“Up to now I have been able to keep up with the promised regular updates and pics. Who knows how long it can go on for, but I hope the news is helping people to see a little bit of the work and situation of the Church in this part of the world. For me it’s good because it’s good for keeping in touch and it’s always good to receive news from over yonder!
“I just returned from 10 days away, (well I had when I started writing this!!), visiting 7 riverside communities down the River Negro. On 9 May I will be away again for a week to visit communities up the river. The trips are a great effort for the parish as they involve a lot of expense and organising, and it also means being absent from the town during the trip, where there is enough work for many priests, never mind two!
“The trips involve spending a day or two with each community. Visiting the people can often include working with them in their daily chores of managing their vegetation, producing farinha, fishing and other things, so as to spend time with them. In every community there can be from five people to fifty families. Each community has its own president and provides for itself. Normally there is a basic school and professor in each community as well. During the visit there is often occasion for teaching some catechism or giving a talk about something, and always baptisms, and the very occasional marriage.
“The visit normally ends with a Mass and depending on the community, maybe a dinner together or some sort of social gathering.
“The general issue that concerns most people of these communities is the future education of their children. They want them to receive a better education, especially at the secondary level and beyond. The kids especially see the “modern world” on the free TV channels they receive, and want to experience its benefit. For this, they must leave the communities and therefore whole families end up moving to the city. For this reason communities that were once big are now slowly emptying or just non-existent. The people have a right to a better life and the means that the modern world offers, such as better education, health, medicine and communication. The problem here, as in many similar places on this continent and around the world, is that in Barcelos there is no infrastructure, means, work or support for such large numbers that would be available in any modern town or city. For this reason the town grows slowly but surely as one big unorganised “favela”, stretching into the jungle and full of mud filled tracks.
“It’s really a time of transition, accompanying people in this great cultural change, helping them to adapt to a new reality and at the same time helping them to maintain the dignity and humanity which is so often lost amidst what is offered them. As we often have to remember, Jesus Christ has already saved the world and we can’t solve all the problems, but we can do our small part to help people on the journey!
“Keep us in the prayers as we do all of you! God bless.”