In Brazil, a boat brings Christ to the people
SITUATED IN BRAZIL, ON THE SHORES OF THE AMAZON RIVER, some 160 miles from the city of Manaus, the prelature of Itacoatiara covers an area of some 23,000 square miles—almost twice the size of Belgium, but with a population of just 200,000 people.
Earlier this year—as if the pandemic were not enough—the region suffered massive flooding of a kind never recorded before in the Amazon region, plunging the six municipalities within the prelature into a state of emergency and forcing a large proportion of the urban population to abandon their homes. In the city of Itacoatiara alone, the seat of the prelature, no fewer than 1400 families were directly affected by the flooding, which damaged homes and businesses and produced many other unforeseen consequences—for example, there has been a massive increase of snakes and scorpions, leading to more than 100 cases of attacks in the city of Itacoatiara in the first six months of the year.
However, almost half the population of the area today still lives in more than 200 different riverside settlements, and for the 16 priests of the prelature it is a massive struggle to be able to reach them all. This was certainly the situation for Father Bruno Nirmal, whose mission outreach was further hampered by the fact that his parish of Christ the King did not even have a riverboat of its own. So his visits—and it can take up to 10 hours to get there—“were restricted to the times when we had sufficient funds to hire a boat so as to be able to make the visits,” he reports.d
Fortunately, and thanks to the generosity of its donors, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been able to help, in response to the appeal from Bishop José Ionilton of Itacoatiara. Funding was made available, some $35,000, to purchase an aluminum boat for the parish of Christ the King.
Father Bruno’s first trip on the boat, at the end of July “was marvelous,” he says. “This boat helps us to get to the riverside communities much more quickly, thereby enabling us to make more visits. We have already been to three separate communities, visiting people in their homes, training local lay leaders, celebrating Mass and administering Baptisms.”
“The people’s faith is very strong; they thirst for the Mass, for the Eucharist, for God. When the priest arrives, they drop everything and dedicate the whole day to participating in the Mass, praying the Rosary and following the catechetical formation sessions, joining in with all their hearts.”
Father Bruno does not hide his gratitude. “On behalf of the whole parish, I want to express my thanks to the donors of ACN for their generosity. Only together can we build the Kingdom of God. I am quite sure that God’s reward will be very great. And I assure you of my prayers.”
Bishop Ionilton is also most grateful. He declares: “I pray to Christ, the King of the Universe, that he may pour many blessings upon the donors of ACN and that they may continue helping the Church in Amazonia, which is in such great need.”
ACN receives many appeals for help from the Church in the Amazon region. This is mission territory, which depends on the dedication of the missionaries on the ground—but at the same time on the generosity of all those who help them from afar, including the donors of ACN.