Meet A La Salette

What is your family background?

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Fr. Almir Urbano, M.S. (center) with other
Brazilian La Salettes: Fr. Manuel dos Reis
Bonfim, M.S. (left), Director of the Holy
Mountain in France and Fr. Isidro Perin, M.S.
(right), Provincial of the Brazilian Province.

I was born in the small town of Apuarema, in the state of Bahia, in northeast Brazil. My father, Dionizio, was a trade worker in a supermarket. My mother’s name is Maria Joseph Santos, who works in our home. I have one brother, Edemir, and my five sisters: Edneide, Marizelia, Rosimeire, Divanei and Deliane. I’m the third oldest. We all still live in the same area.

How did you come to hear about the La Salettes?

I was born and raised in a mission of a La Salette Parish in my area. In September, when I was a teenager, I especially remember our priest showing us spectacular slides of the place of the Apparition and speaking about Mary’s message. I was very impressed that the two witnesses were also around my own age. I noticed that the Mother of God was speaking with poor, uneducated children in their own life-situation – and I was impressed.

 

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An overview of the small town of Apuarema,
Bahia, Brazil, where Fr. Almir grew up.

I soon spoke to my parish priest about possibly learning more about his community. I was soon invited to several vocational meetings over a two-year period. I was drawn by the ministry of the La Salettes working closely with God’s people. I wanted to do that!

Every weekend I saw La Salette seminarians come to visit our parish, helping the priest with his ministry – visiting families, teaching religious education on various levels, and many other activities. I was drawn even closer to the La Salettes – they had a special attitude of joy, commitment and prayerfulness.

Where did you prepare to become a La Salette priest?

In February of 1994, I entered the La Salette Formation House in Salvador – about a five-hour bus ride from my home. In 1995 I began my Philosophy studies nearby. I then went to the interprovincial novitiate in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and then spent one year of ministry at the La Salette Shrine in Rio Grande do Sul. I again returned to Salvador to complete my theological studies. I was ordained on January 4, 2003, in my hometown of Apuarema surrounded by all my fellow parishioners and friends.

What ministries have you experienced as a La Salette priest?

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Fr. Almir (center with striped sweater)
with 
the Attleboro La Salette Missionary
Fathers 
and brothers

I have served for ten years in Ministry Formation with seminarians including three years as Master of Novices. I then served for three years in the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Diocesan parish in Valença, Bahia, before serving at the Attleboro Shrine in the United States for the past two years.

My ministry here in Attleboro has included sacramental, liturgical, language and interpersonal experiences. There are certainly similarities to my experiences here and in my own country and Bolivia, since all people need to be reconciled to God, themselves and others. Yet there are specific challenges, unique to each culture and language which have deepened my appreciation for meeting the difficulties in learning another language. Once again I needed to become, in a sense, a child in order to begin this challenging process of learning my third language.

I deeply appreciate my local community’s patience with my studies in English and I’ve seen growth in my own patience with myself as well. I am sincerely thankful for the support of my fellow La Salettes in Attleboro during these past two years.

What does the La Salette message mean to you?

Untitled-4We have a Brazilian expression, “Deus é apaixonado por nós” which means “God falls in love with us.” In the message of La Salette, I hear Mary similarly reminding us, her children, that God loves us; God is so merciful and kind; God will remain with us always and never leave us. In the same way, we have good reasons to draw closer to God each day.

For me the La Salette message is an invitation to be reconciled, first, with myself; and then I can more easily become reconciled with God and others.

I believe that, with faith in God, the world can indeed become better. It’s actually easier than we might think to get closer to God. I hope that everybody can come to believe that, with God’s unconditional love, we need never lose hope. God will pull us through the most challenging situations. He has done it before with others, and will do it again with us.

 


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A map of the central area of Brazil; Bahia is an eastern coastal area on the Atlantic Ocean.

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”