MISSIONARIES RETURN — Many decades of service to the people of Brazil came to an end recently for four women religious who returned to Canada this summer. Sisters Louise Hinz, OSU, Jeannine Rondot, SMS, Claire Novecosky, OSU, and Marie-Noelle Rondot, SMS (from left), are among 31 missionaries from the Diocese of Saskatoon and the former St. Peter’s Abbacy who have served in Brazil over the past 50 years.

Brazil missionaries return to Canada

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — After serving for decades in Brazil, four women religious from Saskatchewan are adjusting to life back in Canada.

Sister Claire Novecosky, OSU, first arrived in Brazil in 1973, spending the last 41 years as a missionary, along with another member of the Ursulines of Bruno congregation, Sister Louise Hinz, OSU, who served as a missionary for 27 years, beginning in 1987.

Sisters of Mission Service Jeannine and Marie-Noelle Rondot, SMS, served 21 and 18 years, respectively, in the Brazil Mission.

These four are among 31 missionaries from the Diocese of Saskatoon and the former St. Peter’s Abbacy who have worked in the Archdiocese of Maceió, Brazil, over the past 50 years. Walking in solidarity with the people of Brazil, the Canadian missionaries have also built awareness back home about the needs of the poor and the meaning of mission.

Since returning in July, the last four diocesan missionaries have been reconnecting with their religious communities, becoming oriented to Canadian life again and adjusting to many changes that have taken place since they last lived in Saskatchewan.

There will be a time of discernment about what the next steps in their lives might be, says Sister Claire.

“This is a time of discernment and prayer, and trying to figure out what is next,” describes Sister Jeannine. “We are a little bit like fish out of water, trying to reconnect with everyone and everything.”

It was difficult to leave the people of Brazil, says Sister Marie-Noelle.

Among the many experiences, encounters and ministries undertaken in the Brazil Mission over the years, it is the spirit of the people that the sisters recall most fondly.

Sister Louise recalls the patience of the Brazilians as she struggled to learn Portuguese, and the great joy that existed alongside great poverty and suffering.

“For me as well, it was the simplicity of the people, so easily approached,” agrees Sister Jeannine, recalling the joy of being with the people.

Sister Marie-Noelle says that the time spent in a neglected and poverty stricken region is what touched her the most. “Ministry in that area was very much a ministry of presence,” she noted. “They were people who were very excluded.”

Working in parish life, assisting lay people to take on more leadership, providing ministry were always rewarding aspects of mission, but walking up the hill to be with the forgotten people in the area above São José da Laje was particularly special, says Sister Marie-Noelle.

Those who are poor or marginalized felt empowered and hopeful when the missionaries reached out to them, observes Sister Claire. “To have a foreigner come into their home, to visit, and to be at ease with them. . . . I think for people from an oppressed background that is a way for them to feel that they were given value.”

For the past 50 years, the work of the missionaries from Saskatchewan has included parish ministry, outreach to the poor and suffering, the formation of lay leaders and base Christian communities, ministry to at-risk children and families, response to floods, and walking in solidarity with the people to address issues such as land reform and drug addiction.

With the departure of the last four missionaries, the Diocese of Saskatoon is now discerning how best to continue the connection with Brazil and respond to the Gospel call to mission.

A diocesan celebration to welcome the returning missionaries, to honour all missionaries who have served in Brazil over the years, and to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brazil Mission will be held Oct. 19 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. with Bishop Donald Bolen presiding at mass and longtime Brazil missionary Rev. Emile April delivering the homily. A program and reception begins at 3 p.m., and will include displays and the presentation of a documentary about the Brazil Mission, its history and impact.

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