a good experience of the warm hospitality of the people here.

Sunday, Jan. 22: The Portuguese language never suffered an assault such as the one I launched on it this morning at Sunday Eucharist. I did my best to practice and had good coaching with pronunciation, but there were many slips and lapses. But the people — as you might expect — were very patient with it all.

I was grateful for the opportunity to pray the Eucharist with them. I was grateful to tell Anne Marvin’s community, as I have told the others I have visited, that they are in the prayers and affection of the people of our diocese.

I didn’t realize that the church in Brazil has some new eucharistic prayers. We used one today that has the congregation responding by acclamation several times through the text. It was a striking way of prayer, and I wondered if one day there will be a musical setting for it. Music is very much a part of Brazilian culture and, therefore, of their liturgies.

After Mass all of us gathered where Ellen, Joana Dalva Alves Mendes and Elizabeth Alves Gama live. Maria Jose Monteiro de Oliveira cooked meat on a grill, cut it in small pieces as it was done, and passed it around so that each of us could spear some with a toothpick and enjoy its rich flavor. In the midst of the rounds of spearing, we were invited to pick up and enjoy some rice, beans and salad.

Present for the festive meal was Bishop Leonardo, the new bishop of Sao Feliz, and successor to Bishop Pedro Casadaliga, who retired. He was happy to see Jean and Maureen who just left Mato Grosso and to meet the other sisters. In a private moment, he told me how deeply the people there will miss our sisters and how much good they have done there over the years. While he will understand the reasons that led to their decision, I know that the bishop will dearly miss our sisters.

I was much impressed by Leonardo. He is a personable and a very peaceful man who strikes me as having a lively spirituality. My guess is that the people of San Feliz will take to his Franciscan spirit in very positive ways.

Peace to all.

Look for the conclusion of Bishop Clark’s mission journal next weekend.

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