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São Joaquim community – Parish of Sta. Terezinha

When I moved to Brasilândia, I began working with the parish of Santa Terezinha.  Like most parishes on the periphery of the city, it’s made up of several worshiping communities, each with its own chapel.  The church of Santa Terezinha is the seat of the parish, and the largest of the communities.  Nossa Senhora de Lourdes is nearby and hosts an animated congregation.  The three smaller communities, São Joaquim, Santo Eugênio, and São José, are in the poorest areas of the neighborhood — with São José located in a hillside favela.  Check out the parish blog here.

Many residents of Brasilândia are migrants from the Northeast of Brazil — an area with its own rich culture and traditions (and historically one of the poorer areas of the country).  One of my first Sundays with the parish, we had a “Missa Nordestina” — Northeastern Mass — celebrating the culture of our migrant families.  For the offertory procession, people carried/danced with various symbols of the Northeast.  I was only able to capture the first minute on video, check it out here:  Missa Nordestina
Not every community in the parish has mass every Sunday.  Eucharistic celebrations are led by trained lay ministers and the parish’s deacon.  This is partly due to the fact that there’s only one priest per parish in Brasilândia, but also because for a long time in Brazil there was a movement to increase and promote lay leadership.  In the past, lay leaders performed almost all baptisms and witnessed weddings as well.
The pastor of our parish, Padre Valdiran, initially asked me to get a Confirmation program going for the parish’s youth — but that’s morphed into creating a formation course for people wanting to serve as catechists and well as organizing the entire catechesis program for the parish!  Right now only a few of the communities have any catechesis offered, and there’s no preparation for Confirmation whatsoever.
The parishioners have been very welcoming — during my first month in the parish, I lost track of how many different times I was presented to various communities.  Each time, the congregation sang a song of welcome.  Everyone’s been patient with my Portuguese, and many folks love to try out their few phrases in English on me.  I’ve been to a few parishioners’ homes for meals, and meals at the parish house (often cooked by Valdiran himself) are fun and full of good conversation.

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.