Fr. Miguel FRITZ, General Councilor for Latin America, recently visited the Oblates in the State of Goiás in the Central-West of Brazil.
The Oblates arrived from Ireland in the 1960’s and continue to work in the southernmost part of the State of Goiás in the Central-West of Brazil. The parishes of Paranaiguara and Sâo Simâo were established by them. Above all, Fathers Jeremia and Thomas (called “Martin”) were there for decades, during the big changes that occurred when villages were flooded for the construction of an enormous dam in the 1970’s.
Miguel BRADY is still somewhat new in Paranaiguara. Among his ministries, I would like to focus on three areas that are worth knowing about in the context of Oblate commitment to JPIC.
Prisoners: The little town has a small jail. Miguel is by no means unknown there. He got permission for me to accompany him. There are only seven cells along a single corridor. Twelve prisoners in five cells looked at us behind barred doors and windows. It was a bit strange to greet them, one by one, shaking their hands through the bars. The guard stays in front of us at all times. Miguel introduced me and invited me to speak. I told them about Eugene who had to suffer being far from his country and from his mother. And I told of how he in turn got together with the youth (the majority of the prisoners are youths); how he visited the prisoners, even giving the sacraments to the condemned. How attentive they were! When Miguel spoke to them about the Bible, five of them had one at hand and they looked up Matthew 25 (When did we see you in prison?); and John 19 (The mother stayed next to her son..). They joyfully took the oranges we had picked in the Oblates’ garden.
Water: That’s the theme of the “Campaign of Brotherhood” for this year (an ecumenical Lenten campaign). Representatives of different churches, together with government agencies, are planting trees to protect the springs. At the same time, they are investigating reports that the drinking water of the city is already in bad shape. Pesticides are suspected: Goiás is an area of huge sugarcane farms — for the production of ethanol; i.e.: to give “food” to vehicles.
The landless: This very situation of bigger and bigger farms always leaves more peasants without land. So a large estate, where a landowner plants a large amount of sugarcane (they say he has seven other farms) was declared free for agrarian reform in 1999. We went to visit the farming community in the middle of the cane field: after kilometers of cane, suddenly there were beautiful plants of corn, cassava, etc.
In the first humble little house, an old bachelor excitedly told us what we had already heard. A little further on, near the community shelter, we could see the car: all the windows were broken and the radiator shot out. And a little further on, two young men show us their injuries. A few days before, at nine in the morning, there arrived a beautiful and armored black truck, with three guys. They got out and began to attack the car, damaging it with the lug wrench and a revolver, and then beating the youth with their feet and their fists, shouting that next time they would kill them.
We listened to them calmly; Mike encouraged them, told them that they have done well, that they should go to the hospital and to the police. He encouraged them also to contact the “Land Ministry” with their lawyers. He told them that they are within their rights. We prayed with them. Of course, in an interview on a local radio, and in the next Masses – the issue was brought up.