Home » Faith Formation and Pastoral Care » Go into the Favelas to Seek & Serve Christ

By: Carolyn Trumble
Copacabana beach in Rio de Janerio was the site for World Youth Day (WYD) 2013.  There Pope Francis quoted Mother Teresa by saying, “It is in the favelas that one must go to seek and serve Christ.” (Francis, WYD 2013)  I was not able to go to Rio for WYD this year; however, I was able to participate in the Mission Week of WYD in São Paulo.
Mission Week was a week prior to going to Rio and involved having pilgrims from all over the world visit and be immersed in the life of the ordinary Brazilian.  The parish I volunteered with was in Brasilandia, a community in the periphery of São Paulo.  Young people from Honduras spent the week immersed in the life of the poor.
What struck me the most about this week was that the people who were doing the serving where the people who live in the favelas (shantytown).  They are the poor and yet they gave everything they had to host the youth from around the world.  So I think about them when I hear Pope Francis ask us to seek Christ in the favelas.  In their hospitably and in their humbleness they were witnesses to Christ’s love.
This last week Pope Francis visited hospitals, prisons, and a favela in Brazil.  By his actions and his words he challenged everyone to do the same.  This challenge was an affirmation for me and I felt a great solidarity with the Pope.  My current ministries are working at an educational center for youth many of whom live in the favelas and teach health courses in two women’s prisons.
This last week as I listened to the Pope’s words about serving the poor I also felt a great pride to be a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.  What a blessing it is for me to work together in Brazil with 10 Lay Missioners + 2 children, 6 Maryknoll Sisters, and 2 Maryknoll Priests.  Everyday we go into the prisons, the hospitals, the favelas, the schools, the churches, and the streets to accompany the poor of Brazil.   By being part of MKLM I also know that colleagues who are striving to live the same mission repeat this action around the world.
It is such a privilege for me to be able to work in the prisons and in the favelas.  There are so many people who support me in this work.  Without the support of my family, my friends, the benefactors, and MKLM I would not be able to do this work.  Not everyone can move to a different country to live the life I get to as a Lay Missioner, however, all those people I mentioned above too have found a way to serve.  By supporting me they have found a way to live out the mission that Pope Francis called us all too.    In their love and in their sacrifice they too are witnesses to Christ’s love.

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