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Brazil Mission film continues the legacy

By Gerald Schmitz

10/29/2014
Walking Together in God's Mercy

In 1977 I had the privilege of spending time with missionaries from St. Peter’s Abbacy who a decade earlier had joined others from Saskatoon in supporting parishes in northeast Brazil. I was doing research for a doctoral thesis on the thought of renowned Brazilian Archbishop Helder Câmara in the context of liberation theology’s genesis and political significance. For a young Saskatchewan-raised student it was an eye-opener on the circumstances of mission in a poor region of a country then still a military dictatorship.

The Oct. 19 special Sunday mass and program celebrating 50 years of a diocesan mission now concluded brought back memories (see related story). Most vivid is that of Rev. Sylvestre Vredegoor, OSB, a down-to-earth dynamo with whom I stayed in Maceió. I cherish several photos of him, including on the red motorcycle scooter he was riding 15 years later when a tragic accident took his life. Yet his legacy of hope continues among the many Brazilians he touched.

The living presence of such service is beautifully documented in Tim Yaworski’s hourlong film Walking Together in God’s Mercy: The Joy and Suffering of the Brazil Mission, which received its first screening at the anniversary event. Chapters cover the origins and phases of the mission effort that grew out of an appeal to Saskatoon’s Bishop Klein during the Second Vatican Council. We hear the voices of grateful Brazilians — parishioners and Maceió’s current archbishop — as well as poignant reflections from returning missionaries and commentary by local church leaders.

“Walking in solidarity” has offered us a profound learning experience of the “preferential option for the poor,” sharing what Pope Francis calls the “joy of the gospel” with those who are suffering and in need. That call to mission carries on, applying as much within our own communities as in reaching out to others.

I recommend the film to anyone seeking a deeper appreciation, and thank God for the missionaries who made it happen.

*Walking Together in God’s Mercy is available as a DVD ($10), or deluxe DVD with study guide ($20) by mail order (add $5.00 for shipping and handling) to Timkip Imaging, 20 Clare Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7J 2P7 (make cheques payable to “Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon” and allow four weeks for delivery).