Date of publication: 02/04/2024

PGI accompanied by the Board of Directors visited Brazil for the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Aparecida

Council General International

The President General, accompanied by his Board of Directors, made an official visit to Brazil at the invitation of its National President, Márcio José da Silva, to participate with the Brazilian Vincentians at the 52nd edition of their annual pilgrimage to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil. This is one of the most emotional and awaited event for the members. A few days before, a meeting of the Board of Directors was held on February 27, at the National Council’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

The meeting dealt with different topics such as the draft proposal on amendments to the Statutes, institutional relations with FAMVIN, Training and Communication issues and, new proposals for the Strategic Plan, among others. In attendance were the President General International, Juan Manuel Buergo, the International Vice President General, Ralph Middlecamp, the Treasurer General, Alfons ten Velde, the Vice Presidents, Sebastian Gramajo, Urbanus Muthai and Elaine Heyworth, and the spiritual advisor, Father José F. Orozco C.M. Other members of the CGI were invited, such as John Berry, President of SSVP USA, Julio César Márques de Lima, Vice President of Structure and Special Projects and Luz María Ramírez, Vice President International of Formation.

On February 28th the group traveled to Juiz de Fora, a municipality in the state of Minas Gerais, to visit one of the most innovative projects of SSVP Brazil, the Vincentian Solidarity Bath. It consists of vans adapted for toilets, with sinks, toilets and mobile showers, at the service of the homeless. The project is coordinated by the Central Council of San Antonio. Its president, Vanderson Aparecido Gomes, whom everyone calls Vandinho, described to us the enthusiasm and effort that had been put into making this project a reality, which, since it began its activity 3 years ago, has provided more than 10,500 services with its 8 trucks. Vandinho thanked CIAD (Commission for International Aid and Development) for its financial and logistical support to the project, which aims to be extented and replicable. At the center, people have a clothing service, hot meals, and an environment that aims to transmit life, hope and joy to the homeless. A project called “Love in the form of a bath”, which moved the attendees for its efficiency, affection and closeness to the assisted. At the end of the day, all enjoyed a welcome dinner shared with the Metropolitan Councils, the Central Councils and the National Council of Brazil.

On February 29th, the group  went to the Sanctuary of Aparecida, where the events began with a Holy Mass in the basilica presided by Father Ronaldo Divino de Oliveira. This marked the beginning of the most spiritual part of the trip. In Aparecida, other Brazilians who are part of the General Council joined the international delegation: Sebastião Ribeiro (International Territorial Vice-President for South America) and Renato Lima de Oliveira (Commissioner at the United Nations), 16th President General. The following day, March 1, a visit was made to the Vila Vicentina Lorena, a home for the elderly, which is managed by the Central Council of the SSVP in the locality, and which has two other related works: the Vila Vicentina Sagrada Familia, also in Lorena, and the Vila Vicentina, in the city of Piquete. The center is home to 30 residents, among them Carmen, a centenarian Spaniard who touched all with her conversation and affection. Board of directors of Vila Vicentina São Vicente de Paulo de Lorena attended the event, with its president Silvia de Fátima Jerônimo, and Amadeu Pelóggia Filho, President of the Metropolitan Council of São José dos Campos. In the afternoon, in the vicinity of the Basilica, took place the holy rosary of the Vincentian Family, where all the branches walked together in prayer.

Undoubtedly, one of the most moving moments of the visit was on March 2nd with the celebration of the Way of the Cross to the Morro de Cruzeiro. Music, friendship and spirituality helped all to “walk together in faith”, and the route followed by thousands of Vincentian faithful gave meaning and strength to the meeting.

At the end of the day, recreational events were held at the Centro de Eventos Padre Vítor Coelho de Almeida, in the Sanctuary of Aparecida, a buiding of 15,000 square meters that filled more than 45,000 Vincentians. The President General, accompanied by the President of the National Council of Brazil, addressed a few words to the attendees showing the support of the General Council to the Brazilian Conferences and especially to the youth Conferences. It was impressive to hear thousands of Vincentian pilgrims chanting songs dedicated to children, youth, families, and all those who wanted to join their songs and choreographies. A talent show and a cultural festival was presented, especially aimed at the youth.

Sunday, March 3rd, was the closing event with the statutory feast that gave way to the Holy Mass, presided over by Bishop Dom Odair Miguel Gonsalves dos Santos CM, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Porto Alegre. Particularly moving for the Spanish attendees were the words of Willian Alves, National Vice-president, who read the devotional book of Venerable Santiago de Masarnau, founder of the Conferences in Spain, and asked for prayers from those present to ask for graces that, through his intercession, would lead to a miracle to advance his beatification process.

All returned to their home countries satisfied and grateful. As the National President, Márcio José da Silva, explained, it is a pilgrimage that aims to be a parenthesis to “recharge our batteries”, to fill us with faith and friendship, so that we can continue to carry out our mission strengthened and enriched.

We thank the National Council of Brazil and, in particular, National President, Marcio José da Silva, Vice-president, Bete Castro and the presidents of the councils and conferences, for such a good organization and for all their affection and friendship.

“Tears of joy escape my eyes when I find myself at such a great distance with our little family, always small by the discretion of its works, but great by the blessing of God. Even though we speak different languages, our hands always meet with such brotherly cordiality that they could well recognize us by the same sign by which they recognized the first Christians, see how they love each other!”

Frederick Ozanam