After eight years in São Paulo, our family recently returned to João Pessoa, a coastal capital at the most eastern point of the Americas, to reopen the presence of Maryknoll Lay Missioners here. In order to reconnect with partners and explore ministry possibilities, my husband, Flávio, and I are visiting several communities.
I was delighted to reconnect with Elaine, a community leader who had participated in a course I facilitated 10 years ago with Maryknoll Sister Mercy Mtaita in the community where Maryknoll Father Frank Hidgon ministered. Elaine is now coordinating an association called Women Center’s Garden of Hope. She invited me to come and see in what ways I could collaborate.
At our first gathering, the women decided that they would like to start with activities to reduce stress and anxiety, a common complaint among many women in the periphery of Brazil. We decided to come together for some yoga, breathing exercises, and sharing on mental health challenges.
When they asked me what they needed for our gatherings, I mentioned that a canga, the ever-present Balinese cloth sarong that Brazilians mainly use at the beach, would be helpful for some of the exercises.
When I returned for our next group and was catching my motorcycle ride from the bus stop to the Garden of Hope center, a woman who owns a tiny clothing store shouted out to me, “I don’t know what you’re doing here in the neighborhood, but keep it up. I’ve never sold so many cangas in 24 hours!”
I joked that I should be getting a special price for my canga. She didn’t laugh, but on my return to catch the bus home she had one waiting for me.