Mariapolis Gloria, with its hundred citizens has more than 40 buildings that blend in well with the natural surroundings. The Mariapolis was begun in the early 1970s as a training centre for the growing community of the Focolare Movement in that region. The generosity of many people not only made it possible to begin the work but provided even more than enough for unforeseen developments. One couple donated a large piece of land, several families settled on the property, and the permanent Mariapolis was begun.
The area is part of Benevides, a small city with some 50,000 inhabitants. The poverty, which is quite visible, generates violence and opens the door to drug trafficking. The first main victims are always the adolescents.
The Mariapolis stands against this background as an oasis. The Fiore School and Welcome Centre’s after-school programme have been in operation for 20 years. There, more than 300 children between the ages of four and twelve are able to find not only tutoring and academic instruction, but a family, a home that welcomes them each day.
Workers at the Centre are all ex-students. They are credible models for the children, because they live in the same environment and give witness to the fact that change is possible. G. cares for the younger children. She teaches computer science. She lives in one of the most violent quarters, but her shining eyes bear witness to the transforming power of love even in her family where relationships were practically non-existent. “In front of the violent attitude of many children, we need to discover what lies behind it. We listen. We only try to make them feel loved. Then, little by little, the change happens,” says Francesca who is the Director of the school. It prompted one drug-dealing father to say: “But what is there in this place that I see my son so changed?”
The press has also shown interest in the project. One journalist interviewed the Focolare president and co-president Giancarlo Faletti during their visit to Brazil. During the interview Maria Voce had this to say: “I admire this place so much, Mariapolis Gloria. Here you focus on the whole person, who is the future of Brazil; you provide great opportunities for human development, for an experience of mutual support among teachers, students and families. I want to offer my full support.”
The Mariapolis is also an oasis of spirituality that nourishes communion among the communities located there – some ancient like the Carmel and some new like the Bethlehem Mission that serve the poorest of the poor – as well as several others. It is a support for people working in politics. This was expressed by two city councillors and several representatives of religious orders and new communities, during their conversation with Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti.
The two arrived at the airport in Belem on March 31, 2014 for the third stage of their journey in northern Brazil. Previously they had visited the North East: Recife in Pernambuco where they attended the inauguration ceremony, establishing the Chiara Lubich Chair. Then there was the visit to the social projects on the island of Santa Terezinha and the visit to Mariapolis Santa Maria. Next, they moved on to Fortaleza where they met with founders and directors of the new communities of the Condominio Espiritual Uirapuru (CEU).