Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Father’s day, I thought of sharing with you a letter that Fr. Adriano wrote about his new assignment, as many people have asked about him. Let us continue to pray for him as well as we pray this weekend to all the fathers in our parish.
Dear Brothers & Sisters, it's been about a month since the Lord has sent me to a new mission in the Archdiocese of São Salvador – Bahia, Brazil and I thought I'd send you a brief letter telling you about my experience.
When I arrived here, on Saturday, May 8th, the Lord God, as I expected, was already here waiting for me. I'm working as a Parochial Vicar at the Saint Anthony Parish together with Fr. Edimilson (the Pastor), Fr. Mateus and the seminarian Dione. All of them, along with the parishioners welcomed me with great affection. They even sang a welcome song to me when I arrived, which is very traditional of the area. A few days later we had a two hour meeting with the local bishop, Cardinal Sergio da Rocha. He welcomed me very well, and he was very happy with my arrival and hopeful with the evangelization of the Archdiocese, as he is also a newcomer here. He was Archbishop of Brasília (where I was ordained a priest) until June of last year. Cardinal Sergio was the only person I knew here, and I was excited to meet him again. He told me that for a few months, maybe during my first year, I would be a Parochial Vicar along with other priests, so I would gradually get used to it, but then, in the a near future, he would send me as a Pastor to another parish. Even in that, the Lord God was kind to me, because I was afraid that I would be sent alone as Pastor to a place I didn't know and without prior adaptation. Well, regarding to being a parish priest, the future belongs to God, and I prefer not to project myself, I prefer to live day by day in the place God has prepared for me. And now I am Parochial Vicar of this parish.
The parish is in a poor neighborhood. It is in a “favela” (slums). It has two more churches that belong to the parish, Saint Francis and Sacred Heart of Mary. There are more than 80,000 inhabitants in the parish territory, which is an area smaller than the city of Marlborough, about half the size. It's a lot of people! Everything here is very intense: houses piled on top of each other, violence, high crime rates, lots of noise, lots of parties, lots of hills, etc. It's an adventure to walk through the streets and the various staircases in the neighborhood. It's an intense life. But there are also very affectionate and welcoming people, always ready to serve. The social contrast here is very clear, there is the rich side of the city, very nice, with tourists, beautiful beaches, and there is the challenging side, poor, violent, drugs, dangerous etc. In short, this is truly a place of mission. However, more than poverty, what impressed me was the lack of God. Paganism here is wide open, in the way of life, dress, lack of dignity, etc. I realize that people come to church at times to get away from the social suffering around. This is good, because this is where we find space to announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel.
Well, when I arrived here, I was impressed with the way of life of these people, as you can see. But I wasn't scandalized by poverty because I also came from a poor family, but not on that level. I have asked God in my prayers every day to look out for these brothers here and God has placed compassion in my heart for them.
I'm happy here because God is here. We, the priests, and the seminarian, have been praying together every day in the morning, and we also make life together, with prayers, meals and other moments together. I can't complain because God was always kind to me.
Before I finish, I would like to thank many of you for the gifts you gave me on my last day of mass there. Thank you very much. May God pay you a hundredfold. Also congratulations for your new priest, Fr. Kevin.
Well, I don't want to go on too long... this letter is just a way of fellowshipping with you and letting you know how I am doing, once I had been for 8 yours with you. I am happy but missing you a lot. And I ask you to pray for me, pray for the parish, pray for the mission.
Fr. Adriano Albino de Castro
Father Steven Clemence