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Brazil legacy projects undertaken in two parishes where Ursulines and Sisters of Mission Service worked

By Sister Claire Novecosky, OSU

04/22/2015

Bishop Don Bolen visited the Brazil mission in February 2014, a few months before we four remaining missionaries were to return to Saskatchewan in July. During his visit, the bishop announced that special legacy projects would be undertaken in the two parishes where the Ursulines and the Sisters of Mission Service were working and that the Saskatoon diocese would “foot the bill” with resources from the Brazil Mission Fund.

We two Ursulines (Sister Louise Hinz and Sister Claire Novecosky) spoke with the pastor of St. Peter the Fisherman Parish and, after some discussion, we agreed on a plan to renovate the Community Centre (in the village of St. Rita where we lived), as it badly needed a repair job, and the expense of renovations would be beyond the possibility of the community there.

The project was accepted and pastor Frei Everaldo, OCD, oversaw the entire process with great responsibility. I asked him to give us a picture of what all happened after the construction was completed and how the centre is being used today. The following is his report.

“The flame of gratitude will remain, illuminating your dear presence among us . . .”

By Frei Everaldo Pontes, OCD,
pastor, São Pedro Pescador, Maceió (St. Peter the Fisherman) Parish

Translation from the Portuguese by Sister Claire Novecosky, OSU

It was with great joy and in a spirit of prayer and gratitude that we accompanied the October 2014 celebration in Saskatoon of 50 years of missionary work by the Saskatoon diocese in the land of Brazil. The only words that arose from our hearts were: “May God reward the wonderful work of evangelization that was carried out by the missionaries.”

During the visit of Bishop Donald Bolen to our parish of St. Peter the Fisherman in February 2014, he proposed the creation of a special project to symbolize the work and presence of missionaries from the Diocese of Saskatoon with the People of God in the state of Alagóas, Brazil, over the past 50 years.

Such a project would serve as a remembrance of the past and a legacy for the future — a small and humble tribute to the many “adventurers of Christ,” who for decades had spread the “good aroma of Christ” (2 Cor 2:15) in this northeastern region of Brazil.

After prayer and reflection with the Ursuline Sisters, it was agreed that an appropriate location for this project of the Saskatoon diocese would be the St. Rita village Community Centre which was much in need of repair and thus had not been in use for several years. We concluded that a renovation of that space could be well used by the community for its day-to-day needs, and thus was born the idea of the Centro Missionario Irmas Ursulinas (Ursuline Sisters Missionary Centre).

Since the completion of the renovations, little by little, various activities related to the deepening of the Christian faith — human, professional and intellectual formation for children and young people — have taken shape in the centre.

It also provides space for artisans and for meetings of local community leaders, with the aim of improving health, education and the infrastructure of the village.

According to the co-ordinator of the centre, the renovations, carried out with the financial assistance of the Diocese of Saskatoon, have given the community a beautiful place of support for the entire village and for meeting the diverse needs of our people. It also provides space for a large number of people to gather for celebration of the greater liturgical feasts, since the chapel is small.

An explanation of the logo of the Centro Missionario Irmas Ursulinas/Ursuline Sisters Missionary Centre is as follows: at the centre is the cross, the sign of a Christian. Through it we understand the love of God and the mission of the Christian: then Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16: 24).

The cross is the companion of the missionaries who left their land to bring the greatest of treasures: the risen Lord. With him our suffering people were strengthened during the 50 years of the presence of the missionaries who came from the Saskatoon diocese and planted seeds of hope, faith and charity in search for better days.

Under the cross in the logo is the image of a heart, a reminder of the heart’s role as the vital organ which circulates the life blood in the body.

This symbol demonstrates the most beautiful sentiments of the human person. The heart includes the colours of the flags, Canadian and Brazilian, expressing clearly the deep sentiments that developed between the two peoples through the Canadian missionaries whose love entered into the hearts of the Brazilian people. Their friendship enlightened and strengthened many people of the Archdiocese of Maceió.

As one young participant of the centre said, “The Centro Missionario Irmas Ursulinas recalls the witness of life and active participation in the lives of our people, for the missionaries greatly contributed to the Christian and social development of the community.”

She also spoke of the saudades (nostalgia) she experienced with the return of Sisters Claire and Louise to Canada.

In the logo, the name Centro Missionario Irmas Ursulinas encircles the heart, thus presenting the idea that whoever experiences the love of God “in the heart” will give of themselves to the community, to the church and to society. That is the proposal of the reign of God, to give life to others.

Sister Claire, knowing the reality of the church and of the Brazilian people, wrote a letter which was read to the community during the inauguration of the Missionary Centre on Oct. 12, the feast of Nossa Senhora Apericida (Our Lady who Appeared), patroness of Brazil.

Sister Claire wrote: “I am absolutely sure that our beloved Lady of Apericida is very happy and will say to you, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ I believe that everything the Mission Centre will offer will help you to understand these words of Mary and give you the strength and the joy to put into practice anything that Jesus asks of you.”

The cross in the centre of the logo’s heart is brown in colour to signify the Carmelites. This mission region, which has long been served by missionaries from the Diocese of Saskatoon, has now passed into the pastoral care of the Carmelite Fathers who took over the parish of Peter the Fisherman with the intention of continuing the work of evangelization, making Jesus known to the many hearts thirsting to know him.

The Carmelites are immensely grateful to the Diocese of Saskatoon for the cultivation of the many good seeds planted in this parish.

We firmly believe that the seeds planted over these 50 years will now receive a new ardour through all that is and will be offered in the Missionary Centre. So, in this way, the Diocese of Saskatoon will continue to care for the many who have come to know the person of Jesus Christ through the work of the missionaries.

On the day of the inauguration of the centre, we installed a plaque and a lamp with an eternal flame, both of which will remain permanently on the wall.

Thus the light of the witness of the missionaries and the entire diocese of Saskatoon over these many years will always be in our midst.

As well, this light will symbolize our gratitude for the missionaries’ friendship and for the ways they have helped us to understand the greatest of all goodness — the living Jesus in our midst.