Over 75 Years of La Salette in Brazil

We live in an age which constantly sweeps us up in a sea of change. This has influenced each of us and

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Fr. Adilson Schio, M.S.

has even affected the Church herself as she reinterprets some of her own ways of thinking. However we may still find it difficult to understand the implications of these changes.

My native country of Brazil is one of wide diversity: our mix of cultures, religious expressions, our economic outlook, our ecological and political principles are certainly not univocal. In the midst of this wonderful diversity, this coat of many colors, we find frequent opportunities to respond to these changes by living out the challenge of our La Salette charism of reconciliation. We are convinced that there will be no true fullness of life without accepting the challenge of a mission of reconciliation. Our mission always promotes harmony and justice among people.

 

Becoming at Home with Constant Change

Change is no longer as scary as it was in years past. In fact it is an invitation to greater possibilities. The reality of ongoing change invites us to grow into better, more critical and prophetic missionaries in today’s world.

Reconciliation, understood as prophecy (speaking the truth), and expressed in the pastoral care and various apostolates in our mission in Brazil, is one of the foundations of fundamental importance for our ministry. We try to make of it a new cycle of life for our consecration and mission.

In Brazil we are a missionary group of seventy religious men who explore our charism of reconciliation in all that we do. We seek to make it our pastoral and spiritual strength. Reconciliation is a real need and we will only be able to build it if we make of it an effective, real life experience.

 

An Important Meeting in Aparecida, Brazil

 

Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady
of Aparecida in Aparecida, São Paulo, Brazil.

The Fifth General Meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean began in Aparecida, Brazil, on Sunday evening, May 13, 2007. This city is the location of the largest Marian shrine outside of Europe. The basilica is huge, built in cruciform shape, with the altar in the center. The basilica was dedicated in 1982 by Pope John Paul II. It seats several thousand people. Pope Benedict XVI came to Brazil to open the conference.

Aparecida means “appearance.” According to a legend of centuries ago, the native people found a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the river which runs through the town. The head of the statue was missing, but where the head was found was also the site of a huge catch of fish. The basilica is named Our Lady of Aparecida and is a very popular shrine in this part of the world.

As #350 of the Document of Aparecida, presented to the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean by our Bishops, states:

"Our peoples do not want to walk in the shadows of death; they hunger and thirst for life and happiness in Christ. They seek him as source of life. They yearn for this new life in God to which the disciple of the Lord is born by Baptism and is reborn by the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They seek this life which is strengthened when it is confirmed by the Spirit of Jesus and when the disciples renew their covenant of love in Christ, with the Father and with their brothers and sisters at each Eucharistic celebration. Accepting the Word of eternal life and nourished by the Bread that has come down from heaven, they want to live the fullness of love, and lead all to the encounter with Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (italics added)

It is with joy and celebration that we concentrate all our efforts on our life and ministry, thus saying to the One who sends us as missionaries:

“Lord, thank you for your light in the life of each La Salette Missionary in Brazil and for your grace that shows itself in the work we do for the good of your kingdom.”

 

Motivated from the Outset

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Fr. Clement Moussier, M.S.
(1860-1919), first La
Salette to minister in Brazil.

We owe our fine history and the success of our initial pastoral choices to the first La Salette priest who came to Brazil and envisioned a different mission for his Congregation in this new land. Fr. Clemente Moussier, M.S. belonged to the La Salette Province of France. It was during his trip to the United States that he felt the challenge of starting a new mission. The invitation to begin a new La Salette mission in Brazil was made by the Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery.

The invitation became a challenge and Fr. Moussier arrived in Brazil on December 18, 1902. Initially he was hosted by the Sisters, living in a city in the state of Sao Paulo. After a time of adaptation and after learning the language, he moved to Sao Paulo, our capital city, and there began to lay the foundations for the La Salette presence in Brazil.

In a handwritten note he expresses the birth of La Salette Missionaries in Brazil:

“It is my firm confidence that Our Lady of La Salette, the Virgin Reconciler of Sinners, will show herself here like she has done everywhere else, and that this Parish of Saint Anne that has, as they say, close to eight thousand souls, will gradually be transformed and become a devoted parish.”

 

A Man of Selfless Dedication and Sacrifice

Fr. Moussier was truly a man of great pastoral sensitivity and he has left us his indelible mark. We strive to develop this sensitivity within each religious who continues the work he began. We believe that there is no reconciliation without sensitivity and openness to the reality and life of the people.

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Facade and interior of the La Salette
National Shrine in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

And the work kept growing. In the years of 1905 and 1906, new missionaries arrived, allowing the extension of our mission. An event of historic and spiritual significance happened in 1905, three years after the arrival of the first La Salette priest in Brazil. It was the arrival of the first statue of Our Lady of La Salette that excited our dedication to the proclamation of the La Salette event and message. The chronicles of that time maintain that all those who visited the statue were overcome with awe. It was the first time they saw an image of Our Lady in tears. The intention was to have a shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Rio de Janeiro, then capital of Brazil, which in fact happened; unfortunately Fr. Moussier died before the shrine was completed.

