As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner you get to experience the wonderful culture of the country you are assigned to. We are especially lucky to experience Carnival in Brazil. The Carnaval Samba competition in São Paulo is an amazing two nights of Colors, Music, Costumes, Floats, and Dancing. More importantly, the festival highlights the incredible energy and creativity of the Brazilian people and culture. Here are some photos that attempts to capture a portion of that energy and creativity. Parabéns São Paulo! Enjoy. Tiago
(Tiago’s note–This is the fourth (and the second for Angela) in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil. The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed.
In this reflection, Angela shares the story of a recent death in the prison and how the women shared the grief in order to help them make sense of it all. Please think about and pray for the deceased woman, the author “Angela,” and the other women in prisons throughout the world. Let’s ask Him to provide them with the sense of togetherness that will help get through their own trials.)
A week ago we said, “Goodbye” to one of our country mates from South Africa. It came as a very big shock to all of us. Two days before, her cellmate had to carry her to Saúde (Health Clinic) because she suffered from asthma and could not breathe. From there, she was transferred to the prison hospital where she passed away.
It was a very sad weekend for all of us. I know that not only for me but for all of us, our thoughts were with our loved ones, thinking that if anything should happen (to us) there are no last goodbyes. We are all so far away from our families.
On the next Tuesday, we all got together with our consulate to pay our last respects to her. It was heartbreaking but the unity of everybody present was overwhelming and the togetherness of all the different cultures were all that some needed.
My thoughts and prayers go out to her parents and family who lost a special person in such horrible circumstances.
God bless you!
The Brazilian Seminarian pulled me aside and said, “Tiago, please let me explain something to you.”
It was my first trip to a Brazilian men’s prison and I had joined a weeklong visit to different São Paulo prisons by Brazilian seminarians. As I entered with the group my senses were overwhelmed. The sights, sounds and smells elicited surprising reactions on my first visit.
Old cinderblock walls with laundry hanging from makeshift clothes lines, sometimes strung for 20 to 30 yards, overcrowded cells, the smell of cheap tobacco, burning from cigarettes rolled in notebook paper, and the sounds of hundreds of men talking, yelling, playing games, and walking by. The term eye-opening does not do it justice. However, once you got past these senses you noticed the most important part; the hospitality and warmth we received from the prisoners as we walked through the cellblocks.
We were going to six different cellblocks over the course of the day; spending about an hour in each one. The seminarians would lead a simple liturgical celebration with a short reflection and end the visit with singing. It was an amazing first experience for me and I felt how much the men enjoyed our presence, and us theirs!
I was definitely a rookie in many ways, not the least being my poor command of the Portuguese language. Also, I was beginning to learn some of the lingo of prison ministry. As we left each cellblock and the prisoners were extending their handshakes to say goodbye, they would all say, “Vá com Deus, Vá com Deus!” By the third or fourth cellblock and not really fulling understanding the phrase, I started to echo “Vá com Deus” back to the men who we prayed and sang with. I had been baptized in prison ministry and my comfort level was growing.
Of course, like all rookies, you can quickly get ahead of your abilities without even knowing it. That was when the seminarian stepped in and explained to me “Vá com Deus” signifies “Go with God” and was normally said to the person leaving. Unfortunately, these prisoners were not leaving! He further explained It was appropriate for the prisoners to say “Vá com Deus” to us but we could not say it to them because they could not go anywhere. It was more appropriate for us to reply “Fique com Deus” or “Stay with God.”
As I stood there feeling low and wondering how many men I had already offended, the seminarian patted me on the back and said with a smile, “Welcome to prison ministry.”
I learned so much in that first visit but it was those two phrases and the lesson from the seminarian that have stood out for me ever since.
Vá com Deus or Fique com Deus, whatever your situation is.
P.S. The picture is from another prison and another day but is representative of the conditions we experience when we visit.
(Tiago’s note–This is the third in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil. The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed.
In this reflection, Winona tells a little bit about her experience and what keeps her strong. Please think about and pray for Winona and the other women who write these reflections. Let’s ask God to provide them with the strength needed to finish this painful and lonely Passeio.)
Hello, my name is Winona. I am a middle-aged woman from the Netherlands. I was arrested last year together with my boyfriend. We have been together for almost 3 years now! We were arrested for drug-trafficking, so we are both now in prison. To be here is not easy and can be very hard but I’ll have to keep strong!
I miss my boyfriend a lot, same as my family and his parents! But luckily I’ve got four good friends here from South Africa. Also the letters from my boyfriend keep me strong and the letters from our families too. And of course my faith in God and my prayers helps me to get through this!
From Monday till Friday I work, but its hard work, but it keeps me busy, and every Saturday I look forward to see the missioners and Pastoral Carcerária members (who visit us) to talk with them and this also keeps me strong!
We hope and pray that our sentence will not be that long so that we can go back home soon and see our families again!
But I know God is with us.