It is shocking to think that there are so many souls around the world who have not even heard of God and so many others who live as if He did not exist. It seems incredible to think that our Brazil, so vast, Catholic and evangelized by great saints, such as St. Joseph of Anchieta, still lacks so much of God. And, on the other hand, we experience the great love of God for this world, the care and affection of a Shepherd who does not want to lose any of his sheep… He, the great Shepherd of souls, wants to reach all of them, and for this he makes use of his missionaries, sheep that are available as instruments in the hands of the Shepherd, so that he can beget new life. For this we were called from July 16 to 24, to evangelize under the banner of Christ in Boca do Acre, Amazonas.
We arrived at midnight at the airport in the Province of Acre, located in the north of Brazil, about 3,600 km from São Paulo from where we left. There were still three hours left to reach Boca do Acre, a city located in a region where the Acre River originates, but which belongs to the Province of Amazonas. The day we arrived, we visited two small chapels on the other side of the Acre River, and as was expected, we crossed by boat, us and the parish priest, who was ordained a priest 7 prior and is the pastor of 29 communities, separated by significant distances, and often celebrating Mass for three, five or ten people. This was the reality we found in these two communities we visited: in the first one there were about four people, in the second chapel about 8… But the parish priest travels as much as necessary, even if it is to celebrate Mass for five people.
In the afternoon, providentially, was organized a youth group with youth from both parishes, as a result there were many in the Church the first day. We invited them to participate with us in the Mission and the invitation was well received by most of them.
The following day, Saturday, July 16th, we had the Holy Mass dedicated to the missionary sendoff! The Holy Mission was declared open in the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi. With great enthusiasm and liberality, hands to work… To the divine work, to the work of the Great Master, to the work of the salvation of souls!
The first day of the mission did not begin with home visits, but with activities in the parish for youth and children. Following in the evening, we had the missionary act, the Holy Mass and the first sermon of the week. The Mission had just begun and the Church was already getting crowded.
The second day we began with the house visits, processions, the rosary of the dawn…. And in the streets of Boca do Acre the famous mission song could already be heard: “The mission… come and participate…”, “The Virgin Mary is our Protector, our Defender…” or the cry that was the plea of all the missionaries to the families of this region “Holy Mission! Save your soul!”.
In the northern part of Brazil it is customary to say that “there is a sun for everyone”. Therefore, our motto was “don’t give up”, because the devil could take advantage of the fatigue that increased with the heat and prevent us from giving all we could for those souls.
I asked a juniorate sister who had stayed all morning under this strong sun, making the Corpus Christi carpet with the youth, if she would prefer to stay at the Parish in the afternoon while we went to visit the houses, to rest and recover her strength, and she answered: “No, I want to visit the houses, we traveled 3,700 kilometers, for this we came from far away. I cannot stay here in the parish”.
In the house visits we experienced a truth: “How can they believe in him whom they have not heard”(Rom 10:14). The great majority of the people did not know what to do, nor how to do it… They had not yet received the message of Truth, and nobody had ever come to their door and talked about sin, about the necessity of God’s grace, about Heaven, about Hell… The people were docile, it was enough to tell them what they needed for salvation and they easily disposed themselves to seek after the sacraments. There was an atmosphere of first evangelization. Everything was new for the inhabitants of that place, and many embraced this grace of the Mission with great desire for conversion. On the other hand, there were also good youth who questioned their vocation and were ready to give concrete answers to God’s call in their lives.
A time of grace, a time in which our misery and the power of God are manifested! A time in which we were able to understand more deeply that “without God we can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), He is the Author of conversions, the Owner of souls… We, fragile instruments, but surrendered to the will of the One who works!
Every day we woke up at 5:20 a.m., and at 6:15 a.m. the Procession and the Rosary of the Dawn would begin. And believe me, they were with us from the first hour: youth, children, adults, elderly… And even a child just a few months old. They were there every day, faithful to the schedule during the long days of the eight-day mission.
Since the youth, from the beginning, were very enthusiastic… we started with the missionary games. Three teams, with about twelve youth in each. The patrons: St. Tarcisio, Carlo Acutis, Chiara Luce. They took the competitions seriously. History of their patrons, languages (Latin, English, Spanish), choir, soloist, team anthem, banner, sports, and very good spirit.
The children would only leave at 12:00 noon for lunch, and in the afternoon they were there, determined to play until 9:30 pm. For the children’s party, which took place on Saturday, we received many donations of cakes, candy, soft drinks, etc. A great celebration…God really wanted this Mission, and He didn’t spare anyone.
Two of our greatest joys were: seeing the people we had visited responding to the invitation with great generosity, participating in the Holy Mass and even staying at the fogón; and seeing the huge line of confessions at all times, especially during Mass.
And when it was time to leave, I felt something different than in the other missions I had done before: in all the previous ones, we always returned to our convent and seminary and those people still met some religious in the subway, on the bus, in some parish, Catholic event…. They could easily find a community with a priest, visit Shrines of the Virgin Mary, participate in processions, etc. But, in Amazonas, in Boca do Acre, it was not so easy… And at that moment, I sensed ” to be nothing”, I felt that the great Owner of those souls was God and that, if He had taken us there, He would watch over these souls, over each one of them, as He had always done; I felt that being spent for souls was not in the hours and hours walking under the burning sun of Piquiá, the red soil that rose to our eyes, but in the hours we spent with Jesus in prayer; I felt that the being spent for souls begins by being on our knees in the chapel. And then I understood that the missionary was not born to build a nest in any land; that the land belongs to God, and the missionary was born to work in the land where God sends him, to “be nothing”, but to “do everything” under God’s command.
Finally we got into the car that was waiting for us and entrusted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus all those souls that God had entrusted to us. Our mission with them had just begun!
And if it is necessary to return there, we will say like St. Francis Xavier: “If there is no boat, I will go swimming”.
Sr. Mary, Mother of Mercy
Province of Our Lady Aparecida