“Words cannot express the great joy and the change that I feel.”; “These days have marked my life”. These are the spontaneous impressions of two young people, Eduardo from Abaetetuba and Leticia from Curupaiti del Parà (Northern Brazil), after an intense week spent with “Amazone Project”.
Initiated by the Focolare Movement, the project hopes to be an answer to the appeal launched by the Bishops of Brazil to the different expressions of the Church for the evangelization of this vast piece of land, where Catholics are decreasing in number, the priests are few, while there is an increase in membership in the sects.
Abaetetuba is one of the cities at the center of this project. Immersed in the forest, it rises on the shores of the Maratauira River. It is spread among 72 islands where half of its 150,000 inhabitants live. The majority of the population has to face many difficulties daily due to their great poverty, but these people are gifted with a joyful character and a strong fighting spirit, always ready to give to others the best that they have to offer. The 45 “missionaries” of the Focolare, coming from all over Brazil, together with the members of the Movement in that place and the parishioners of three communities, went from house to house (around 1,900 people), receiving a warm welcome wherever they went.
“When visiting a family,” Laiane of Maranhão shared, “I met a woman who was going through a huge trial: during those days a young boy was killed, her neighbour whom she considered as her son. She took care of him since he was small and she did everything to help him to overcome his drug problem, without success. She greatly needed someone to listen to her. When we greeted each other as I was leaving, she didn’t stop thanking me: “You have been a gift from God”. “In another family I found a paralyzed elderly man. I gave him the Word of life of that month: ‘I am with you everyday, up to the end of the world’; I met his gaze: he agreed with all his heart”.
“Sometimes I let myself be defeated by the difficulties, but listening to these people I was struck by by how their faith helps them to overcome very big problems”, Eduardo affirmed.
The “Project Amazons” is not only evangelization in the spiritual sense, but concrete service. “In partnership with government agencies – Natalia (Rio de Janeiro) and Manuela (Sergipe, Northeast) shared – we have collaborated in a social action to respond to the request for documents for those seeking employment, to facilitate access to health services and the participation in social programs of the government”.
This project has been going on for eight years now. There have been many fruits: revitalization of the community, a growth in the relationship with the civil authorities, a new protagonism of the population for the social and spiritual development of the city.