A child’s dream come true - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Francisco standing in front of President Lula at the top of the ramp to the Presidential Palace during the presidential inauguration celebration Jan. 1, 2023 (Photo by Eliezer Pedroso via Wikimedia Commons)

In the U.S., the Jan. 1 inauguration of Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula” for short) is primarily known for the subsequent mayhem caused by supporters of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro the following Sunday, Jan. 8. But Lula’s inauguration itself was a moving and hope-inspiring event.

Ten-year old Francisco C. Nascimento always wanted to meet Lula. Little did he know that their paths would cross during a Christmas celebration with those who are in situations of homelessness in São Paulo.

Lula has celebrated Christmas with this group for many years. When I invited my co-worker, Telma, the mother of Francisco, to participate in the celebration, Telma said that is was an answer to her prayer, as Francisco could finally have his dream come true.

Not only did Francisco meet Lula, but he and Lula hit it off and connected on several levels. Francisco is an ardent swimmer and has won many medals in swimming competitions, and both he and Lula are great fans of the Corinthians soccer team.

As a result of their encounter at the Christmas celebration, Francisco received a very special invitation to Lula’s second-term presidential inauguration on Jan. 1 in Brasilia, the capital.

Lula chose a diverse group of traditionally marginalized Brazilians (Indigenous, Afro-Brazilians, those who live by recycling from trash, people with special needs, LGBTQ+) to walk up the ramp to the Planalto Presidential Palace side-by-side with him and to honor him with the presidential sash. Francisco was part of that group.

See the photos of Francisco walking up the ramp, next to Lula here

and of Francisco receiving a hug from Lula here.

It was an incredible symbol for all Brazilians, and, in the words of Francisco, a young boy living and struggling on the periphery of the city, “We feel welcome. I am proud to represent Afro-Brazilians and will work hard for our people.”

Those of us who know Telma and Francisco were and are greatly touched by this inspiring event, and our hopes for inclusion and a place at the table for all people have been rekindled by new national policies in Brazil.

Joanne Blaney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1991, Joanne works in restorative justice, violence prevention and popular education at the Popular Education and Human Rights Center in São Paulo, Brazil. She also works in outreach with people experiencing homelessness.