In 1919 a terrible epidemic of yellow fever swept our land. Fr. Moussier spared no effort to help the sick population. As sensitive as he was to the needs of the people, such an attitude on his part eventually cost him his own life. On June 27, 1919, at the age of fifty-nine, having served seventeen years in Brazil, he died of the same epidemic that killed a large number of the population of Rio de Janeiro.

 

A New Foundation, A New Source of Vocations

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La Salette Shrine in Marcelino Ramos

Another landmark of La Salette presence in Brazil occurred on July 2, 1928. It was another dream come true. With a new apostolate assumed further south of the country, it was possible to build an Apostolic School in Marcelino Ramos. In so doing a solid basis for the local formation of missionaries was finally created. The process of initial formation started with a group of six seminarians and the formation process has continued over the years to the present time.

Thus, in Brazil, La Salette Missionaries have been forming young people for La Salette religious life for eighty-one years. With the Apostolic School established, the basis for expansion was created. In 1934 the General Council created the Brazilian Province of the Immaculate Conception which, together with the Provinces of Hartford in the United States, France and Poland constituted the four La Salette Provinces in the world.

 

Traveling on a Path of Reconciliation for over 75 Years

In this year of 2009 when we have completed more than 75 years since becoming a Province, we have also established a special process for our La Salette mission in Brazil. During our annual Provincial Assembly, we defined our priorities for the next three years. These priorities will characterize our efforts and involve the whole Provincial Community in achieving our common goals. As stated in the Provincial Chapter: “we want to persevere in our common purposes.” Our three main priorities are:

1) Our Shrines:

In Brazil, La Salette Missionaries administer five shrines dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette. These Shrines are located in five major regions of the country: in the south—Marcelino Ramos and Curitiba; in the Southeast—Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and in the center-west—Caldas Novas.

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La Salette Shrine in Curitiba

In these shrines we welcome and serve many pilgrims. The group responsible for pastoral activities offers leadership courses to pastoral helpers so that they are well prepared to meet the spiritual needs of our pilgrims. We are also involved in the preparation and promotion of novenas and pilgrimages for various groups.

In view of improving our ministry base, we establish groups in each of our shrines who work with the surrounding media outlets. We also implement pastoral activities aimed at promoting the family, ecology and peace. In addition we set aside special places for our pilgrims to express and celebrate their devotion to Our Lady of La Salette and experience the God of life and reconciliation.

2) Our La Salette Associates:

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Pilgrims gather near the La Salette
Reconciliation Cross in Marcelino Ramos

The year 2009 also marks the fifth year of the emergence of the Movement of Spirituality for La Salette Associates. This is a group of lay people who, because of their close association with our pastoral activities, seek to deepen their knowledge of the La Salette message and event and to live the spirituality of reconciliation in their daily life.

In all La Salette communities in Brazil there is a beautiful interaction with the laity who, together with us religious, grow in faith by experiencing La Salette spirituality “up close and personal”. It is wonderful to see our laity reminding us religious that La Salette is much more than a simple appearance; it is a spirituality that is alive and well and essential for our times. We feel that the movement of our La Salette Lay Associates in Brazil is a special grace from God in the history of La Salette presence in Brazil.

3) Our Vocations:

Another priority we have is our concern for vocations to religious and priestly life. We have in our Province two Vocational Centers that promote activities to support vocation discernment. After our candidates get acquainted with the dynamics and structure of La Salette Religious Life, these young people are invited to participate in our Initial Formation Process by joining one of our seven formation houses. In their pursuit of God’s will and under the guidance of their Priest Formation Directors, they live and learn in their particular formation process until they are mature enough to make their religious vows and eventually consecrate their lives to God as religious and some go on to become priests.

According to our approach, there are two fundamental ways to invite vocations into the service of God and our Province:

First: always take the opportunity to speak with young people about serving the church; ask them if they ever thought about becoming a religious or perhaps a priest;

Second: give witness with our life and our words that happiness and fulfillment are possible in choosing service of God and God’s people as a La Salette religious and priest. Young people will only think of the

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La Salette religious gather
for a Province meeting

possibility to follow Jesus if they perceive our joyful witness and if they are asked to consider this possibility. We want to invite and touch their hearts with the possibility of living a life of reconciliation and service as we do. We always remind both our members and candidates that without prayer there can be no perseverance in a religious vocation.

 

God’s Grace is Certainly With Us

We are delighted to report that between the conclusion of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 we have celebrated five new priestly ordinations. That has allowed us to think again about the possibility of expanding our pastoral activities even further within Brazil.

We have much for which to thank God—our dedicated religious and generous benefactors who, in these 75 years, have led and given support to our history in Brazil.

Our vitality comes from God and our unique spirituality comes from Our Lady of La Salette. As we continue our ministry in this beautiful country and as we make our journey with the people of God towards the Father, we direct our prayers and thanks to the God who calls us and sends us forth as missionaries of peace and reconciliation to a world hungry for our mission and message.

We send our greetings to you from the La Salettes who serve and have served in Brazil and proclaim their pride in the seventy-five years of missionary life and enthusiastic evangelizing in our beloved country of Brazil.

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Collage of four La Salette windows in
the Shrine Church at Marcelino Ramos.



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