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The Marist Brothers’ Mission in Brazilian Amazonia

08/04/2008: Brazil - Photo gallery

The District of Amazonia was set up by the Marist Brothers in July 2002, with communities in the political Departments of: Acre, Amazonas, Rondonia, Roraima - all these in northern Brazil. An expectation existed that the District would expand into the Department of Mato Grosso which extends over an area of 3 101 405, 90 km2. Nine communities lie in the District. The first, Lábrea, was established in l967. Our story is relatively recent, but old enough to comprise four decades.

Thirty-five Brothers live in the District, along with six novices and nine pre-novices. Several Brothers are natives of the region; other have come there as missionaries for a set period of time. The Province which is in charge of the District is Rio Grande do Sul, but the District itself is a mission shared among the three Brazilian Provinces.

The Marist Brothers’ apostolate in Amazonia is diversified, with priority given to school-based education. The schools, however, are not owned by the Brothers. We work in them or in state-owned universities, or in educational establishments under government or diocesan control. Some Brothers are teachers, deans of study, or counselors. Others work in youth ministry, catechetical work, communications and vocation promotion. Several of the communities are engaged in social work among at-risk children and young people. We help out among the basic Christian communities and take part in the formation and advancement of consecrated life.

We have been creating resource-material to be used for environmental education. A special feature of our work in Amazonia is service to the river-side populations and the indigenous populations. This apostolate is carried out through pastoral ministry to indigenous peoples and through a mobile community which has been set up along the shared frontiers of Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Several congregations and institutions are involved in this work. The Brothers work alongside priests, religious and laity belonging to various organizations. Poor in fact, the Brothers live in isolated settle-ments along the river edge or in the forest or again in the settlements on the periphery of towns. We hope to establish a community which might work uniquely in the education of the curumins and the cunhatãs, that is the indigenous children and youth of the area.

The Brothers desire to live within the great community of peoples, hoping to be a meaningful presence, close to ordinary people, and living a simple life which is open to others. The Brothers are thinking of an itinerant mission which could go to the places where needs exist. There, having formed local leaders, they would depart for new sites where the needs are still greater. Formation in such a ministry takes place in the apostolic communities themselves and in an inter-community spirit.

When we take an overall look at the Marist Brothers’ history in Amazonia since l967, we can take satisfaction in the fact that life has been engendered. Our contemporary world needs urgently to have more care for the planet, for nature. Amazonia is a rich natural resource for all of humanity. It must be conserved, defended, esteemed. The people who live in Amazonia have a need to improve their lives while living in profound harmony with nature’s biodiversity. We are already working in the field of environmental education, but we would love to do more. We want to try and create an ecological mystique, which holds as precious the way of life of the native peoples and their environment.

Porto Velho, March 5, 2008
Brother João Gutemberg, District Superior

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