The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil, the largest Vincentian nation in the world, is celebrating. Last Sunday 7 August in Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of Brazilian members celebrated a very significant date: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in this country, truly “blessed by God and beautiful by nature”, as a local song says.
The 16th International President General, Brother Renato Lima de Oliveira, and the International Territorial Vice-President for South America (America 3), Brother Julio César Marques de Lima, both Brazilians, represented the Council General at the celebrations. The event was led by the President of the Brazilian National Council, brother Márcio José da Silva.
The SSVP arrived in Brazil on 4 August 1872, with the founding of the Saint Joseph Conference by three great men: Pedro Jobim, Antonio de Sá and Francisco Coutinho (known as the “Count of Aljezur”, who was also the co-founder of the SSVP in Portugal). Since then, the SSVP has grown, flourished and reached far and wide, being highly respected by the public authorities and enjoying great support from the Holy Church. Moreover, Divine Providence wanted the President General to be Brazilian for this 150th anniversary celebration.
Sister Anna Lopes Guarilha, current president of the St. Joseph Conference, highlighted the progress of the group in these 150 years. The founding act of the Conference was read out and its “Letter of Aggregation” (original) was presented to great applause. The National Council took advantage of the occasion and launched a medal commemorating the 150th anniversary (one of these medals will be on display at the General Council headquarters in Paris).
In his speech, Renato Lima praised the qualities of the Brazilian SSVP, not only for the impressive statistics (15,000 Conferences and 150,000 members), but especially for the quality of the services provided to our brothers and sisters in need. Renato Lima surprised everyone by personally bringing a special blessing from Pope Francis for all Vincentians in Brazil.
“The SSVP in Brazil has extremely generous, committed and selfless members, who do everything in favour of those most in need. The courage, faith and resilience of the Brazilian Vincentians is something to be envied, as well as the passion with which they care for the Society and the love they have for those in need,” said the President General.
Shortly afterwards, the Holy Mass of thanksgiving for the 150 Anniversary of the SSVP in Brazil was celebrated, presided by the Cardinal Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Monsignor Orani Tempesta, concelebrated by several priests. In his homily, Mgr Tempesta linked faith with charity, referring to St Vincent de Paul and Blessed Ozanam. The whole event was broadcast live on Ozanam TV and published in the newspaper “Testimonio de Fe” of the Archdiocese of Rio.